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Annual Santa Clarita luncheon reviews growth, accomplishments

City celebrates change

Posted: October 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Ken Pulskamp speaks at the State of the City luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday. (Jonathan Pobre/The Signal)

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Santa Clarita has seen growth and progress this year and over the last 25 years — but as city officials reiterated during Thursday’s State of the City luncheon, it wouldn’t have been possible without dedicated and engaged residents.

The Hyatt ballroom was packed with residents and public officials listening to the annual update on city activity and progress from City Manager Ken Pulskamp and the City Council. The event was part informational and part celebratory fanfare as it also marked the 25th year of cityhood for Santa Clarita.

The luncheon started off with a literal bang when a large replica of the city logo fell from the wall as Mayor Frank Ferry welcomed the audience. But the rest of the luncheon went smoothly as each City Council member starred in his or her own video describing city action in infrastructure, public safety, arts, transportation and beautification.

Ferry opened the series of videos by touting the city’s healthy finances, expanding infrastructure and lower-than-average unemployment rate. This year, Santa Clarita received the highest rating from Standard & Poor’s and has an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent as of May.

A healthy budget allows for projects such as $15 million in infrastructure improvements in Canyon Country, Ferry said.

Santa Clarita has continued to expand its boundaries, totaling 28 annexations since its beginnings 25 years ago. This year’s seven annexations added 6,500 acres and 25,000 residents to the city, Ferry said, making Santa Clarita the third-largest city in the county behind Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Councilman Bob Kellar spoke next about public safety and veterans.

“Keeping Santa Clarita safe is a high priority,” Kellar said, noting the four deputies the city added this year for increased enforcement.

He acknowledged the Sheriff Station’s zone program and crime research center, both of which have helped create a more efficient enforcement program across the valley, he said.

The city has seen success in its youth rehabilitation program, with only three of the 190 teens sent to substance abuse programs having been re-arrested, Kellar said.

The councilman also recognized the recently launched SCV Habitat for Heroes veteran village program, which will help house 80-90 local veterans.

Councilman TimBen Boydston described in his video the successes in city arts programs.

“What you see in Santa Clarita is a community that loves and supports art,” he said.

In the last year, the city has added murals off Golden Valley Road and at the aquatic center and new exhibit spaces in City Hall, Westfield Valencia Town Center and on a stroll trail in partnership with CalArts.

Boydston also recognized increased tourism and hospitality, with a 7 percent uptick in hotel occupancies from last year and increased athletic events bringing in more visitors to stay at area hotels.

2012 was a good year for filming as well, Boydston said, as the city had a record year thanks partly to film-friendly incentives and credits within the SCV. A strong film industry means more business for local retailers, he said.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean shared the city’s increased participation in regional transportation issues, particularly with the creation of a new Santa Clarita Valley Transportation Coalition, an advisory and strategy arm.

“My goal is to make sure that we have a strong voice,” she said, “that our local needs are addressed.”

McLean also covered this year’s grand opening of the Newhall Library and city preservation efforts to remove blight.

Councilwoman Laurene Weste concluded the presentations by recognizing the city’s open space preservation efforts, including a recent acquisition of 1,027 acres of the Rio Dulce Ranch and the opening of the Iron Horse Trailhead, which was a partnership between the city and Newhall Land Development Inc. Weste also highlighted various improvements to current spaces like Quigley Canyon, East Walker Ranch, Golden Valley Ranch and Haskell Canyon.

In kicking off the event, Pulskamp thanked the residents for working together to build up the city. Pulskamp, who will be retiring at the end of the year, was honored with applause multiple times and called irreplaceable by Weste.

The city is completely different now than 25 years ago, he said, but “one thing has stayed the same: the dedication and commitment exhibited by our City Council and an incredibly engaged community.”

“The result is our city is a city that is now the envy of other cities in the state of California,” he said.

smitchell@the-signal.com

661-287-5593

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