Rare Wildflowers in Bloom

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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…

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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

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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

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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

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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.

What Happens When We Die

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Death and legacy are concerns, at times, of the Santa Clarita City Council. Tonight, there was little else on the agenda. Honorary naming, Duane Harte, gold star families, Wyatt Savaike, the proper place for a war memorial–all were considered. Even Allan Cameron’s announcement of a recent court victory(?) regarding chlorides focused on the end, in his case the invalidation of an EIR. It’s time for a rather morbid reflection.

 

R.J. vs. Bill

Councilmember TimBen Boydston’s invocation was a reading of George Washington’s “Earnest Prayer” and a request that God bless the City of Santa Clarita.

After Canyon High School’s drama crew missed their chance to be recognized at the last meeting, they were present this week–well, three of them. I felt that if the audience had to hear about their victory at the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California Competition twice in one month, more of them should have showed up. Maybe they don’t like the lighting at City Hall.

Also recognized was Detective Bill Velek of Santa Clarita’s juvenile intervention team (“The J Team”) for helping young drug users turn their lives around.

After the detective received his certificate and photo, one Michael Cruz strode purposefully toward the podium. As Chair of the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Commission, Cruz was intent on educating his fellow Claritans about the goals that he and his fellow commissioners had established for 2016. Though his commission is all fun and recreation, Cruz’s crisp suit and slate-blue tie were all business. Unflaggingly, goal followed goal; ambition followed ambition; promise followed promise. Cruz spoke of a 2016 that, if realized, will increase everything from park use to open space acquisition to opportunities for “non-traditional sports.” When he finished, the audience sat silent, apparently too stunned to applaud.

Public participation followed. R.J. Kelly gave his support for the “Hometown Heroes” military banner program that would be discussed later in the meeting. He also stated his support for Bill Reynolds’ memorial for veterans, which has been mentioned at prior meetings. To be clear, he supported the memorial, but he definitely didn’t support the proposed location of the memorial monument in Newhall Veterans Historical Plaza. “I’m not happy to support the location…the reality of it is we wanted it to be veterans, we did not want it to be a memorial.” He added, “It should be at Eternal Valley.” Bill Reynolds also happened to be present this evening, and he countered Kelly by describing just how supportive people like Terri Crain and Don Fleming (FLEMwatch alert!) have been of the memorial project. Hopefully, the monument won’t have “Sponsored by Valencia Acura” chiseled into its granite.

A restaurant owner spoke about people illegally selling food on the street near his shop. He asked for sheriff’s deputies to shut the vendors down, but he said it was quite a process and that enforcement hasn’t happened. He worried that food might not be held at the correct temperature, especially in summer. Al Ferdman spoke about the need for more park facilities to serve a variety of residents. Indeed, Ferdman is now throwing his support behind calls for a BMX facility in Santa Clarita (the usual pro-BMX speaker was also present tonight). Ferdman said that the city has more than adequate cash available (~$50M in appropriate funds by his reckoning) that could be used for a BMX track, something that surveys and testimony show the public wants. Another frequent speaker, Steve Petzold, asked for an update on the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit that Santa Clarita was involved in some time ago.

One group of speakers was particularly impactful. You may remember the sad story of Wyatt Savaikie, a 14-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a car while skateboarding through a crosswalk last summer. Tonight, friends and family of Savaikie came up to call for changes to Santa Clarita’s roads and driving culture. Four of his teenage friends came up first, asking that something be done about the speed limit on Bouquet Canyon Road. Teresa Savaikie, Wyatt’s mother, also spoke. She was surrounded by a large number of friends and supporters as she tearfully asked that the City prioritize pedestrian safety. She said that when pedestrians are hit by cars traveling over 40 mph, 85% of them perish. The 74-year-old driver who hit her son wasn’t singled out–all Santa Clarita drivers were asked to use the roads more mindfully.

Gladys Trejo, speaking with an interpreter, asked for more legal assistance and guidance from the City for mobile home park residents. She said the situation they are facing in Granada Villa is “an emergency.” Elaine Ballace also requested assistance from City Hall. It’s clear that the lawsuit that the City of Santa Clarita is facing from mobile park owners has given the council some credibility in her eyes, but she expressed continuing frustration. In particular, Ballace dislikes the fact that owners never show up to be confronted directly–they’re always represented by attorneys instead.

City Manager Ken Striplin responded to most of the comments. He said that he felt the illegal food businesses could be addressed under current practices/policies; a new initiative wasn’t needed. In response to the mobile home park residents, he re-stated the history of the City Council’s efforts with ordinances and outreach. Striplin said that there wasn’t much more new that could be done. Striplin is never particularly sympathetic, but he was as sympathetic as he could be to Teresa Savaikie and her supporters. He said that law enforcement gives him weekly updates about traffic enforcement numbers, but he concluded that, “It does come down to behavior.” He assured her that he would remain committed to partnering with law enforcement to make streets safer for pedestrians. Finally, City Attorney Joe Montes addressed Steve Petzold’s question about the CVRA lawsuit. “Barring an appeal, that case is over,” he concluded. The three parts of the settlement were a shift in election date (fall, not spring), change to at-large voting, and, of course, $600,000 for the people who sued Santa Clarita over voting rights–God bless their goodly hearts. Since at-large voting was struck down, only the change in voting date seems to have stuck. No appeal or new litigation were mentioned.

