Routine Council, Some Public Venom

Tonight’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting lacked controversy, tension, and suspense. Most items were financial in nature–investment policy, bonds, fees, service contracts–and decisions were more formalities than turning-points. It was the kind of meeting you forget, even as it’s happening. But I persevered so as to recap, if solely for the sake of a few quotable moments.

“That’s a plus.”

Councilmember TimBen Boydston read some excerpts from President Barack Obama’s National Day of Prayer speech. Mayor Kellar then welcomed a Boy Scout Troop–“all the way from Canyon Country!”–to lead the pledge. It took an inordinate amount of time because the young scout at the helm added grave and dramatic pauses whenever possible.

Next, May was proclaimed Bicycle Month. Fittingly, there will be group rides and events and the Amgen Tour to celebrate bicycles and the people who ride them. Mayor Kellar said he’s delighted to see what must be “thousands” of bicyclists riding about Santa Clarita every weekend. Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta was in charge of the next presentation. He described the awards Santa Clarita’s communications team received from the California Association of Public Information Officials. Gail Morgan arranged her mostly female team for a celebratory photo with the council, and Councilmember Weste observed, “They’re not only good at their job, they’re gorgeous, so, that’s a plus.” I suspect the remark would have played somewhat less favorably had it been delivered by a male councilmember.

“Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.”

Public participation was short and bitter. Elaine Ballace, who spoke shortly after the pledge, began, “Liberty and justice for all…unless you live in a mobile home park.” She complained about how the new(ish) mobile home ordinance has been put into practice and asked for more support from the council, naming some city staff members she’s found less than supportive (e.g., Erin Lay) of residents struggling to get by as rents continue to rise. Ballace ended with a rather foreboding proclamation: “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord!”

Next, an elderly Claritan man from Belcaro gave his thoughts on a memorial for SCV veterans. He thought that a proposed outdoor monument wasn’t the best idea (it gets cold/rainy and hot/unpleasant outside, he fairly pointed out) and suggested a museum as his preferred alternative. He explained that it could educate young people about veterans and American history, which he said is not really being taught in schools these days. Cam Noltemeyer spoke next. She enumerated her many and familiar grievances against redevelopment in Newhall. Using the library as an anchor and lavishing subsidies on private entities were among the choices that Noltemeyer found “disturbing.”
The final speaker was Steve Petzold. He drew parallels between Measure M (the College of the Canyons one from 2006), Measure S (the billboard one from 2014) and Measure E (the College of the Canyons one going on now). For all these measures, Petz was interested in who was funding support efforts. He researched it (this required a trip to Norwalk) and found support from the philanthropic arm of COC and several other parties, including “Westfield Valencia Mall [for] $12,500.” Petzold’s opposition, he re-stated, was to the premise that Claritans in the district should pay for the whole college bond despite accounting for only about half of attendance. “This is a scam folks,” he cautioned.

PetzCity Manager Ken Striplin responded once public participation had concluded. His remarks were polite acknowledgements of speakers or refutations of some of the more outraged contentions. Updates from the council were protracted and routine, for the most part. Mayor Kellar spent some time encouraging residents to purchase banners for members/veterans of the armed forces. The banner program includes the display of large, personalized banners along the road for major, patriotic holidays. The families then get to keep the banner. While the costs of the banners are being partially covered by donations from local businesses, families must cover the rest. Kellar explained that this made sense–another city had covered all the costs in its banner program and eventually ran out of funds. This seemingly innocuous comment would become important later.

“I know it’s kind of confusing.”
The consent calendar brought more questions than answers. Councilmember Boydston asked if there were any derivatives in Santa Clarita’s investments (Item 5 was a review of investment policy). There aren’t, apparently. Al Ferdman spoke on Item 8, which had to do with initial administration of the recently formed Santa Clarita Parking Authority. “What is it going to do?” Ferdman asked. Item 9 added to the confusion, because it replaced the Redevelopment Successor Agency with the Parking Authority in the Santa Clarita’s joint powers agreement. “I know it’s kind of confusing,” said City Manager Striplin. He explained that one agency was just being swapped for another and that despite the name, it didn’t have to do with the parking structure proposed for the next stage of Newhall redevelopment. “The two just kind of coincided,” he said of the parking authority and parking structure.

