Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happenings: How Much is Newhall Gateway Worth?

This evening was Mayor Laurene Weste’s birthday[1]. When Councilmember Frank Ferry began singing in recognition of the occasion, she demurred, having hoped no one would notice. Weste admitted to sending her husband away earlier in the evening. Apparently, he had come with a homemade card, but she told him to go back home where, she expected, he was probably throwing socks at the TV.

Much time was devoted to general councilmember comments (did you know Councilmember Marsha McLean uses the train? She does!) and to public acknowledgments of the Downed Officer Ride and a Rose Parade float commemorating 9/11.

By 6:54, the business of governing the city called Santa Clarita began.

The first item discussed was what to (re)name Golden Valley Bridge. Everyone agreed that the name should honor those who died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it was tricky finding consensus for any particular name. “Soldiers Bridge”, the name proposed on the agenda, was deemed non-inclusive. Councilmember Marsha McLean mentioned speaking to her son, a retired major from the US Marine Corps, who made it clear that Marines were Marines, not soldiers[2]. Councilmember Laurie Ender came to a similar conclusion after speaking with her father, also a veteran.

A number of Claritan veterans came forward to express their support for the concept in general and offered alternative names for the bridge: Gold Star, Fallen Warriors, Patriots, Warriors Freedom, and Gold Star Military among them. It seemed more discussion of the name was needed. The City Council approved the dedication of $50,000 to working on a memorial monument for the bridge and directed staff to consult local Gold Star Families in deciding on what it will ultimately be named.

Item 5, the second reading and adoption of an ordinance to prezone parts of the Tesoro del Valle area, was continued to a subsequent meeting.

Public hearings included a revisiting of the Newhall Gateway project (the “Sierra Crossing” half of the area immediately next to Sierra Highway). In 2008, SFSX Partners submitted plans for the development of the property located by Newhall Avenue, Sierra Highway, and the 14. The Planning Commission ultimately approved the project, but this displeased city staff. They wanted to see an integrated project in which both properties that comprise the Newhall Gateway area—one owned by SFSX, the other property immediately behind it owned by USC—were developed in concert. To meet their ends, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent hiring the Poliquin Kellogg Design Group to create a conceptual design for how the area could be most fully developed. The City Council hoped that SFSX would buy USC’s parcel (USC claims it has no interest in the property other than selling it), pay for the conceptual design and economic analysis, and make a grand entrance into Newhall.

That didn’t happen.

The two property owners couldn’t decide on a price, and Paul Brotzman said that neither the originally proposed project nor the one proposed by Poliquin Kellogg were viable in the present economy. Thus, it was recommended that the City Council overturn the approval granted by the Planning Commission and essentially force the process to start over.

Hunt Braly (blech), representing the applicant, waddled up to the microphone and asked that the matter to be continued instead. He said that USC was being uncooperative, asking far too much for their weirdly shaped and situated piece of property abutting the one his clients wished to develop.

Like Braly, Councilmember Bob Kellar didn’t like the idea of completely overturning approval of the SFSX development plans. He said that “it is a very challenged piece of property for a variety of reasons,” and believed that the City Council had infringed on the owners’ property rights by making so many extraordinary and expensive demands. “We kill jobs,” he said, speculating that a faster approval would lead to construction work and more space for businesses—this despite the fact that much of Santa Clarita’s office space has been vacant for the past couple of years. Frank Ferry sympathized, asking whether the City could force USC to sell by invoking eminent domain or if they could at least get an appraisal for the property. USC wanted more than what SFSX believed was a fair price, and Ferry said that only an appraisal would set things straight: “Then we can call BS on somebody in the room.”

Marsha McLean liked the plan for an appraisal, but she completely disagreed with the idea that they were infringing on the property owners’ development rights by dragging out approval for their plans. She remembered being “amazed and aghast” at the project when it was presented before the Planning Commission, which went on to approve it. “The developer is not interested or willing to do anything but what he proposed, which is a bad project,” she began, concluding “We’re not infringing upon his rights in any way, shape or form…don’t play that game with me!”

