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Happy Valley keeps smiling

City Council votes to approve special standards preserving the neighborhood’s unique character

Posted: December 1, 2009 10:09 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Happy Valley neighbors walk on 8th street Tuesday morning. Residents of the area are fighting to protect their homes, some of which were built back in the 50's, against new development that doesn't fit with the older architecture.

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Happy Valley is a place in Newhall where horses outnumber street lights and ranch-style homes sit along placid, oak tree-lined roads.
And it's going to stay that way, the City Council voted last week.

The decision came after residents in the area banded together and petitioned the city's governing body to protect their neighborhood from the threat of dense development.

Linda Pursell, who has lived in Happy Valley since 1989, helped rally her neighbors by sending out 400 letters, she said.

At a meeting in her backyard, Pursell persuaded volunteers from every street in the neighborhood to start sending around a petition to gauge support.

"We went street by street," Pursell said.

They convinced about 70 percent of Happy Valley residents to agree on a proposal to set special standards to guard the character of the community.

The community's overwhelming support got the ball rolling with the city, Pursell said.

The Happy Valley neighborhood, about 273 acres lying south of Lyons Avenue, includes an eclectic mix of homes and unique rural landscape. It's a contrast to newer developments in other parts of the city, said Assistant City Planner Jason Killebrew.

City Councilman Bob Kellar said creating special standards districts has worked well in protecting his Sand Canyon neighborhood, which is similar to Happy Valley.

"It will keep developers from changing the community around them." Kellar said.

In October, city officials recommended residents of the Bonelli tract in Saugus begin writing their own special standards amendment. Bonelli residents were angered after the city began a code enforcement crackdown in their neighborhood, prompting the city to back off.

As of last week, Bonelli residents haven't sent the city special standard amendments, Killebrew said.

Most of the older homes in Happy Valley were built in the 1950s and 1960s, 30 years before the city was formed and adopted planning codes for all of Santa Clarita.

Some streets in the neighborhood don't have sidewalks or streetlights and, instead, are lined with large oak trees. Some of the homes have irregularly shaped driveways.

The push for writing special standards started in 2008 after residents voiced concern over a proposed housing development that existing residents complained would stick out like a sore thumb in the older neighborhood.

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