The consent calendar passed with the recommend actions on all items.

“Let’s pay for the whole deal.”

A few more items followed the consent calendar. First, the annual stormwater pollution prevention fee was set at $24.04 per year for an average 7,000 square-foot parcel. Councilmembers Marsha McLean and TimBen Boydston expressed some displeasure over county/state plans to increase the fee. This hasn’t happened yet, but it was clearly on their minds. In a rare, almost affectionate moment, Mayor Kellar remembered an amusing remark Boydston made when testifying about stormwater fees before the LA County Board of Supervisors. Kellar chuckled as he recalled Boydston saying, “God gave us rain and government’s trying to figure out how to tax us for it.”

The final items had to do with refunding Golden Valley Road and open space bonds, which saved the city some cash, There was no discussion or comment and the proposals were approved as written.

The meeting would have ended then and there, but Al Ferdman decided to submit a card for the closing round of public participation. He said he hadn’t planned on it until he heard a particular remark. “Then something happens that raises the hair on the back of my neck,” he said, building suspense. He explained that honoring veterans with banners was great, but not covering the entire cost was “shameful.” (Recall that Kellar had made a case for asking families to cover some of the costs.) Ferdman pointed out that the city spends almost $100,000 on holiday lights for Newhall and will be giving about $4M to Laemmle Theaters. Why, Ferdman queried, couldn’t it spare about $20,000 for veterans? “Kick in that twenty grand and let’s pay for the whole deal,” he emphatically suggested. The meeting then ended.

Rare Wildflowers in Bloom

Wild6

I believe in Claritans, so I’m going to tell you something and I hope you don’t ruin it for everyone else. It’s about plants, so you might not think that there’s much at stake or much faith to be earned, but I assure you, there’s plenty of both. Not everyone believes in you like I do. Every discarded California poppy stomped into a dusty trail, every wildflower carelessly plucked from a protected area by your precious little ones, every hillside trampled for a good photo—these are the reasons not everyone trusts you with plants. Mindfully, then, let us proceed.

The plants of which I speak are Calochortus, the mariposa lilies. The blooms are big, intricate, and spectacular. They grow in the wild, rugged places of California. And right now, there’s a huge patch of slender mariposa lilies (Calochortus clavatus var. gracilus) blooming in Santa Clarita’s Wildwood Canyon Open Space. While we have several species of mariposa lilies locally, these are among the rarest. The California Native Plant Society lists them as status 1B , “plants rare, threatened, or endangered.” You may have seen isolated patches in Towsley Canyon or elsewhere, but this patch has hundreds of plants flowering in all their post-fire glory. They’ll bloom for another week or two, but peak bloom is right now and the flowers are truly stunning. I suggest you go sooner rather than later. Directions follow the photos.

Wild4

Wild7There are at least 90 lily flowers open in this photo alone.

Wild5

Wild3

Wild1Other flowers you’re likely to see include: Fremont’s death-camas (left), clustered tarweed (upper left), coast morning glory (upper right), cliff aster (lower left), and sticky monkeyflower (lower right).

 

Directions:

*From the intersection of Lyons/Orchard Village, head south (becomes Valley Street). Turn left on Maple. Turn right on Cross. Turn right onto Haskell Vista.

*Park along the curb of the cul-de-sac. You’ll see the green gate associated with Santa Clarita’s open spaces, but the sign was removed (or burned down) in the fire last year.

*Take the winding, uphill trail through wildflowers and recently burned shrubs and trees. There’s really only one trail, so it’s hard to mess this up.

*You’ll reach the summit and look into Wildwood Canyon to the south. Now just keep right at the couple of trail splits. In about a quarter-mile, you’ll reach the lilies blooming on hilltops on your left.

