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Like it or not, SCV population growing

City legally mandated to accommodate growth

Posted: October 9, 2008 8:33 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A worker at construction site off of Tesoro Del Valle in Saugus gets tools out of a truck on Monday afternoon.

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Fourth story in The Signal's "The Big Picture" series: Cities are mandated to absorb their fair share of state’s population growth. Click here for the rest of the stories.

Get ready to welcome 185,000 new neighbors.

City and county planners estimate the Santa Clarita Valley could double its population within about 30 years.

The new One Valley, One Vision draft general plan projects a population of 445,000 and provides guidelines for city and county planning decisions as the tally of residents creeps higher.

A population projection of nearly half a million, however, makes some locals nervous.

“It’s almost like they’re ensuring that we’ll have an influx of population,” said Pam Ross, a 23-year Newhall resident. “If you don’t build it, they won’t come.”

But the valley can’t simply shut its doors to growth. Doing so would violate state law, said Santa Clarita Community Development Director Paul Brotzman.

"Until trends change, national policies change, social trends change, until we aren't in a situation where we're seeing 400,000 new Californians a year, we are legally mandated by the state to plan for an accommodation of the growth that is going to occur in the state," Brotzman said.

The state receives growth forecasts from the Southern California Association of Governments for the counties and cities in Southern California. Those numbers determine how many new homes that local jurisdictions must accommodate in their land-use designations.

The association works with local planners to develop an accurate growth forecast, said Simon Choi, chief demographer for the association, who looks at the historical trends and past population forecasts for each community.

The association then presents a preliminary number to local planners and seeks their comments, he said.

"Usually we do not have full, complete information of small areas of each community, so we expect the city planners or county planners to provide us more information or correct information or updated information," Choi said. "Local input is the most important element in determining the final integrated growth forecast."

Local jurisdictions, however, don't always agree with the final numbers the association comes up with.

"(The association) gets input, but (the association) makes its own decisions," said Mitch Glaser, supervising county regional planner.

"They let us have input on it, but a lot of times the final outcome may not reflect what the input was," Glaser said. "They're looking at the regional picture."

The earlier jurisdictions get involved in the growth-forecast process, the more likely the association will accommodate their requests.

Between 2006 and 2014, the city of Santa Clarita must provide land-use designations for about 10,000 new homes, said city Senior Planner Jason Smisko. Those 10,000 homes would house about 30,000 residents.

The association gives the county one number for all of Los Angeles County's unincorporated areas.

The Santa Clarita Valley does not have a specific number allocated to it, but the county has identified particular areas of the SCV to accommodate growth, Glaser said.

"When you have that number, what you're supposed to do is look for sites you think that number could fit into," Glaser said.

"That's the whole point of the planning process - to look at what you need in terms of growth, development and affordable housing and then look at your territory and say, ‘Where does it make sense to have it and where does it make sense to preserve the existing areas?'"

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