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Paul Brotzman: What is really going on with the general plan

Guest Commentary

Posted: October 22, 2010 9:52 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Right now, it is estimated that approximately 177,500 people live in the 55-square mile city of Santa Clarita.
Would you be surprised to learn that according to the city’s new joint general plan, the ultimate number for our city’s population based on current boundaries is estimated at 222,500, and without annexations — based on growth rates since cityhood — it will be 50 years before the city reaches that population?

Larger numbers about ultimate buildout in Santa Clarita have been bandied about by pundits, quoting upward of a half million people in the city. These population numbers for our city are wrong. 

Here’s how the numbers shake out: Right now, we have 56,000 residential units in the city. Since cityhood (1987), a total of 6,000 of those 56,000 have been built. That’s right — just 260 residential units per year on average since the formation of the city. 

There are another 7,000 residential units approved by the city but not yet built. And there is a capacity for another 8,000 residential units in the city. 

So with 7,000 units approved, the possibility for another 8,000 to come, that’s 15,000 new units — period. Averaging three people per unit, that’s 45,000 new people. Add that to our 177,500, and you have an ultimate buildout of 222,500 in the city.
So where did the larger, nearly half-a-million number for the new general-plan number come from?  It probably came from including the buildout number projected in the unincorporated areas of our valley outside the city limits.

For those concerned about growth, the good news is that the county has reduced its development potential. However, right now there are 33,500 units, including those in the Newhall Ranch project, approved by the county but not yet built in the unincorporated areas of the valley.

Add to this another 18,000 units that could be approved in the future by the county within its planning area. You then have a capacity in the unincorporated area for an additional 51,500 residential units. 

Assuming an average of three people per unit, you arrive at a potential population of 154,500 additional residents that the county is projecting.

If you add that to the existing 85,000 residents in the unincorporated area, that gives you a build-out population in the unincorporated area of 234,500.

When you add that to the city’s projected 222,500 residents, you can see where the 450,000 plus number is derived. 

Further, it should be noted that the developable area of the county in the One Valley, One Vision plan is approximately four times that of the city.

While the city and the county would like to see a reduction in urban sprawl in the Santa Clarita Valley, the county is already under pressure from many property owners in the unincorporated area who feel that their future development potential has been unfairly reduced.

Property owners do have legal rights to develop their property so “just saying no” to any and all future development is not an option.

The key goals of the new city/county joint general plan include preserving open space and creating a greenbelt around the valley; strategically building on our town center; and creating more jobs throughout the valley in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide economic opportunities here at home. 

These goals are interconnected and each plays a part in creating a robust future for our city and for the Santa Clarita Valley. 

One of the areas our valley is deficient in is jobs. Right now, the city estimates that half of our employed work force commutes out of the valley for work. One of the goals of the new general plan is to provide 1.5 jobs for every household upon buildout, approximately doubling the number of jobs in the valley. 

To accomplish this goal we will need to add two jobs for every new household on a going-forward basis. 

While this is a tall order, it can be done. One of the ways to achieve this goal is through more intense use of strategically located, non-residentially zoned land.

Projects that include a mixed-use (combining housing, office and retail in one project) will offer a great live-work-shop-play environment, much like what is being done successfully in Ventura, Pasadena, Santa Monica and many other well-planned communities.

Residents, business owners, students and elected officials have been involved with the OVOV process from the beginning — more than 100 public meetings have been held.

In fact, in the last decade, the new joint-general-plan process has had more community outreach and public participation than any other project in our city’s history.

The new general plan provides a blueprint that will guide the future of our valley for the next 20 years and beyond. Our goal is to preserve what is great in our community and in the future, helping bring about a beautiful, livable place to raise our families.

Good planning that includes a “valley of villages” where people can live, work and shop in a livable and walkable area are portends of things to come.

Now, more than ever, it is important to preserve and in some cases enhance the community character of individual neighborhoods, plan to protect our open space and environment, and conserve resources.

Residents have also told us that any new development should complement and enhance the character of their neighborhood or community, and that is the goal of this plan.

If you would like more information about One Valley, One Vision, visit the city’s website at www.santa-clarita.com or call senior planner Jason Smisko at (661) 255-4330.

Paul Brotzman is the city of Santa Clarita’s director of planning and community development. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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