*Enjoy. These plants are found essentially nowhere else on Earth but Los Angeles County, so don’t pick them. The flowers are their attempt to get pollinated, make seeds, and produce the next generation. Pat yourself on the back when you succeed in not picking any. Reverse course to return home.

Annex-Fever and Library Contentment

Tonight’s Santa Clarita City Council brought several long-standing, lukewarm issues back to a simmer. Much of the (north)west-side of Santa Clarita is moving toward annexation despite the concerns of at least one developer. The Santa Clarita Library system will continue to be operated by LSSI, a name once met with scorn but now with approving indifference. The next step to support mobile home residents was taken. Amidst all this existing business came plans to discuss Measure E, a $230M local bond measure to benefit College of the Canyons. But before we consider what’s to come, let’s revisit what was.

Kangaroo Court

Mayor Bob Kellar provided the invocation. He remembered the murder of four police officers that took place in the Santa Clarita Valley 46 years ago. At the time, Kellar was a young LAPD officer, and he remembered how the shooting rattled officers and departments across the country. The event was on his mind because of recent efforts by Eternal Valley, KHTS, and others to keep the memory of the slain officers alive.

Council recognition went to two efforts aimed at making Santa Clarita clean and green. “Hands On Santa Clarita” was applauded for removing tens of tons of trash from the valley, and a proclamation was made for Arbor Day. At the Earth/Arbor Day Event, residents will be able to secure free trees and ladybugs, the latter of which their children can sprinkle on bushes, lawns, or driveways to wander, die, or invade Santa Clarita. Ah, tradition.

Public participation comments were almost exclusively focused on mobile home park issues. “I washed my clothes three times and the tire marks are still there,” said Elaine Ballace of a recent hearing concerning rents at Parklane Estates. She was alluding to the fact that residents got thrown under the bus by park owners and by city staff at the hearing. She felt both worked against residents’ interests. The number of people she named as being thrown under the bus would have made for a very sizable jolt indeed. Ballace also called the proceedings a “kangaroo court” and demanded corrective action be taken to defend renters’ interests. Al Ferdman followed Ballace and gave a little more detail on the apparent “kangaroo court.” Ferdman explained that residents had gathered signatures, but the board questioned the validity of the signatures. A lawyer representing mobile home park owners was allowed to unofficially interrogate residents about their signatures and claims. Ferdman claimed there was no authority allowing this to happen. He went so far as to claim that he witnessed “city staff intentionally derail the process.” Ferdman said he would provide a DVD of the hearing to City Manager Striplin to see what went on.

Two Spanish-speaking residents also spoke out against conditions facing renters at mobile home parks, especially Granada Villa. Another man spoke about his parents’ experience. They signed a 20-year contract and have seen rents shoot up 168% over the years.

Steve Petzold changed topics. He reminded the council that, were it not for the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit, today would have been election day. It was an attempt to provoke discussion about district-based voting in Santa Clarita, but the provocation proved ineffective. He also spoke about Measure E, a quarter-billion dollar bond measure to improve classroom facilities and parking at College of the Canyons. Petzold said that with only half of COC students residing in the community college district, it was unfair for Claritans to subsidize the college.

Cam Noltemeyer, the last public speaker, said that she wanted to give Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta a lesson on redevelopment. She claimed that Acosta was confusing redevelopment for developer handouts with regard to Old Town Newhall and the recently approved subsidy to Laemmle Theaters.

“Personalize It”

City Manager Ken Striplin dismissed Noltemeyer’s remarks by explaining that Newhall was being redeveloped under the observation of applicable laws and with community support. He deigned not to address mobile home park concerns. Councilmember Laurene Weste did instead. She said that the situation is complex, especially with the lawsuit that the city is facing from mobile home park owners and the city’s limited ability to take action. She proposed bringing some particularly egregious cases to state legislators. Weste felt this might “personalize it” and get some state action to address questionable mobile home park practices. Councilmember TimBen Boydston also sympathized with renters and pushed for action, and the mayor and city manager affirmed that further steps would be taken.

