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Cam Noltemeyer: Let’s remember to keep the environment in our vision

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: October 20, 2010 9:24 p.m.
Updated: October 21, 2010 4:30 a.m.

The Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment was formed at the same time as the city of Santa Clarita. Its mission is to “promote, protect and preserve the environment, ecology and quality of life in the Santa Clarita Valley.”

Now, 23 years later, the mission is the same, and the challenges are greater than ever. The main complaint we hear is, “When is someone going to do something about the out-of-control growth?”

Wasn’t that what forming a city was all about? What happened?

We have been trying to address those very problems. We are not alone. Several other groups have also presented their concerns.

Will there be enough water, schools and roads? What will the all the cars, buses and trucks due to our already-poor air quality?

Right now, the city of Santa Clarita is holding public meetings for a new general plan for the buildout of our city. With a population projection of nearly 500,000, many of us wonder how our valley will still be livable.

At the same time, the city is rushing forward with annexations of large areas from the county, including zoning and planning designations that will allow hundreds of additional units over the current county designations.

On Tuesday night, the Santa Clarita Planning Commission began its consideration of this questionable plan and annexation.

The annexation is for 185-acre Vista Canyon and an additional 3,065-acre annexation area made up of Fair Oaks Ranch, Jakes Way and Sand Canyon. It requires an amendment to the city’s land-use element and circulation element.

This plan includes additional dwelling units, some commercial, some industrial and even a hotel.

It removes the Significant Ecological Area designation currently in place for the Santa Clara River. Must we say “goodbye” to the last natural river in Southern California?

It requires a tentative tract map, conditional-use permit and of course, an oak tree permit to remove 11 trees, four of which are heritage size.

Approximately 500,000 cubic yards of soil would be imported to the site. Total amount of fill is estimated at 830,000 cubic yards.

This is in addition to 1.7 million cubic yards of remedial grade for the project.

Is any landowner entitled to these drastic changes?

This annexation also requires the pre-zone of Vista Canyon to a specific plan granting entitlements for 1,350 residential units and 700,000 commercial office and retail space.

Current Los Angeles County land use is industrial and floodplain/floodway. The One Valley, One Vision general plan update draft allows only 700 residential units.

It is obvious why this developer wants to annex into the city. So much for the city’s claims that overdevelopment in the SCV is due to county approvals.

At the same time, the city is updating its general plan, this annexation includes two general-plan amendments. Why aren’t these general-plan amendments being reviewed as part of the general plan update?

Are they already amending the proposed new general plan? Or are they amending the old general plan before adopting a new general plan?

The extreme density of this project makes it seem clear why the city might be rushing this annexation at the same time as the general-plan change.

Remember my last column, which dealt with high density in the city and low density in the county under the two separate general plans that they call One Valley, One Vision.

Public hearings and subsequent approvals on these large projects will determine the future of this city and the entire valley.

Yet both these public hearing processes and environmental reviews are occurring during the holiday season when the community is focused on friends and family.

Although every speaker from the public asked for an extension of the comment period for the general-plan update at the first hearing, Commissioner Burkhardt said they did not intend to grant one.

So here we go again. The draft environmental-impact report review period for the Vista Canyon project is from Oct. 19 to Dec. 3, about the same time period as the OVOV general-plan update.

That means several thousand additional pages to review over the holiday season.

A daunting task, but we urge the community to get involved with these public processes. Our quality of life depends on it.

 Cam Noltemeyer is a Santa Clarita resident and a board member of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays and rotates among local environmentalists.


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