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Tim Myers: Has Santa Clarita become new ‘it’ community?

Myers' Musings

Posted: December 4, 2010 4:06 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2010 4:30 a.m.

When one thinks of American suburbs, one thinks of dullness and predictability, the very thing that attracts the demographic that finds the suburbs most appealing. The historical anthropological denizen of the suburbs enjoys the seeming good order of a beige and landscaped existence, where everyone seemingly plans their lives around a long commute, school for the kids, athletic fields on the weekend and turning in at a reasonable hour.

The annual retail surveys run by the city seem to confirm this view. Many know the seminal finding that respondents want a Cheesecake Factory, that purveyor of large portions of relatively bland food of no ethnicity, more than anything else.

 This stands as the primary reason we encouraged and funded our oldest son’s study abroad in Europe, seeing this as the only possible inoculation against a worldview informed by spending 11 years of one’s life around people satisfied if they could just get a giant piece of dessert!

But over the last several years, a strange metamorphosis may have occurred; the incremental changes so subtle they are not even noticed by someone who lives here every day. This is much the same way parents only realize their youngest son now towers over them by three inches when an acquaintance not seen for six months or so gasps when they see the reality.

One finds the first indications in comparisons with other suburbs.

Since our daughter enrolled at California State University-Channel Islands in 2009, my Nebraska bride and I spend a fair amount of time in Ventura County. In October, during a family weekend visit to Camarillo, we decided to visit a Starbucks and Cold Stone for tea and ice cream at about 9 p.m. on a Saturday. Well, folks, hold on to your hats because it turns out most of the Starbucks in Camarillo close at 9 p.m. on the weekends, and the Cold Stone that thankfully stayed open until 10 p.m. served exactly five customers during the 30 minutes we sat in the venue, including the three of us.

Our daughter further confirmed that even the varied and somewhat bohemian Old Town Camarillo pretty much wrapped up its trade at around 9 p.m. during the “heavy” weekend rush, leaving a fretful dad feeling good about his daughter’s college choice.

This view of other suburbs received confirmation when our youngest son and I attended the CIF quarterfinal game between Valencia and Moorpark High School in Moorpark. Before the game, we decided to enjoy a repast of pizza at the Me-n-Ed’s restaurant in Moorpark, a local pizzeria well-known in Ventura County.

Now I realize it was a holiday weekend, but when we arrived at the restaurant at 6 p.m. on a Friday, we found only six customers, and during our 45 minutes there, only two more customers walked in. Wondering about the relative lack of trade, we drove by several other restaurants on the way to the game venue and found them equally undersubscribed.

Compare this with the experience of Santa Claritans and particularly the retail centers in and around Valencia. This lack of business on a Friday would portend the quick failure of the enterprise, where even during the brutal recession restaurants and the movie theater complex managed to keep up their traffic.

More signs of the perhaps dreaded “coolness” relative to the boring burbs exist. Santa Clarita boasts two robust farmers markets and two independent venues providing live theater.

Openings in retail spaces have brought in local food retailers like Valley Produce Market. On the media side, Santa Clarita still supports a local daily newspaper, radio station with an abundance of local programming and two active blogs covering local news and providing active discussion forums.

And the real shocker: In October, Newhall Land and Farming organized a gourmet food truck event in the parking lot of the Bridgeport Marketplace.

The organizers hoped for about 3,000 attendees to this youth oriented and very trendy happening, and imagine the shock of everyone when an estimated 8,000 people showed, roughly equal to every man, woman and child within a one-mile radius.

So could it actually be true that at some point the SCV started to get this “cool” veneer, changing ever so slightly and over such a long period that it did not frighten the local denizens of suburbia, and that they even came to embrace it?

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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