Councilmember updates covered the Cowboy Festival, public transportation, and various local events. Mayor Kellar asked to put discussion of Measure E on a future agenda. Councilmember Marsha McLean was uncomfortable with the idea; she felt that it would be adequately decided by the voters. “What would you hope to get out of that?” she asked of the proposed discussion. Kellar said that he hoped the council would voice its support because College of the Canyons plays a big role in the community. He was able to get the item agendized with support from Boydston, who said he’ll always support additional discussion of any item, and from a somewhat reluctant Weste, who gave her support because Kellar so badly wanted the item discussed. Whether Kellar will return the favor and support discussion of one of Boydston’s pet issues remains to be seen.

The consent calendar received no discussion this evening. Items included recycling grants, improving trail access with a new ramp, and concrete rehabilitation. Perhaps no discussion was in order. All items passed with the recommended actions. This afforded plenty of time for three more involved items relating to Vista Canyon, annexation, and libraries.

Annex Me Not

First up was discussion of a plan to form a community facilities district for Vista Canyon. This is essentially a means of funding three parking structures and part of a metro station through special taxes/bonds. The City of Santa Clarita will ultimately take ownership of the parking structures and land beneath them. This last point was a concern of Boydston, who noted some ambiguity in the language (i.e., “may” instead of “would” take the land–the city has the right to, it seems). The plan was approved after one of those silly ballot counting exercises where the developer holds control of the vote.

Following Vista Canyon, the City Council was asked to consider moving forward with annexation of over 1,000 acres of the West Hills and West Creek areas. The next steps in that process were defined as prezoning and submitting an application to LAFCO. There was general support from residents (over two-thirds favored annexation, though most survey cards haven’t been returned) and City Manager Ken Striplin said, “Timing is of the essence.” The sole speaker on this plan was Alan Fenstermacher, an attorney representing Fountainhead Development. He explained that the developer was planning to build an assisted living senior housing facility, three drive-thru restaurants, and gas station in one of the areas proposed for annexation. He said that the developer has spent two years processing entitlements with the county, and they were worried about starting from scratch with the city. He suggested delaying annexation of the specific 8-acres where his client’s development would take place. They wanted to avoid being “annexed at the 5-yard line.”

A lot of back and forth followed between the attorney and councilmembers with input from City Manager Striplin and City Attorney Montes. It seemed that after annexation, Santa Clarita would have say over the project but could honor the agreements and approvals that had been worked out between county and developer up to that point. The letter from the attorney (sent earlier the same day) ruffled some feathers with allegations of inadequate noticing and other grounds for delaying annexation. Councilmember Boydston felt that Claritans were being threatened with a baseless lawsuit if they moved forward with annexation. Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta decided to be particularly forceful in dealing with Fenstermacher, saying, “No one likes a liar.” The developer and city staff had been in talks for months, and Acosta was offended at the attorney’s implication that the annexation issue had surprised the developer due to insufficient notice.

AcostaLie

There was more than enough time for Fenstermacher to make his case for the developer, but he hadn’t swayed many minds. Ken Striplin felt that, “Attorneys in the firm are being overly conservative in anticipating concerns,” and Joe Montes noted that it would take another two weeks to formally approve the proposed steps toward annexation. That was time for quick processing of entitlements with the county or for concerns to be more concretely articulated. The council moved forward with the annexation process and without special accommodations for Fountainhead Development.

The final item on tonight’s agenda was approval of a five-year contract with LSSI, the company that runs the city’s libraries. Darren Hernandez said that major measures of library use have improved since Santa Clarita left the county library system. Holdings have expanded, attendance and use of facilities have increased, and there are a number of popular programs that serve more residents than ever. The agenda item recommended that LSSI continue to operate the libraries. The budget would steadily increase from $3.6M in FY 2016-17 to $3.9M in FY 2020-21.

