Tonight’s City Council revealed a community anxious about its neighbors. Residents of Castaic spoke out about the Chiquita Canyon Landfill Expansion planned for next door (figuratively). Residents of Happy Valley spoke out about the apparently thriving rehab facility operating next door (literally). With little of substance on the agenda, these concerns took center stage.
Councilmember TimBen Boydston delivered the invocation, recalling the events
of 9/11 in his part-dramatic, part-prayerful, part-statesmanly style. He ended with
a flourish of a call to the pledge, asking that we salute the flag of the greatest
nation on earth.
As the city council reviewed the agenda prior to the meeting to identify
items requiring further discussion, Boydston asked about the “car-free planning”
related to Item 4, an update of the Santa Clarita Non-motorized Transportation
Plan. He said that cars are important to Claritans because the area is “very
rural, very spread out” and has “lots of hills” and high temperatures. He
contrasted Santa Clarita with San Francisco, which he said would have an easier
time of going car-free because of the high density and abundant public
transportation. As Andrew Ye would clarify, cars are still welcome in Santa
Clarita, but the City is trying to make other options available.
After this diversion, Mayor Weste could scarcely contain her excitement as
she announced the City’s fourth time winning an award for excellence in
procurement. Some people in Santa Clarita are just really good at buying stuff-whodathunk?
Her excitement only grew as she invited Jackie McNally forward to be recognized
for chairing the celebrity waiter auction which benefits the SCV Senior Center.
The event raised over $90K for seniors. “All of us are going to be old one day,”
said McNally as she took the mic. I don’t know if those words sunk in with our
spry, youthful council, but here’s hoping.
Stephen Daniels got tonight’s public participation portion of the meeting
off to a lively start. He went after Councilmember Bob Kellar for his stand on
digital billboards and the people who oppose them. Daniels reminded the
audience that Kellar had suggested that people who signed the petition against
the digital billboard deal didn’t understand what they were supporting. Daniels
turned Kellar’s argument on its head, suggesting that the people who voted for
Bob Kellar (fewer than the number who signed the petition against billboards,
incidentally) might not have understood who they were really voting into
office. Per usual, Daniels’ words were aggressive and incisive, but the
delivery was lackluster, diminishing the overall effect.
A few others spoke out on billboards—Al Ferdman, Steve Petzold—but most people
had shown up to speak about a disruption in their Happy Valley neighborhood. As
we heard at the last meeting, a sober-living facility (or rehab center or
addiction treatment center or whatever it’s currently calling itself; the names
and labels change frequently) has sprung up in a home in the quiet
neighborhood. So long as there are fewer than six people receiving treatment,
the City is essentially powerless to stop the business from operating in the
residential area. One couple said the operation meant their dreams of a quiet retirement
had gone up in smoke. Jeff Hacker, notorious local attorney, said the City
needed to help fight the facility and said they were misrepresenting the true
nature of their business, offering services which they are unlicensed to offer.
One man actually went after Bob Kellar (it really wasn’t Bob’s night), the real
estate agent who brokered the sale of the home from Duane Harte to the current
owner, who is using it to help rehabilitate addicts. He asked how much Bob had
profited from the transaction.
Reports and Responses
City Manager Ken Striplin was the first to respond to concerned Happy Valley
residents. He said, “we have been doing as much as we can,” and reminded the
council and audience that their hands were tied to some extent by rather accommodating
laws. Nevertheless, he said they were performing inspections, checking out code
violations, and monitoring activity at the house. It’s still waiting for a
state license, but if the license comes through, there will be even less the
City can do. Councilmember Bob Kellar confirmed that he had represented Duan
Harte in the sale of his home, but he insisted there was absolutely no way he could
have known what was coming. (None at all?) He continued, expressing that he,
too, “would be just as livid” as Happy Valley residents are about the business
in their residential neighborhood. Mayor Weste called it a “horrific assault on
a neighborhood,” and Booydston said “it’s really about the money.” In short,
everyone sympathized with the increase in neighborhood traffic and goings-on
brought by the sober-living facility, but they agreed little could be done to
After these responses, Happy Valley residents left, clearing out about
two-thirds of the audience.
The councilmembers offered updates next. There was talk of water
conservation and charity events and high-speed rail, but it was Mayor Weste’s
tribute to a recently deceased young Claritan student that really stood out. Her
voice wavering under emotional weight, Weste spoke about Jenny Stift, the
beloved high school athlete who died when a car hit her while running. Weste
said she had lived a lot in her seventeen years, but her death remained an
Nina Moskol, chair of the SCV Bicycle Coalition, was the first speaker to
address the council during review of the consent calendar. She spoke on Item 4,
which approved Santa Clarita’s transportation plan—at least the part not
strictly focused on motor vehicles. She said bicyclists need to be accommodated
and protected, and she gave some practical ways to achieve this goal, such as
use of “sharrows” on intersection corners.
Next came several speakers in support of Item 5, a request for an extension
on the review of the Chiquita Landfill expansion EIR. The landfill is in
Castaic, but as the nearest neighbor and loyal customer, Santa Clarita has some
influence in this realm—certainly more than Castaic residents seem to have
themselves. One woman asked where we’d send our trash after Chiquita was filled
to capacity from accepting waste from all over LA. At least two speakers
complained of major health issues resulting from poor air quality near the
landfill. The Santa Clarita City Council was sympathetic to their points, but
they didn’t belabor the issue, letting the words of the residents stand on
The consent calendar’s recommended actions were approved in their entirety
by a unanimous vote. That meant the non-motorized transportation plan was
accepted, a request for more time to review the Chiquita Landfill expansion
will be sent, and the City would get a new mower for the Parks Division, among
a few other items. As mentioned previously, it wasn’t a particularly
substantial consent calendar.
There was no addition official business, but two more public speakers came
forward. Larry Murray spoke on behalf of his daughter. He said she was the
victim of apparently very serious domestic violence. Choking back tears, Murray
said that the SCV Sheriff’s Department detectives had “not taken that seriously”,
and had an “almost cavalier attitude.” He said repeated calls to Captain
Johnson (who was sitting nearby) had gone unanswered. The council assured
Murray some people would speak with him after the meeting. Finally, Evan
Decker, a young Claritan history fanatic, called for support in saving the
structures of historic Mentryville. He said that the Santa Monica Mountains
Conservancy has done little to restore the mansion and other structures of the
town. Decker has a gofundme page for the cause which has currently raised $425
of it’s $500,000 goal.
With that, the meeting ended.
Here's the agenda--read it at your leisure