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Santa Clarita City Council weighs in on state legislation

Posted: May 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Santa Clarita City Council members have heartily endorsed the Boxer-Feinstein bill to block the proposed open-pit sand and gravel mine in Canyon Country but turned thumbs-down to a bill that would open up public spaces to use by the homeless at any time.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently joined Sen. Barbara Boxer in carrying the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act in the 113th Congress. The bill, if approved by Congress and signed by the president, would authorize the sale of federally owned land to reimburse Cemex, the owner of mining contracts in Soledad Canyon, in exchange for relinquishing those contracts.

“Cemex has some reservations but told the city it remains committed to the process,” city official Mike Murphy said of the deal. “It’s very much in partnership on this issue.”

The land on which Cemex holds contracts is of high interest to the National Park Service as an environmentally sensitive area, said Councilwoman Laurene Weste.

“We want to thank Santa Clarita because you’ve been very steadfast” on the issue, Weste said.

Santa Clarita has been battling Cemex over the mine for nearly 15 years. Cemex has held the contracts to mine Soledad Canyon for 20 years but has not yet acted on them.

The bill would have to pass the House of Representatives, which has labeled similar legislation an earmark in previous congressional sessions. The Republican-dominated House has rules against so-called earmarks, or legislation for special-interest spending.

Santa Clarita’s Republican congressman has declined to introduce such legislation in the House.

A state measure that would open up public facilities to the homeless received a less cordial reception as council members considered endorsements of upcoming federal and state legislation.

“It’s nuts. Absolutely nuts,” Mayor Bob Kellar said of Assembly Bill 5, the so-called Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act. Should the City Council endorse the bill, Kellar said at Tuesday night’s meeting, “I will tell you as a city the five of us are fired, and deservedly so.”

Referred to by critics as the “Homeless Bill of Right to Public Urination,” AB 5 would allow public access at any time to publicly owned areas, including overnight camping in public parks and anytime access to other public facilities.
It would allow people to live in their cars anywhere on public streets, to panhandle or beg anywhere on public property, and to have county-paid legal advice if a county cites them for such behavior.

If passed, the measure would propose “quite a problem for local governments” that maintain public facilities, Councilwoman Marsha McLean said. “I wish our state Legislature would try to find some money” for homeless shelters such as the Santa Clarita Valley’s Bridge to Home, she said, rather than curbing cities’ and counties’ ability to keep order in public places.

The measure, if passed, would prevent cities and counties from regulating parks and other public places, Councilman TimBen Boydston said. “This legislation would be very good for the lawyers but not so good for the homeless,” he said.

Council members agreed to send letters of opposition to the bill’s author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, Santa Clarita legislative representatives, Gov. Jerry Brown and the League of California Cities.

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