For those new to Santa Clarita or with short memories, the transition from county-run to privately-run libraries was a hugely contentious event in recent Claritan history. Tonight, some familiar faces from that fight come forward to comment on the contract extension. Lori Rivas towed a cart of dozens of books to the podium for her remarks. She said that the volumes had been purchased but soon off-loaded by the Santa Clarita Library–her own little libraries couldn’t accommodate all the discarded material. Rivas said this suggested waste, and she reminded the council that LSSI profits from purchases and expansions. It would make more sense, she said, to explore a plan to have the city run the libraries, re-investing would-be profits back into the community. Rivas has such a plan and she has been promoting it, but she said the council has not really explored the option. Deanna Hanashiro also spoke. She felt that the Santa Clarita Library didn’t have the same value as the LA County Library, and she mentioned specific grievances from the takeover. This included disposal of VHS tapes. Al Ferdman contended that our library has some $8M in debt, and he too felt that the system could be managed better.

Councilmember TimBen Boydston was the most sympathetic to the concerns that had been voiced. He brought up Lori Rivas’ proposal, which he said he liked, but he didn’t find support from other councilmembers to formally discuss it at some future meeting. Boydston also pointed out that the council still constituted the Board of Library Trustees. He reminded several councilmembers that they had promised to serve in that capacity only temporarily. Now, it’s essentially trustee for life (political life, at least), which he did not agree with.

Councilmember Marsha McLean gave a spirited defense of Santa Clarita’s system. She said privatization was an excellent decision. Programs haven’t turned children away due to lack of resources, local tax dollars are serving the community directly, and new materials and facilities have been paid for. Hernandez also countered Ferdman’s point about the library debt, saying that LSSI operates for less than the amount of library tax revenue generated each year. He said that the initial debt was being steadily paid off. With that, the council (well, everyone but Boydston) approved a contract for about $20M that will keep LSSI in the libraries through 2020.

 

McLeanLibrary

Malibu candidate pulls papers for the 38th

I’m really sorry to do this. It feels like (and might actually be) my eighth post in a row on the reshuffling of the 38th Assembly district race. But it keeps getting weirder.

This morning, the registrar’s website was to show that another candidate, Chris Garcia, entered the race, listing an address in Saugus.

But there’s one little thing…

garcia_fb

As of last night, his Facebook profile listed his current city as Malibu, and the domain registration for the website provided to the county was registered by Garcia last year with a Malibu address.

Apart from that, his resume seems impressive and he has some history with Tony Strickland who may or may not have something to do with this. Time will tell.

 

Dante Acosta files with SoS in newly-crowded 38th race

38th-field

Last Thursday brought us the news that Sharon Runner (R-Palmdale) wasn’t seeking re-election in Senate District 21. On Friday, Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) of Assembly District 38 decided to run for SD21 instead of AD38, leaving Christy Smith of the Newhall School District board (D-Santa Clarita) as the only candidate in the 38th.

Yesterday brought the news that retired cop Tyler Izen (R-Granada Hills) joined the race, and earlier today we learned that Jarrod DeGonia (R-Simi Valley) of Mike Antonovich’s office was running as well.

And it just got a little more interesting. According to the Secretary of State, first-term city council member Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) has filed a Statement of Intention to run in the 38th.

For his part, Acosta says he’s “taking a serious look at this under a very compressed timetable,” and will make a final decision in the morning after talking with his family. Nominations must be filed by 5pm tomorrow.

Acosta was elected to the council in 2014, coming in 3rd place the top-3 election with 12% of the vote (appearing on 31% of ballots). He currently works as a District Representative for Steve Knight. He previously ran against Buck McKeon in the 2012 congressional primary and briefly considered running in the special election for SD21 last year.

If the field holds (there’s still a few hours for others to file, and each of these three new candidates still need to file their nomination papers), this puts a Republican challenger in each area of the district — Simi Valley, SFV, and SCV. Christy Smith is the only Democrat in the race for the seat, which should be competitive in November with a smallish GOP advantage and higher-than-normal expected turnout among Democrats.