Brotzman did all he could to get the City Council to overturn the Planning Commission’s approval of the project, but the council ultimately decided to continue the matter to January 2011. City Manager Ken Pulskamp said an estimated $4,000-$8,000 of redevelopment agency funds will be spent to get an appraisal by that date.

Up next was approval for altering a ridgeline and removing oak trees so that Grace Baptist Church could add three new parking decks. They had worked with the community and no one voiced opposition to the project—the parking decks would be relatively unobtrusive and the oaks being removed were relatively small ones that the church had planted itself some years ago. Just before approving the project, Laurie Ender smiled and said “What a nice thing to see a church that needs more parking.”

There was similarly speedy approval for outdoor dining in downtown Newhall. Everyone was delighted at the idea of dining al fresco amongst the trees and passersby and flies. Ender made a point to acknowledge that “It’s not Bourbon Street, it’s Main Street!” as they briefly discussed alcohol-serving regulations.

During Public Participation, Deanna Hanashiro approached the dais yet again to discuss the library takeover. It has become an almost religious act of devotion, her fortnightly pilgrimage to speak before a mostly indifferent higher power. Hanashiro was still concerned about how the City would fund library operations and whether teens could legally volunteer for the for-profit LSSI. City Manager Ken Pulskamp replied that “LSSI says they regularly have volunteers at other libraries.” I believe this is what Bruce McFarland might call Pulskampery, something that looks like a response but doesn’t address the real, underlying issue (i.e., whether it’s legal for teens to volunteer for LSSI, not whether it happens). The only other speaker during PP complained about the City using an ordinance relating to highway access to demand that he remove the basketball hoop he placed in the street near his Bridgeport home. Ferry said that it wasn’t the City that was anti-basketball—they were probably just responding to a complaint made by one of his neighbors.

With that, the meeting adjourned.

[1]Though her birthday wasn't on the agenda, everything else was. Here it is.
[2]I know, it looks weird to capitalize "Marines" and not "soldiers", but that's how it seems to be done. See the NYTimes discussion.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Qs: $75/Year for The Signal online? 30,000 readers every day?

I realize this is "old news", but it's old news I haven't seen discussed anywhere, so forgive me if you have.

The Signal will soon be replacing its online free edition with an online not-free edition. At least that was the plan on September 21st, the date publisher Ian Lamont spoke at the Valley Industrial Association's monthly luncheon. He was introducing The Signal's editorial board and addressed the matter of paying to read the paper online[1].

It began with a question from Andy Pattantyus: "In the last two or three years, uh, The Signal has moved aggressively into the electronic world. Uh, how has that changed the nature and complexion of the editorial, um, reporting and opinion page?”

Ian Lamont replied:

Um, hopefully i-it it here’s the, here’s the deal. We have 30,000 readers of the printed Signal every day. Um, We have, um, thousands more of the e-Edition, we have a digital edition of The Signal that is exactly like The Signal that on the computer you can read flipping pages just like you had the printed version. We get about three-quarters of a million doll-uh-page views, a month, on the uh, website,about 125,000 uniques. So The Signal’s audience has never been bigger. Um, and one of the things and I uh I happen to be talkin’ with somebody, The Signal very soon—right now, you pay to subscribe to the print and to the e-Edition; you don’t pay to subscribe to the website. So you get virtually most of our news content for free. That’s gotta change. We can’t have half of our audience paying for a hundred percent of our audience. So pretty soon that website’s gonna go behind a pay wall. It’ll still only be about 20 cents a day, it’s not gonna break anybody’s wallet, but I’m sure we’re gonna have people screeeam-ing about the fact you’re taking away my free content. Well, that’s what’s coming.

So, um, uh, that’s one change and in terms of changing our opinion, hopefully whether we have an audience of 10 or an audience of 10,000, it doesn’t change how we go about doing our business.”

