Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happenings: Goodbyes, Changes, First World Problems

It was a meeting of goodbyes: goodbye to redevelopment, goodbye to former committee assignments, goodbye to a quiet neighborhood… But a goodbye to the recently deceased Clyde Smyth, a major figure in Santa Clarita education, government, and society, was the most profound one of the night.

The meeting began just a bit after six. Councilmember Laurene Weste delivered the invocation. She spent over ten minutes talking about shelter animals, noting that many more may be euthanized if Governor Brown is able to implement budget-cutting measures that shorten how long an animal is held before being killed. She then offered tips—spay and neuter pets, have your contact information on their collars, adopt from shelters—that weren’t exactly news to anyone, but certainly well-intentioned.

Individual reports and updates from the council members weren’t particularly revelatory—Councilmember Kellar spoke about Dionne Warwick’s recent performance, for example. Mayor Laurie Ender, however, took a few moments to talk about her memories of Clyde Smyth. She highlighted his role as superintendent, his championing of Newhall redevelopment, his efforts to build Central Park, and his desire to unify and optimize a transportation plan for the valley. She spoke of his commitment to transparency, one he codified with the statement, “We must do the public’s business in public.”

The council moved onto the consent calendar, which they approved in its entirety. This means that a 285-space park-and-ride lot will be designed for a plot near the corner of McBean and Valencia Blvd.; businesses in Newhall will be able to have bigger signs and some additional outdoor displays; and $215,000 will go to the Performing Arts Center over the next three years for community use of the facility. Cam Noltemeyer felt that the City of Santa Clarita was paying an “outrageous price” for the petroleum-contaminated property that is to become the park-and-ride. She said that her request for documents revealed that appraisal of the property had occurred after it was already in escrow.

Up next, Mayor Ender attempted to condense and more equitably distribute committee appointments among the council members. Before this evening, McLean served on or was an alternate for 20 committees, and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Ferry a mere 7. After she was done rearranging things and bargaining with her fellow council members, positions were spread a bit more evenly, though Ferry still managed to have the fewest. Ender grouped some committees together (e.g., aging and transitional care unit and senior housing committees), showing an eye for concision, and she dissolved some that would no longer be necessary, like the committee for the Santa Clarita Courthouse (now a foregone conclusion thanks to the County of LA). “Staff time means money,” Ender said, explaining that fewer committee meetings would free up staff.

A few of the changes didn’t go over so well. Speaker Duane Harte asked to have Bob Kellar put back on the CEMEX committee, citing his many lobbying trips to Washington and his familiarity with the issues. Laurene Weste would give her spot to Kellar, but she insisted on keeping the North Newhall Specific Plan Committee. Both Weste and McLean were emphatic about the need for this committee and its role in ensuring adherence to certain standards set forth for Newhall. Kellar would say he thought this role wasn’t appropriate for the City Council, suggesting that property rights were infringed upon when council members could all but dictate architectural designs to Newhall property owners. McLean was quite upset at Kellar’s suggestions, and she affirmed her staunch support of property rights.

Back down, Bob, said McLean’s eyes.

McLean had other objections. There was a tense little moment when she said she cared very much about the issue of senior housing, and wanted to be on the committee for it. Mayor Ender said, somewhat snarkily, that McLean caring about senior housing meant there were “five of us who do.” It was not easy to pry appointments from McLean’s grasp, and Ender’s resolve was rather admirable.

There were two items dealing with the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Santa Clarita. The City will be the successor agency, dealing with remaining debts, administrative duties, and the like. The agency has over $90M in total outstanding debt or obligation, but Redevelopment Manager Armine Chaparyan said the payments will have “no impact to the general fund” since funds have already been earmarked. She added that all property acquired by the Redevelopment Agency was now held by the City, simplifying matters somewhat. Still, no one was happy to see the redevelopment agency coming to an end--at least no one at the dais.

Public participation came next. Alan Ferdman encouraged Claritans to provide feedback as the sanitation district begin the EIR process for a new treatment plant. If you have no idea what he's talking about, he has posted a video online[2]. The Lutnesses spoke about rampant foreclosures in Santa Clarita (yes, still) and the rising problem of homelessness among senior and families. Most speakers, though, were upset about tennis lessons happening in their neighbor’s yard. First world problems, anyone?

I shouldn’t make light. Happy Valley residents bought homes in a quiet neighborhood expecting that their neighbor wouldn’t install what they’ve christened a “sports complex.” It includes tennis courts, lighting, athletic fields, unsightly fencing, and cash-only lessons—at least according to an ad in the yellow pages.

“I’m beyond frustrated” said McLean, clearly sympathizing with the community at large. City Attorney Montes couldn’t say much, since complaints from the sports complex operator and neighbors may lead to legal action. However, it was apparent that he knew it was a major concern for local residents and that resolution was a priority.

Before adjourning the meeting, Marsha McLean recalled raising a family alongside the Smyths, watching their children grow up and go to school together. She said of Clyde, quite simply, “He was wonderful.” The meeting ended a little after 8.


[2]The 500 Million Dollar Invisible Gorilla in the Room, as Ferdman mildly puts it


Alan Ferdman said...

I Heart

Thanks for passing on information about the Chloride Issue. This issue puts a lot of our money on the line and seems to be flying under the radar.

I just loaded a video of my latest Chloride presentation from the January 18, 2012 Canyon Country Advisory Committee Meeting.

This presentation contains information about the Water Treatment Plant Addition “Notice of Preparation and the EIR process” including meeting locations, dates and times.


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