Antonovich deputy DeGonia joins Assembly fray

jar

With tomorrow’s filing deadline for the suddenly-vacant 38th Assembly seat fast approaching, multiple sources report that Jarrod DeGonia (R), a resident of Simi Valley and a San Fernando field deputy for outgoing LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, will be a candidate for the seat.

DeGonia joins Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) and Tyler Izen (R-Granada Hills) for the race to replace Scott Wilk, who is running in the 21st Senate district.

DeGonia’s entrance doesn’t necessarily rule out any other last-minute candidates, so stay tuned. The deadline for completed nomination papers is tomorrow at 5pm.

 

Retired cop from Granada Hills jumps in the 38th

Tyler Izen (R), a name I never heard of until five minutes ago, is a retired cop and a former president of the LAPD Officer’s Union who lives in Granada Hills. This morning he announced that he is running as for the 38th Assembly District. Here’s the text of his press release.

TYLER IZEN, RESERVE POLICE OFFICER AND
RETIRED LAPD OFFICERS UNION PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR ASSEMBLY.

Granada Hills — On Monday, March 14, 2016, Tyler Izen (R) will file his declaration of candidacy for the 38th Assembly District.

Tyler Izen retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after 30 years of distinguished service. During his LAPD career, Tyler was President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (“LAPPL”), the union that represented 10,000 sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Izen joined the Los Angeles Police Department on February 4, 1985. He worked patrol, vice investigations, detective, administrative and supervisory assignments as a police officer, Sergeant, and Detective.

Throughout his career, Izen has received numerous commendations and letters of appreciation from judges and supervisors, pointing out the exemplary and noteworthy performance of his duties.

“I will use my 30 years of experience as a police officer to ensure that the legislature passes laws that are smart on crime and do not jeopardize the safety of our families, homes, and property,” stated Izen.

The 38th Assembly District includes Castaic, Santa Clarita, Agua Dulce, Simi Valley, and Los Angeles communities of Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, Northridge and Granada Hills.

Wilk to run for State Senate

Scott Wilk, the two-term Republican Assemblyman of the 38th district, will be a candidate for the 21st State Senate district. This follows yesterday’s news that incumbent Senator Sharron Runner will not seek reelection, and it opens the question of who may join Newhall School District board member Christy Smith in the race for Wilk’s current Assembly seat.

I spoke to Wilk briefly this evening, and he described the decision as an emotional one, as the seat would give him an opportunity to also represent the Antelope Valley, where he grew up.

Today was the filing deadline for candidates in the June primary election, but Runner’s retirement and Wilk’s decision to not run for Assembly automatically extends the nomination deadline for those seats until Wednesday. At present, Smith (D) is the only candidate for AD-38, while Wilk joins the current field of SD-21 candidates: Johnathon Ervin (D), Steve Hill (D), and Star Moffatt (R).

This probably means Tony Strickland won’t be entering the race, but it remains to be seen whether others will join the fray. And the picture for the 38th looks murky, with no clear Republican candidate to take Wilk’s place.

Breaking: Runner will not seek Senate re-election, Sacramento looks to Strickland

cd21-shakeup

According to several high-placed sources within the California Republican Party, State Senator Sharron Runner of the 21st district will not be seeking re-election this year, citing health concerns. GOP Senate leadership is reportedly urging former Senator and Congressional candidate Tony Strickland to run.

According to the LA County Registrar, current candidates for the 21st are Democrats Johnathon Ervin and Steve Hill, and Republican Star Moffatt, who previously ran as a Democrat for this seat against Steve Knight. The filing deadline for the seat is tomorrow, and Runner is presently listed as a nominee. If Runner withdraws her nomination by tomorrow, the nomination period will be automatically extended to Wednesday, March 16.

The 21st District includes the Antelope and Victor Valleys, and much of the Santa Clarita Valley. The Antelope Valley has a clear plurality of the district’s population.

Elected last year to complete now-Congressman Steve Knight’s remaining term, this is Runner’s second partial term in the Senate, having previously been elected to fill her husband’s unexpired term in 2011 after George Runner was elected to the State Board of Equalization. Because she hasn’t served a single complete term, the current term limits law would allow her to serve a full three terms in the Senate after the current term.