Eloquence, thy voice is Lamont's.

I won't get into the publisher's questionable numbers (but for one example, Verified Audit Circulation shows about 11,000 readers on a given weekday--more on weekends--while Lamont claims to have "30,000 readers of the printed Signal every day."[3]) The real issue is the "pay wall." Lamont addressed the subject all but unprompted, which suggests it's at the forefront of his mind. It will be the same price as the current e-Edition, that nicer-looking, more complete way to read TMS online.

There's no question that the local news junkies will pay to read the paper online. But what about the rest of Clarita, the residents who only care about a few issues or whose interests in Claritan politics are desultory? When these Claritans have to weigh whether to pay six bucks a month and whether to go through the hassle of signing-up and logging-in, will they decide that The Signal, that bastion of mediocrity, is worth it?

[1] Here's that board.
[2] You can watch the clip by clicking on the screen-capture below, which will take you to the SCVTV website. Start watching at the half-hour mark (30 minutes, 18 seconds, to be precise).


[3]Verified Audit Circulation numbers

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happenings: Elsmere Saved, Tesoro to Annex, the "Turd" Word

In keeping with the long-standing tradition, tonight’s City Council meeting began late because of a closed session[1]. City Attorney Carl Newton explained that the City Council had discussed the lawsuit recently filed by Save Our Library, the group that hopes to prevent the City from contracting with LSSI, LLC. Attorney Don Ricketts argues that giving a private company access to library records would violate privacy rights[2]. Claritans, who stood all but unanimously against a rush to privatize library operations, will now see their tax dollars spent trying to defend the very action they would prefer to see attacked.

Mayor Pro-tem Marsha McLean delivered the invocation. She asked that people help out Santa Clarita’s homeless shelter, which is trying to add another 15 beds as winter approaches. McLean also spoke of the need to support the SCV Food Pantry. This can be done by buying a ticket (and bringing canned food) to a concert put on by the band Humboldt Squad[3]. Several other bands—all of which consist of high school students—will also perform. If listening to aspiring musicians loudly aspiring isn’t your thing, you could also just make a donation.

Cub Scout pack 577 led the flag salute—a detail included for reasons soon to become apparent. Mayor Laurene Weste then called Brad Berens forward to receive a key to the city. “We don’t do this often” noted Weste, as she handed Berens what some might describe as a giant novelty key[4]. Between tears, she explained how Berens had done an immense amount of work all in service of Santa Clarita’s senior community and said, “We will miss you just so much I can’t tell you!” McLean could barely hold back tears herself.

In the middle of Brad Berens’ recognition, just as a photo was about to be taken, City Attorney Carl Newton interrupted everything to point out that the flag-saluting scouts had not yet had their picture taken. Looking a bit perplexed by Newton’s horrible timing, Mayor Weste pointed out that the appropriate time for the scouts' photo would be after they were through fussing over champion-to-seniors Brad Berens. When he had a chance to speak, Berens fussed over the City Council as well. Of Ender, he recalled “looking into her heart” and remarked that “We are so damn lucky to have you here.” To the Mayor Pro-tem, he said “Marsha, your heart is as big as this valley.” Finally, he recalled how he had spent a day helping out seniors with former boss Laurene Weste. He went into the house and spoke with the elderly resident while Weste crawled under the home to pull out feral cats with her bare hands. Both still remember the scratches Laurene suffered in her feline battles.

A proclamation in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month followed. Mayor Weste remarked that “In this century, it [domestic violence] needs to stop.” Others seemed to agree. Members of the Board of Directors of the Domestic Violence Center stood wearing purple ribbons while Mary Ree, President, praised the City for making the proclamation, gave some domestic violence statistics, and described what the center does[5].

With yet another recognition—this time highlighting a group that unites a community with art, the NOMAD LAB Youth Art Program—it wasn’t until 6:42 that the City Council got onto its real business.

