Forewarning: I'm not covering the Special Meeting that occurred before tonight's regular City Council Meeting.
“We are a poster child of success.”
At least that’s what Mayor Bob Kellar said during his invocation of tonight’s City Council meeting. He told us what a great community we are and how wonderful it is that Santa Clarita’s citizens are so involved and motivated and full of diverse opinions. After Kellar’s spirited pep-talk concluded, I felt more ready than ever to get out there and beat Team San Fernando Valley in the big game. Go us!
I was soon brought back into the dismal, gray world of City Council meetings with the obligatory presentations, public comments, and council spiels. Nadine Teter’s speech during public participation was notable. With quietly smoldering scorn, she addressed her frustrations with City Manager Ken Pulskamp over—what else?—the Benz Road cut-through traffic problem. Ensconced in his gated community, Teter said that Pulskamp could not understand what it’s like to have traffic speeding nosily by every hour of every day. (By the same token, I suppose Teter can't understand what it's like to have everyone in Santa Clarita bitch at you all the time.) On a more upbeat note, we learned that progress is being made on Buck McKeon’s CEMEX bill and that a third recent trip to D.C. made by some members of Council was a success.
Next we went on to awarding a contract for design of Old Town Newhall’s library project. Unfortunately, someone from LPA, Inc. (the architectural firm awarded the project) was present to discuss his firm’s many merits. He sported a bald head, an oddly shaved soul patch, and pseudo-hipster glasses like that guy wears in the LensCrafters commercials. I agree with Councilmember Laurie Ender on his one redemptive quality: he spoke very quickly.
He gave a pitch laden with nebulous, feel-good crap like “Every community has a story to tell.” He made the daring promise to focus on “function, context, and the environment” when designing the new library. It was all straight out of a Meaningless Principles of Architecture That Sound Good if You Don’t Think About Them Too Hard textbook. Councilmember Laurene Weste took the bait. In typically quiet-but-fervent fashion, she praised the plan to incorporate city history into the design and make it a centerpiece of the community. Councilmember Marsha McLean, too, was positively tickled to see this step forward on one of her pet projects.
None of the businesses in Old Town Newhall, however, were at all pleased. Several shop owners came forward to say that they felt it would be better for the City to pay for streetscape improvements first and then move on to library construction. TimBen Boydston reminded the City Council that a consultant to whom they had given about $1M recommended that redevelopment begin with the streetscape, move on to parking structures, and finish with the library around 2020—if there was money for it. He said no one would walk from a lovely new building into slum-like streets, so fixing up the businesses first should be the priority. Sensing (quite correctly) that the Council was going to act against his, the business owners’, and the consultant’s recommendations, he closed “I am telling you, you are making a mistake.”
This greatly upset McLean. She admonished Boydston with a “You should be ashamed of yourself [for accurately pointing out the slum-like qualities of Old Town Newhall]!” and countered his arguments by saying that “A fantastic library with the amenities that will be around the library … is going to bring more business to the business-owners than trees.” If her argument had stopped there, it would have been better. Instead, she continued by saying that some people (i.e., everybody) want the streetscape done first while other people (i.e., she herself) want the library first. And guess whose opinion counts more? Essentially, it’s a matter of we’d like to listen to you but instead we’re going to build our precious library first--so deal with it.
Mayor Kellar lamented not being able to spend more time on this issue as it was moved and seconded to a vote. Kellar’s four council comrades gave their yeses to awarding the $340,000 design contract (well, Weste always gives an “aye” instead of a “yes”, which speaks volumes). Kellar ended the voting with an ironic/snarky “It would seem appropriate to make it unanimous. Yes.”  Thus, the soul patch guy will now design us a building that tells a story about the community while helping shape the future story of the community in its own little way at the same time. Yippee.
After the 8pm potty break, there were several bland issues presented for consideration—continuations of changes in ordinances, specific plan updates, other stuff that wasn’t terribly riveting... I used this time to delete old emails from my inbox, cut my fingernails, play a game of solitaire, link paperclips together, and sigh.
The evening ended on an eco-friendly topic. The Item, “Non-motorized Transportation Plan and Negative Declaration Adoption," basically threw City support behind efforts to make Santa Clarita a good place to use walking and biking as alternatives to driving. This signals a shift from looking at biking only as a recreational activity to an intelligent, positive form of transporation. J-to-the-Wilson of SCVTalk will surely be delighted by this development. I suppose I should be too, but I almost ran over a bicyclist today (his fault, really—and it wasn’t J.W., incidentally), so I’ll just feel kind of weird and guilty about it instead.
Didn’t you see the bedraggled, falling apart “Labor Ready” business ?
Yes, I’m going to stick by calling it ironic because his little quip made that the most profoundly un-unanimous unanimous vote I’ve ever seen.
Tonight’s agenda, in case you’d like to read it.