Strickland doesn’t currently live in the district, and if he were to run, he’d be entering a large district that only slightly overlaps his previous Senate seat that included some of the eastern Santa Clarita Valley. It’s still unclear whether another Republican nominee will emerge by next Wednesday.

Although it’s widely considered a Republican seat, especially with an incumbent, Democrats now have a slight (+1.4%) registration advantage. No matter the leading Republican nominee, this seat is now much more competitive.

I’ve reached out to Senator Runner’s campaign and Tony Strickland for comment, but neither could be reached. I’ll update as I hear more.

Update: Runner announces she won’t seek re-election (Sacramento Bee)

Plan for Art, Park for Harte, Cushions for Dorothy

Tonight’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting was short and, for the most part, efficient. The mobile home park saga escalated–an emergency ordinance to protect senior housing was extended and plans were made to write a letter (gasp!) to elected officials about difficulties faced by mobile home park renters. Santa Clarita’s rather underwhelming arts master plan was accepted and an inexplicable amount of praise lavished on the plan’s consultants. The meeting ended with the naming of a small park in honor of the late Duane Harte. Now, to recapping.

Opening Matters

[Note: The video feed of this meeting didn’t go live until some Boy Scouts were in the middle of leading the pledge, so I missed Weste’s invocation and any other noteworthy events from the first five minutes. My regrets.]

Public participation begain with Elaine Ballace. She asked if anyone has seen her scarf (it’s been missing for weeks), told us it was her birthday tomorrow (“Yeah Pisces!” she cheered), and said it’s time to get some bigger power players involved in the mobile home rent issue. Ballace said she has tried to get others involved but to no avail. “I just got the runaround. So I plead to you, maybe you have more pull with the State and getting something done. I realize my celebrity status means nothing to them,” she said, with a short but scornful laugh.

A man representing Santa Clarita’s tennis community asked for more tennis courts to be built.

Steve Petzold make the rookie mistake of handing in a written comment card instead of a speaker card, but Mayor Bob Kellar still allowed him to speak. At the microphone, Petzold explained that he had been reflecting on the Laemmle meeting and found himself “dissatisfied” with the discussion that had transpired. He thought discussion of the specific elements of the subsidy would have been more valuable than merely debating the pros and cons of a new theater. His quick accounting of property value changes and City losses in the area was not the clearest, but it seems this isn’t the last we will hear about the Laemmle subsidy. Petzold closed by requesting an open discussion/study of the California Voting Rights Act and district-based voting in Santa Clarita.

City Manager Ken Striplin mechanically addressed the speakers. He said that tennis courts will be considered for the final phase of Central Park and he restated the City’s long history of work on mobile home park policy. Petzold’s recommended review of district-based voting was not pursued further.

Councilmember updates primarily consisted of listing local event after local event–the celebrity waiter dinner was mentioned no fewer than three times. Councilmember Weste went a more substantive route when she announced that the supplemental EIR for chloride treatment will be discussed at the end of the month. She didn’t mention anything about the lawsuit that Allan Cameron was gloating about last month (the suit that supposedly changed the chloride issue at a fundamental level).

Slow Down, Dorothy

The consent calendar had only two non-routine items. The first offered the council’s support for a state assembly bill to benefit the developmentally disabled. The second proposed adding speed cushions and stop signs to Dorothy Way, which has attracted speeding drivers seeking a cut-through to Golden Valley Road. A couple of residents said that something needed to be done to slow dangerous traffic in their community, so they supported these measures. Councilmember Marsha McLean made a point of telling the audience that the community’s developers had been required to set aside funds for traffic calming, so the measures were being paid for by them, not taxpayers. This and the other items on the consent calendar were approved as written.