Deanna Hanshiro, who has become the face of opposition to Santa Clarita’s library takeover, spoke on Item 2. This item recommended the rejection of bids for construction of the Old Town Newhall Library—all 26 of them. Apparently, the low bids didn’t include some of the requisite documents, and the next lowest bids were considerably higher. The City Council voted to take the recommended action.

Hanashiro, however, did not have questions about this particular action so much as about the takeover in general. She asked City Manager Ken Pulskamp: why had Calabasas ended their contract with LSSI?; why did the City write in 1999 that it wouldn’t get the special property tax for libraries, but it now believes that it will get that tax?; would library staff be employees of LSSI or the City?; and can teens volunteer at the library since it benefits a privately-held, for-profit company?

Shockingly, Pulskamp actually answered some of the questions. He said that Calabasas had had city employees assume LSSI’s role in operating libraries because it had been their plan all along, “not because they had any negative feelings towards LSSI.” Extensive review by City Attorney Carl Newton led him to believe that the City could indeed collect the tax for library services. Library staff would be LSSI employees and not City ones—thus the cost savings. Finally, Pulskamp admitted that “we do not know definitively” whether it will be legal for students to volunteer at the library when it is run by LSSI.

The rest of the Consent Calendar passed with the recommended actions.

Next, there was a Public Hearing about the annexation of Tesoro del Valle and West Creek. People were uneasy and inconsistent in their pronunciation of “Valle”—even people who lived there. It was, variously, “val-EE”, “VAL-aey”, or “val”, but only rarely “VIE-yae”. Regardless, it was clear that residents of the northerly neighborhoods want to annex and that the Tesoro HOA’s Board of Directors and developer Montalvo (roughly synonymous) don’t in order to maximize the developer’s potential gain. Of course, they said their opposition arose from a desire to be annexed as one community, not in the piecemeal fashion the City was proposing wherein developed parts of the community were annexed while others were not (presumably as a favor to the developer, noted McLean). Many residents said they were tired of waiting and of being misrepresented by the HOA, and the City Council ultimately sided with them. There will now be a second reading of an ordinance pre-zoning nearly 3,000 acres of West Creek/Tesoro del Valle, and an application for annexation will be filed with LAFCO.

Under the heading of New Business, the City approved creation of a Citizens Public Library Committee. After their utter failure to build any actual community support for the library takeover, the City Council is looking to give the impression of community support and involvement by creating a committee. It goes without saying that the committee will be diverse and inclusive in its membership, that it will comprise well-respected community members, and that its mere existence will be used as evidence that LSSI-run libraries are better and more responsive to the unique needs of Santa Clarita’s readers. “Credibility is a huge issue for this community,” said Councilmember Frank Ferry. One hopes that there will be no applicants to serve on this committee, or perhaps only applicants who demand a return to the County of Los Angeles and discuss nothing else at their meetings.

Finally, Laurene and Marsha were all giggles and smiles as they got to the item acquiring 842 acres of Elsmere Canyon. As a little joke, McLean moved the recommended action before it had even been discussed. (Since she has worked to preserve the area for a couple of decades, she was entitled to take ownership of the item’s passage). Rick Gould showed some photos of the site including a California Condor like the one he said flew over his head on a visit with Ken Pulskamp. (Laurie Ender joked that condors are attracted to shiny objects and advised the bald Pulskamp to wear a hat next time he goes hiking).

With obvious pride, McLean formally moved the recommended action—but wait! There was a public speaker. As Cam Noltemeyer walked forward, Ferry said “C’mon, you can’t be opposed to this one!” But she was. She spoke about the questionable legality of the Open Space District that is funding the acquisition, questioned the appraisal of the property (City Manager Pulskamp said that it was being acquired for half of what was a $12M appraised value). It was something of a buzzkill. This was one of those times when one should bite one’s tongue. While Noltemeyer had some valid points, Elsmere has huge symbolic importance, especially for those who have lived in Santa Clarita long enough to remember when Elsmere Canyon almost became one of the world’s biggest landfills. Obviously, the City Council gave its unanimous support to getting the property.

