Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happenings: Baseball Tourism, Historic Indecision

Tonight: the City Council acted as middleman in a tourism deal, the southern Sand Canyon area is all but annexed, and history hangs in the balance (well, at least historical structures)[1].
Councilmember Laurene Weste delivered the invocation. She made an appeal to support the Homes for Heroes program which is doing a major renovation of a local veteran’s home as its November 5th kick-off event. The primary sponsors are the Southern California Gas Company in partnership with KHTS[2].

What would a City Council meeting be without awards and recognition? Shorter. In any event, the ladies of Soroptimist International were on deck this evening. I learned that there are two distinct chapters—one for Santa Clarita Valley and the other for Greater Santa Clarita Valley. These competing factions called a truce to support the “Color Me Pink” and “Color Me Purple” campaigns. Pink (and the month of October) are devoted to the fight to end breast cancer, and purple (and November) to the fight to end domestic violence. A sea of soroptimists flooded the dais to receive the recognition, each member insisting on giving hugs to each and every council member. It took a solid two minutes.

Next, the new director of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, Rachelle Dardeau, introduced herself. She was gracious and warm, thanking the City for their support of the center’s important mission to nourish the oldies with food and friendship.

General comments from council members were given next, and they would take up a hefty chunk of the evening. Councilmember Frank Ferry recalled asking staff to provide resources for resolving neighborly disputes, which have been increasingly common and violent of late. There is now a page on the City’s website that links you to resources about how to talk to a neighbor you’re having problems with. To meet Ferry's request, staff apparently Googled "neighbor disputes" and pared down the results for Claritans in crisis.




I like the ironic modifier: "Neighborly Disputes".


Ferry also suggested that families visit Saugus Speedway to catch a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The piney cadaver will be placed on big trucks and carted into town on its way to Washington, D.C. If you’ve never seen a large, recently felled tree lying on its side in a truck, here’s your chance[3]. A food drive is also part of the event, and sounds decidedly more worthwhile. Mayor Pro-tem Laurie Ender had no comments apart from wishing Councilmember Weste a happy birthday. In a charming moment, Frank told everyone Laurene was turning 29 years old.

Perhaps because she was reminded of her own mortality—that’s what birthdays are for, right?—Weste devoted her comments to preserving Santa Clarita’s historic structures. She said that she wanted staff to do a study of what communities have done “across the nation” to preserve their local history.

Councilmember Bob Kellar emphatically disagreed with Laurene’s plan for additional research. “At some point in time we have to say, ‘We’ve done our homework.’” He contended that that time was now, noting that the City has been working on a permanent ordinance for historic preservation for half-a-decade. Ferry weighed in next, saying he would require a clear definition of what makes a structure historic, the ability to opt-in to a listing program rather than be forced into it, and an emphasis on pursuing public ownership of valuable, historic buildings. Mayor Marsha McLean said that she agreed with Weste that more study was needed and wanted the Planning Commission to reconsider the issue.

At this suggestion, Ferry said “I have no idea what the Planning Commission did. I don’t watch them…” (Shocker.) McLean explained that they had essentially de-fanged the ordinance, making historic listing a strictly opt-in process. There was considerable discussion of this, and City Attorney Joe Montes was visibly uncomfortable. He reminded the Council that they could only discuss whether to instruct staff to perform more research, since the topic of historic preservation was not on the agenda for the evening. Everyone but Kellar agreed to more study, which City Manager Ken Pulskamp said would take about six months.

Some, like Laurie Ender and Bob Kellar, were worried about how owners of the 49 listed properties would deal with the financial burdens of being unable to modify their property and having to disclose the possibility of historic designation to interested buyers for at least six more months. In a rare moment of empathy with the affected owners, Pulskamp said that he imagined the people on the list would feel that their property values were being adversely affected. Unfortunately, he immediately followed this statement by equivocating on whether they’d be right or wrong about feeling a financial burden.

Once this discussion was over, the Consent Calendar was approved in its entirety. There was some interest in an item to give Hart Baseball $50,000 (and up to another $50,000 per year for the next three years). The funds will be used to improve the fields and facilities in order to support tournaments that bring with them out-of-towners who spend money on hotels, at restaurants, and so on. Alan Ferdman objected to using taxpayer dollars to benefit baseball players and hotel owners. However, Pulskamp said the money would be coming from a tax that Claritan hotels pay expressly in order to boost tourism. In short, the City is the middleman, taking money from hotels and giving it to Hart baseball so that visiting ball players’ families will make more money for hotels. Dana Cop of the SCV Chamber of Commerce gave the proposal her full support. City Manger Pulskamp said this was a key way to get families to start “spending a whole lot more money” by being required to stay one or more nights in Santa Clarita. The goal is to have eight tournaments hosted in Santa Clarita by year four of this tourism partnership.

There was also a bit of discussion of Agenda Item 3, which renewed a contract with Data Ticket, Inc., a private parking enforcement company. Mayor McLean said that she wanted a bit of “discretion” in how harshly parking was enforced. She relayed an email from a man who was literally forced to carry his daughter from his car and who parked where he oughtn’t for a mere five minutes. Ferry and Ender pointed out that showing discretion in such circumstances is a very hard thing to do. One can’t tell if a car is parked illegally for the worst or best of intentions; red zones exist for a reason; etc. McLean was forced to be satisfied with the recommendation that special circumstances be handled in an appeal at court. The City Manager also promised to remind the company that it use good judgment when enforcing parking. The parking program is revenue-positive for the City ($300,000 in expenditures, $450,000 in revenue, of which $125,000 goes to the State). Furthermore, people in Santa Clarita love to help enforcers. 2,523 eService requests were completed, most for parking enforcement or abandoned vehicle requests.

Per usual, road maintenance and beautification projects provided additional, comment-free bulk to the Consent Calendar. Once those items were approved, a measure to approve the annexation and pre-zone of nearly 700 acres in south Sand Canyon was passed to a second reading. There is a movie ranch overlay zone to accommodate the Sable Ranch and Rancho Deluxe movie ranches. In case you had forgotten, the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation reminded us that movies are a big industry in the SCV.

Public participation followed. Alan Ferdman, who is nothing if not persistent, spoke about sanitation fees and board meetings. He was concerned that Santa Claritans have not been afforded a convenient opportunity to speak out against the millions of dollars being spent to comply with questionable chloride limits. He reminded the audience that more than $20M will be spent on planning a treatment plant alone; implementation and operation of the plant would cost many times more. A woman named Jennifer Adams also spoke. From her mobility scooter, she said that sidewalks near her home are in poor repair and make it difficult for her to get around. Pulskamp was distressed (embarrassed?) that she had felt compelled to come to City Hall to make this appeal and said a simple call would have received a response. Apparently there is a “pot of money” for just such unforeseen repairs.

The meeting adjourned at 7:27.

[1]Care to read the agenda? You can.
[2]Homes for Heroes
[3]That’s really the event. Read more here and here.

1 comment:

Alan Ferdman said...

I Heart

I am a great admirer and supporter of Hart Baseball. As I said last night, Hart is a top notch league that provides it’s players with a learning and playing experience second none.

What I objected to, was the staff report and the way the expenditure was justified. I pointed out inconsistencies in the staff's report numbers and that the defined financial benefit was only to hotels.

This should not have been placed on the consent calendar. The proposal should have been clearly presented and identified. It is all about transparency in government.