Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happenings: Lawsuit to be Challenged, Las Lomas to be Open Space

I had a chance to catch up with Lindsey Newhall, yes that Newhall, at the Fourth of July Parade.  She said that if Santa Clarita is broken into voting districts, her family will reinstitute their monarchic reign over District Newhall. 
Tonight’s two-hour meeting was the last before the council members take their summer hiatus through the end of August[1].  (Councilmember Frank Ferry’s empty chair indicated that he hiatus-ed early).  There was much ado about roads, talk about placing a plastic bag ban on an upcoming agenda, the end(?) of the Community Conservation Solutions debate, purchase of a big parcel of land for open space, and a decision to fight the voting district lawsuit.  In short, it was the kind of meeting Joe Clarita couldn’t care less about.  Nearly 10 people watched the broadcast at 
Voting Lawsuit Will Be Challenged
As a result of tonight’s closed-session meeting, the lawsuit that claims Santa Clarita’s at-large voting system somehow deprives Latinos of political representation will be challenged.  There wasn’t much discussion, but when this stance was revealed, scattered applause was heard.  A handful of public speakers would also mention that the City was doing the right thing.
Without Ferry to deliver the invocation, Mayor Bob Kellar spoke first.  He reminded Claritans that the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall will be in town in late September.  Presentations to/from the City were delightfully brief.  Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste recognized Richard Cook, who has flown every rover mission to Mars.  For his role, he was named as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2013.  “I always wanted to meet and know a rocket scientist,” said Weste.  When Cook came up to receive a certificate, he described living in Santa Clarita as “a privilege.”  Damn straight, rocketman; damn straight.
Public Participation
I want more James Shepherd.  As the first speaker during tonight’s public participation section of the meeting, he voiced concerns about pretty much everything during his three minutes.  He wondered about the roundabout in Newhall and if there would be pedestrian bridges; asked the City Council to fix roads that are so full of potholes they’re like “some sort of corn field,”; complained that buses block traffic when they stop to exchange passengers; said the parking lot for Vons was atrocious; and demanded a solution to the bus stop for Golden Valley, which dumps school kids off in dust or mud, depending on the season.  Despite presenting similar concerns a couple of years ago, he said “Nothing’s happened.”  Shepherd closed with a simple directive for the City Council: “Fix all that stuff!”
Diane Trautman and Sandra Cattell both spoke about their desire to see plastic bags banned from stores in Santa Clarita.  This struck a chord with Councilmember Marsha McLean, who broached the subject in the past.  Now that some lawsuits have made their way through the courts, City Manager Ken Striplin explained, it seems that cities can regulate plastic bags by at least some means.  This led McLean to ask her fellow council members if they’d consider agendizing the topic of a plastic bag ban, and all agreed to it.  If I’m reading the Council correctly, McLean, Weste, and Boydston would vote in favor of the ban (there’s your majority), so it may just be a matter of time before all of the SCV’s stores will be plastic-free, not just the unincorporated ones.
Council Comments
Per usual, TimBen made a rather long production of his updates and comments.  He returned to the topic of Community Conservation Solutions, the group Santa Clarita hired for wastewater/chloride expertise.  Boydston found that the initial dealings with the organization had been mediated via a “verbal agreement”, which he found a less than ideal way to conduct business—especially since that verbal contract put Santa Clarita on the line to pay for services which Boydston felt may have been over-priced.  This group has been mentioned for being expensive, for having formerly had Laurene Weste on its board, and for not doing much to help the chloride situation—that’s why you’ve heard the name before.  Therefore, Councilmember Boydston was satisfied when he asked City Manager Ken Striplin, “Are we finished with this company for now?” and got a “Yes” in response.     
The Business of the Agenda
Much of the agenda dealt with traffic-related issues or had second-readings of items discussed at previous meetings.  The whole thing passed with the recommended actions for each item.  However, Boydston voted “no” on Item 4 (giving the council a 6% raise) and Item 7 (adoption of the Lyons Corridor Plan).  There was no discussion over the re-appointments of Councilmembers Boydston and Ferry to the Library Trustees Board. 
Alan Ferdman spoke out on a public hearing concerning adoption of the Congestion Management Program, arguing that the City has done little to improve congestions.  However, City Manager Stripling explained adoption was more of a “paper exercise” than anything else and was mostly about reporting development to meet the mandates to receive gas tax revenue.
On the topic of developing an “Enhanced Watershed Management Plan”, Cam Noltemeyer and Alan Ferdman noted that many of the players in the chloride battle were also part of this action.  Allan Cameron dealt more directly with the chloride war in his comments, and claimed someone was challenging him on his opinion of the topic—though it was all a little vague.
Las Lomas No More
Las Lomas was the project slated for the hills south of the SCV that never really had any legs to stand on.  With steep topography and major access issues, the development was not approved.  The Trust for Public Land has been arranging a deal to acquire the 302 acres in this region for $4.65M—they have grants that may cover as much as $3.3M, and the City is throwing in Open Space District funds to cover the balance and to make up for any delays in grant disbursement.  There are options to end the deal if the grants don’t come through.
This was popular with every on the Council and from the public except Cam Noltemeyer, who thought the land had been over-valued.  There was a lot of interesting language thrown around.  Mayor Bob Kellar called this action the “proverbial wooden stake” in the heart of the Las Lomas development, and Allan Cameron said the land acquisition was “succulent and satisfying,” and that he lacked “adequate superlatives” to express how pleased he was. 
The meeting ended shortly after 8.