The meeting closed with Public Participation. Recently, Councilmember Frank Ferry sent a letter to Associated Builders and Contractors, a group represented by Castaic Lake Water Agency candidate Kevin Korenthal[6]. In the letter—printed on the City’s letterhead—Frank made ludicrous claims about the supposedly incendiary rhetoric that Korenthal used when talking about opponent Ed Colley and the City Council. It was all bluster.

David Gauny and Kevin Korenthal both spoke about the letter. Gauny called what Frank Ferry did “despicable on multiple fronts.” He was particularly upset that Frank was trying to get a man fired from his job just because he was running to serve on the water board against Ferry’s wishes. Gauny identified a pattern. Anytime someone opposes Frank politically, he tries to destroy them professionally and personally. After Gauny ran for City Counil, Ferry released a “45-page dossier of information” on Gauny aimed to destroy him. TimBen Boydston was also attacked by Ferry for his run for City Council, and Kevin Korenthal was just the most recent victim of this “political sport” with a letter apparently aimed at getting him fired. The quotable Gauny closed his remarks by saying “My grandmother told me a long time ago: you can’t polish a turd.” This, of course, was a continuation of Gauny’s brownout motif[7].

When Kevin Korenthal spoke out against Frank Ferry, he came off as very much the bigger man. There was no anger in his voice. He simply observed that he had tried his best to keep Associated Builders and Contractors out of the race but that Ferry and Colley had forced them in. Korenthal correctly identified the tactics used against him as another example of Ferry’s not-so-subtle attempts to keep people from being politically active. He requested that, in the future, Ferry contact people directly when he has questions about their words or conduct instead of trying to get them fired.

The meeting ended at 8:38.

[1]Here’s the agenda.
[2]More on the library lawsuit
[3] Details.
[4]A la J-to-the-Wilson of
SCVTalk, who has identified the City's love of giant novelty scissors, checks, spades, etc. for various events and ceremonies. This key is probably more accurately "very large" than "giant," however. I
Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita
[6]From The Signal
[7]From his
opinion piece in The Signal

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happenings: Behold, OVOV's Time is Now

Paul Brotzman has been wary of the myths and misinformation being spread about OVOV.

Tonight’s Planning Commission meeting was the first for Lisa Eichman, appointed by Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean. McLean chose Eichman over reappointing Diane Trautman, arguably the hardest-working, most capable commissioner we had. It was a petty political grudge that led McLean to make the switch[1]. It was swell timing, too, as the Planning Commission is just now beginning work on the complex, all-important General Plan.
In any case, the first major task for the Planning Commission was to determine who would serve as chair and vice-chair[2]. Bill Kennedy immediately nominated Tim Burkhart to lead the PC. All supported the nomination without further discussion. When it came time for Burkhart to vote in favor of his own chair-hood, he paused and quipped, “That’s a trick question!” but eventually gave himself a “yes” vote. Ingratiating chuckles followed.
Dee Dee Jacobson was elevated from commissioner to vice-chair with the same efficiency and unanimity, but without the chuckles.
By 7:04, it was time for Senior Planner Jason Smisko to formally introduce the draft General Plan for One Valley One Vision. (The comma that once halved “One Valley One Vision” is gone; the Orwellian connotation remains). Smisko expressed a mix of anticipation and anxiousness over OVOV, its corpus comprising draft general plan elements and land use maps complemented by a draft EIR[3]. He emphasized that this was just the beginning of meetings focused on OVOV. Staff recommended that the Planning Commission continue the public hearing to November 16th, again to December 7th, and finally to January 18th. At each of these subsequent meetings, specific portions of the plan will be discussed in more detail and the City will respond to public feedback.
Planning Manager Lisa Webber spoke next. Her face was wan and her voice quivered a little, but she was otherwise composed as ever. She spoke about how the planning process started long ago, hearkening back to the “Flapjack Forum Kick Off” held on January 28, 2001. If people can't unite over pancakes, what can they unite over? Since then, she noted that LA County has adopted more progressive planning philosophies; greenhouse gas emissions have gone from a peripheral to central consideration for planners; and trends towards walkability, mixed-use communities, and sustainable developments have firmly taken root. In short, Santa Clarita’s General Plan has evolved a lot over the past decade.
Jason Smisko took to the microphone again and tried to give an over-arching idea of what OVOV is. In his words, it is a collection of over 800 “goals, policies, and objectives.” The land use map is the other major component. Four themes unify the plan:
1. Valley of Villages. Santa Clarita will be developed in a way that preserves the character of its neighborhoods. “We want these communities to maintain their distinctive community character,” said Smisko. I presume their are limits to the acceptable degree of distinctiveness.

