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Santa Clarita's 25th: Quality of life still the focus

Posted: December 15, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Updated: December 15, 2012 4:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry, rear, races Santa Clarita children across the bridge at the Iron Horse Trailhead grand opening ceremony in Valencia in June.

 

As Santa Clarita continues to expand exponentially, it has always been the city’s focus to maintain the same quality of life that emerged from the city’s growth in the last 25 years.

“This is a family community and always was, always is and will be for a long time,” said Jim Frank, a real estate agent in the SCV since 1991. “The city prides itself on being family-oriented and so far they have done a good job of keeping it that way.”

Public safety, health

The biggest advantage Santa Clarita has versus other cities is its public safety achievements, Frank said. Santa Clarita was recently ranked 11th on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of cities with the lowest crime rates, and in 2010 boasted the lowest crime rate in its history and the lowest in Los Angeles County.

“The biggest thing that we have to protect here is our public safety rating and anything that will protect that, as far as I’m concerned, I’m in favor of,” Frank said.

The city also has one of the “Best Hospitals” in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital has been celebrated specifically for excelling in areas such as geriatrics, neurology and neurosurgery, and pulmonology. In response to the growing population and families, it just this year opened its new world-class neonatal intensive care unit, allowing families to stay in the valley for their health care needs.

Shopping

One of the biggest developments that changed the quality of life in Santa Clarita was the formation of the Valencia Town Center mall, developed by Newhall Land and eventually bought by Westfield. The center broke ground in 1990 and originally housed Target and Mervyn’s. Within years, the center expanded with more department stores and the Town Center Drive portion.

The California Planning and Development Report’s senior editor called Westfield Valencia Town Center “the best of all of the new downtowns created from scratch.”

Indeed, the mall has become a selling point for the quality of life in Santa Clarita.

“The mall is a biggie, in that you do not have to go out of the valley to shop,” Frank said.

Beyond Westfield, the city has worked to create other shopping areas. Roxie Ramey, a real estate agent in the valley since 1987, said the beautification of other high-traffic shopping areas is a clear indicator of the improved quality of life.

“In 1987 that Whites Canyon, Soledad Canyon intersection had falling down fences and tumbleweeds in the center dividers. It’s so beautiful to drive down there now as it is from many parts of the city,” Ramey said. “When you are introducing people for the city for the first time, it’s gorgeous aesthetically now.”

Space, options

Particularly in Southern California, Santa Clarita has managed to maintain and offer something other neighboring cities can’t: Space.

The city has preserved 6,000 acres of open space in and around the city of Santa Clarita, creating a “greenbelt” that acts as a buffer from the neighboring sprawling communities of Greater Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley. The greenbelt preserves Santa Clarita’s small town feel while providing a haven for wildlife, including dozens of endangered animals. The city boasts 22 community parks, too, where locals can catch a Frisbee, run or bike, or simply lounge in the Southern California sun.

The city also features the Santa Clarita Sports Complex and Activities Center, which has a gym, sport fields, a skate park and aquatic center, which boasts a world-class Olympic sized pool.

“The things the city has done like bike trails and parks and city events, Concerts in the Park in the summer time, that really makes Santa Clarita unique,” Ramey said. “That’s huge. The city has managed to tie together a complete picture of a way of life here that’s really unique and it’s really great.”

Market changes

Home prices improved across the valley starting in the mid 1990s, at the same time the city’s quality of life was improving in terms of business, shopping, and public safety.

“The market turned around in 1996, 1997. Prices rose almost straight up from 1996 to 2006,” Frank said. “A starter home would go from $120,000 to $140,000 in 1991 to 1995. By 2000 the prices were at the 300s; by 2006 up to 400s.”

Those prices dropped in the recession, but it was a general sign of the correlation between the quality of life in Santa Clarita and the demand from families to live in a family-friendly suburbia close enough to the Los Angeles-area jobs many parents held and still hold.

Families were also able to buy larger homes in all areas of the valley.

“In 1996 the only place that had big houses was Stevenson Ranch, Placerita Canyon, and Sand Canyon. After 2000 we started to have a lot more to choose from, with big homes across the whole valley,” Frank said. “We went from a valley that had homes 2,000 square feet or below, to almost all construction above 2,000 square feet with very few small homes.”

These larger, more expensive homes are indicative of the demand of the area.

“In 1987 people came out here because the houses were cheaper that’s not the case anymore,” Ramey said. “They come for the quality of the area.”

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