Write a Letter

The council voted to extend an emergency ordinance protecting senior housing for another ten months. The ordinance was passed because some mobile home parks were attempting to change from seniors-only housing to family housing, which is more lucrative. The problem is that seniors on fixed incomes might lose their homes because of associated surges in rent. A number of speakers asked the council to continue doing what it could to help renters. Specific complaints were made, but they often came from parks where the city can do little else to interfere/intervene. City Attorney Joe Montes and City Manager Ken Stripling both spent some time explaining the limits of the city’s ability to act–for example, long-term leases are exempt from some city codes.

Once again, Councilmember Laurene Weste was the staunchest advocate for renters. She said, “I just can’t buy into the fact that these people are being gouged this way, and I think it’s time that we send a letter articulating some of the grievances that we’re seeing. Nevermind the State Ombudsman, let’s just send a letter to all the elected officials in the State of California in the legislature.” Cheers came from the audience. “I recognize that, you know, that it’s a black hole, but when you look at this kind of abuse, they [renters] have two choices: they can pay it or they can lose the little investment they have in a mobile home. That’s all they have, they have nothing else.” Weste asked if anyone supported her suggestion, and Boydston agreed with her “whole-heartedly.” Mayor Kellar gave his support as well, which was enough to get the letter rolling and to get more applause from the small crowd.

Art, Planned

New business began with consideration of a representative for the Southern California Association of Goverments General Assembly. Councilmember Boydston nominated McLean to be representative and Acosta to serve as alternate, and the council unanimously agreed on both nominations without discussion. McLean gave a quite “thank you” after the vote; she’s always been partial to SCAG.

Tonight also marked the presentation of Santa Clarita’s arts master plan for adoption. The City may have an arts commission, but it took the work of consultants to tell Santa Clarita how to art better. Their master plan was presented, a series of platitudes and cliches given the appearance of meaning by being prefaced with titles or organized into lists. For example:

  • “Vision Statement”: The City of Santa Clarita will be recognized as a “city of the arts,” where the lives of residents, artists, and visitors are enriched through artistic and cultural experiences.
  • “Key Findings”
    • #2: The community is generally satisfied with the current arts and cultural offerings.
    • #4: Residents express strong interest in celebrating history and cultural heritage.
    • #7: Arts and culture are seen as an excellent way to promote diversity and inclusion.

Developing a “work plan” is the next stage of the project. Despite the less than compelling master plan, Mayor Kellar and Councilmember Weste went to some effort to recognize the consultants behind the work. Kellar asked Ingrid Hardy, community services superintendent, to “acknowledge the two gentlemen [consultants] here in the front row for their input.” Hardy had already done that at the start of her presentation, but apparently two introductions were warranted. “Excellent, excellent job gentlemen, we thank you very much, very, very much,” gushed Kellar. Weste said, “[The consultants] understood the real heart of Santa Clarita…we are special and unique and you found that!” Kellar closed by saying, “I would request that a letter be prepared for the entire City Council to sign acknowledging our consultants and what we consider to be a very professional job on behalf of our city.” The amount of attention and praise was rather extraordinary.

The only critical suggestion came from Councilmember TimBen Boydston, who otherwise spoke about the plan in glowing terms. He said that he wasn’t fully sold on the idea of the arts being organized thematically by community. According to the plan, Newhall gets “history and cultural heritage,” Valencia is to be the home of art that is “contemporary and abstract,” the art of Saugus should “celebrate youth and families and cultural diversity,” and Canyon Country art falls under a theme to “explore nature and surrounding open spaces and the environment.” Boydston gently criticized this plan (which he said reminded him of themed areas at Disneyland) for perhaps saddling a community with a theme they might not like as much as others. The idea is also just plain ridiculous, but that point was not addressed.

Note: This is my interpretation of what constitutes representative art for the various community themes, intended to highlight the silliness of it all. Not a figure from the master plan or presentation.

 

A Park for Harte

The late Duane Harte, remembered as a commissioner, volunteer, and truly community-minded individual, was honored by renaming River Village Park as “Duane R. Harte Park at River Village.” Mayor Kellar said that there was a lot of support for the plan, and he thought the park was a fitting tribute because it had been just a block away from Harte’s last home. The suggestion was supported.