2. Valley Center. There will be an effort to bring more “regional shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities” that also generate more tax revenue and create local jobs.

3. Jobs-Housing Balance. Smisko said that about 50% of the workforce leaves Santa Clarita every day (is that all?), a trend the City hopes to counter by creating 1.5 jobs per residence. Number of good-jobs-per-residence will be somewhat less.

4. Preservation of Open Space/Valley Greenbelt. Claritans value open space, so there will be an effort to expand the greenbelt around Santa Clarita and to protect sensitive habitats like riparian areas.

OVOV tries to balance the four themes, some of which go hand-in-hand (2 & 3) and others of which work in direct opposition (4 vs. everything else). Determining the pattern of land use that best supported the themes involved visits to literally every property in the planning area.
Compared to the existing general plan, the new one emphasizes mixed use developments, increases commercial densities, and features a climate action plan. Indeed, there was a certain amount of paranoia over AB-32 and SB-375, the acts that compel the City of Santa Clarita to aggressively address greenhouse gas emissions towards meeting California’s climate change goals. Assistant Planner Dave Peterson said that he and his colleagues have been meeting with the State Attorney General’s office to ensure that the City’s plan for dealing with greenhouse gases is acceptable. The most recent of these meetings took place last month, and things seem to be looking OK.
Jason Smisko next moved, with some trepidation, to the topic of population growth. He showed a slide with some staggering numbers. For example, within the planning area, there are 80,500 existing units. OVOV anticipates 155,000 total potential units (40,500 units are “entitled unbuilt units," meaning they could be coming very soon). That’s double the number of homes currently found in the Santa Clarita Valley. It was stressed that the 155,000 figure represented capacity only--what might happen if demand is high, etc. The next alarming number was the projected population. Smisko placed the value as somewhere between 459,000 and 483,000 Claritans. [Insert gasp of horror here.]

Watch Clarita grow.

Mitch Glaser, Principal Planner for the County of Los Angeles, spoke next. He said “we’re a little bit behind the City” in terms of revisions and circulating documents. Glaser predicted that the Board of Supervisors might be considering the plan for county lands “sometime in the middle of next year.” There was, of course, much reciprocal back-patting between planners from the City of Santa Clarita and those from the County of Los Angeles.

Glaser was followed by Susan Tebo of Impact Sciences, Inc., Project Director for the EIR. She remarked, “If the OVOV plan were [sic] implemented, there would be significant and unavoidable impacts associated with implementation of this plan.” (Few minded the redundancy as her presentation style was clear and methodical—though perhaps a bit slow.) Among the significant, unavoidable impacts is diminished air quality with regard to certain, but not all, pollutants. 200 acres of prime farmland would be lost to other uses. Landfill space is filling up fast, and there would be problems as landfill capacity is reached around 2021. Greenhouse gas emissions would increase even with mitigating actions. Some special status plants and animals and the habitats on which they depend would be lost. Water services outside of the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s service area would face significant impacts.

Here's how the air you breathe is expected to change under OVOV.