Updates by the council were perfunctory with a couple of exceptions. Councilmembers Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean paid special tribute to the recently departed Frank Kleeman. His wife came forward and was very appreciative that he was being so well and fondly remembered. McLean mentioned that Old Town Newhall is a wonderful place to go, and Mayor Pro Tem Acosta agreed. Councilmember TimBen Boydston was able to arrange for an update on traffic violations and enforcement at an upcoming meeting to learn if the roads are becoming safer.

McLean

 

A Teachable Moment

Some items on the consent calendar attracted a few comments. Doug Fraser supported the final passage of an amendment that formalized the procedure for alternates on the Manufactured Home Rental Adjustment Panel. This should make for fairer voting in instances where representatives have to recuse themselves.

Cam Noltemeyer spoke on two items pertaining to local development. ‘This is just one of those teachable moments of the type of development that’s going on in this city,” she explained. The first item initiated the process for establishing a community facilities district for Vista Canyon. Noltemeyer spoke about such Mello-Roos districts and other shady developer tactics. She stayed at the podium to speak on the next item, which she prefaced with the statement, “I will continue this education for the community.” She was upset about this item, which had to do with supervision of alterations to the river banks in the Vista Canyon area, because of its costs and impact on the watershed.

Councilmember McLean pulled an item concerning a mulching contract. She asked where the mulch was coming from, and staff couldn’t provide much of an answer. A man said that some mulch would come from plant material in Santa Clarita, and some from material outside of Santa Clarita. She didn’t push the issue further, however. All items were approved with the recommended actions.

 

Monuments and Replacements

Mayor Kellar opened up the new business portion of the evening with a summary of the “Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program.” This program would involve hanging 3′ x 6′ heavy vinyl banners along major roads, each with a color photo and information about a currently-serving member of the military. It would cost the friends/family/sponsors of the service-member  $417.50, and the banner would be hung three times for the year (weeks around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day). The banner could be hung the next year at a lower cost, since it would already be printed. The item proposed spending a little over $4,000 to cover the cost of 11 banners for Gold Star Families. It seems this is why Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta recused himself from this item (his son, Rudy, was killed while serving in Afghanistan). The item was well-supported. While there was some discussion of covering the cost of banners for currently-serving men and women, the plan was approved as it was written.

The next item of new business had to do with creation of an “Honor Court” to remember Claritans of consequence. Councilmember McLean has been pushing for something like this for quite a while, and she explained her logic. She said that they often receive requests to name things or places after certain people, and it’s hard to say “no” without dishonoring the departed. Her vision was to have some kind of audio storyboard for each person–visitors could hear about the life and contributions of the person being remembered at a kiosk or similar venue.

McLean’s idea was quite unpopular. “I fail to see where we’re fixing anything that’s wrong,” said Mayor Kellar, who felt that the council does a fine job of dispensing recognition and honor as warranted. “I don’t know that there’s really been a problem,” agreed Mayor Pro Tem Acosta. (He added that he hoped nothing would ever be named after him because he felt the practice was often inappropriate.) Apart from seeing the honor court as a solution in want of a problem, others criticized criteria for listing as too subjective. The item suggested something like 10 years of residence in Santa Clarita, exemplary character, and major contributions, but it was easy to imagine circumstances that would make these criteria too inclusive or too exclusive. Still, there was support for keeping the idea of something to honor the deceased (likely something digital) open to future discussion. This came after McLean said, dejectedly, “If you don’t like the idea, well, then, it dies.” Her fellow councilmembers told McLean to stick with it and they promised to think more about the right way to honor Santa Clarita’s notable-but-deceased.

The final bit of new business was appointment of Donald Cruikshank to fill the Parks Commission vacancy left by the death of the beloved Duane Harte. Harte had been Kellar’s appointment, so he was tasked with nominating the replacement. Kellar explained that Cruikshank was selected based on the interviews and opinions of a 5-person group that Kellar had assembled for that very purpose. Cruikshank and his family were delighted and remembered Harte fondly.

During the closing section of public participation, Cam Noltemeyer spoke first about the “rather shocking” behavior of the Laemmle Theater “flash mob” that had attended the last meeting to express support for the city’s plan to give millions in taxpayer funds to the theater chain. They were too raucous and riled up to have realized that funds were being used inappropriately, contended Noltemeyer.

Allan Cameron then offered his announcement of today’s court decision pertaining to the Affordable Clean Water Alliance’s legal action against the Santa Clarita Water District. He said the litigation has scarcely been mentioned or acknowledged by the City, but in a superior court ruling made today, the ACWA prevailed. Cameron’s explanation of this action was pretty abysmal–it was hard to follow what had happened because he was so intent on relishing the victory and pointing out the City’s hastiness and other faults. By the time he got to the punchline his time was practically up: “The EIR that is the foundation of all this machination and cost has been invalidated…the opportunities that this gives this community are wonderful and positive.” Weste said that sanitation district attorneys were reviewing the court decision but didn’t offer much clarification beyond that. The meeting then ended.