Paul Brotzman, Director of Community Development, was the final staff member to speak. He began his remarks by bracing for criticism. “I would anticipate that we would have quite a few people who would have concerns,” he said. Brotzman tried to allay concerns over population growth in particular. He said that it would be about 50 years before 46,000 more residents are added to the City of Santa Clarita’s population—just 1,000 or so per year. However, he observed that vastly more population growth would take place outside of City boundaries. Potentially 170,000 may join the 80,000 now dwelling in unincorporated areas. He also observed that density was being increased in the City of Santa Clarita to allow for lower density land uses around the periphery of the planning area.
With the introductory presentation of OVOV concluded, Commissioner Bill Kennedy asked why there was no cap on maximum population or the maximum extent of development. He wanted to know which operational constraint would limit growth first, whether greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste disposal, or water. Lisa Webber said that she would provide more specifics at the next meeting, but assured Kennedy that they had taken a conservative approach in estimating limits to growth.
Commissioner Dennis Ostrom rambled nonsensically about his many years of service on the Planning Commission; the right- and left-handed sides of his brain being in conflict with one another; questions regarding the ability to amend the General Plan; and some ambivalence towards public “inputs.” He seemed a bit befuddled throughout the meeting, a quality I would find charming were he my grandfather, but one that's less endearing given his seat on the Planning Commission.
Vice-chair Dee Dee Jacobson requested that Susan Tebo “dummy it up for us” when it came to the draft Environmental Impact Report. Jacobson was seemingly overwhelmed by the list of environmental thresholds being exceeded and impacts that were unavoidable.
It was time for public comments next. Sandra Cattell, representing the Sierra Club, voiced opposition to allowing development in floodplains. As a Placerita Canyon resident, she said that she was also upset that the General Plan would permit denser development in parts of Placerita. Valerie Thomas shared Cattell’s concerns about Placerita and the Casden property in particular. She said that the people of Santa Clarita needed more time to review the thousands of pages of OVOV documents and that it was silly to let the EIR review period end on December 22, when everyone is busy with the holidays.
Diane Trautman, saying more in her three-minute comment period than her replacement would say the whole night, echoed calls for more time to review the plans. She also wanted to know how proportionally greater reliance on public transit, bike lanes, etc. in future communities would be paid for.
Lynne Plambeck found little to like about the City’s vision. She lamented urban sprawl in “the hinterlands” (i.e., Newhall Ranch). She pointed out that the City was accommodating high-density projects and trusting the County to keep the periphery of Santa Clarita green and open, something that couldn’t be assured without direct control. Plambeck was also troubled by the City’s use of Impact Sciences to prepare the EIR, a choice she found “extremely concerning.” They prepare EIRs for Newhall Ranch, too, so how could they be truly critical of and fairly evaluate their own previous work? Cam Noltemeyer continued the OVOV attack by ridiculing the City’s tendency to use General Plan amendments to do what it wanted, essentially ignoring the current General Plan. She feared the same thing would continue to happen in the future. Finally, a lawyer from the Natural Resources Defense Council said that he was optimistic about the City's commitment to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, but that his group was not yet prepared to issue comprehensive statements about the General Plan.
In response to these comments, Jacobson asked what NRDC stands for (Natural Resources Defense Council), Ostrom ventured “I see maybe water as a big issue”, and Chair Burkhart recommended a “see how it goes” approach before affording the public more time to review OVOV documents. After some updates from Lisa Webber, the meeting ended at 9:20.

Previously, I haven’t really bothered watching Planning Commission meetings. Since OVOV is rather important to Santa Clarita’s future, though, I think these meetings may be worthwhile. And there’s certainly plenty that requires additional examination (the antics of Dennis Ostrom; the fast-talking ways of Dee Dee Jacobson; the incomprehensible hair of Jason Smisko, etc.). Thus, I’ll make an effort to watch the next few OVOV-centric meetings.

[1]I find her quotations in this article from The Signal to be petty.
[2]Here's the agenda.
[3]I’m going to drop the “draft” hereafter, but assume all documents are still drafts unless otherwise stated.