Mayor McLean opened the meeting by asking, “What is a legacy?” She had legacies on her mind not just in anticipation of her own, but because of the passing of many notable Claritans this year.
Awards and recognitions came next. Student winners of a Sister Cities artist/author showcase were lauded for their work and got their photos taken with the whole council--they were clearly thrilled . The City received a giant $176,000 “rebate check” from Southern California Edison, equivalent to the amount saved through energy efficiency/conservation since 2010 as part of a community energy partnership. Right now, the City is at Edison’s gold tier level, but platinum level is within reach. For most, this was the most exciting revelation of the meeting.
Elaine Ballace opened things up with comments about mobile home parks. She cited a recent news article describing the profitability of owning mobile home parks. She said residents are getting “totally ripped off” while owners get rich. Ballace admonished the council to “take care of your residents!” and not to believe that park owners are barely scraping by.
Al Ferdman spoke next and brought up Santa Clarita’s Shangri La water deal for at least the second time in recent weeks. That community has unstable hillsides that are dewatered with pumps, and the water produced years ago was too high in chlorides. Santa Clarita reached an agreement to pay a fine, half of which would go to improving water infrastructure for the SCV. The money is still sitting around, slated to increase capacity at a plant that will most directly benefit the future Newhall Ranch community. Ferdman was upset at the mismatch between who pays and who benefits.
Finally, roller hockey enthusiasts and parents asked for the council to consider studying the feasibility of installing a roller hockey rink/facility in Santa Clarita. Currently, families have to drive to Burbank. Frank Dalessandro, the apparent guru of Burbank roller hockey, said it would be a great addition to the community.
The City Council responded enthusiastically to the idea of SCV roller hockey. Councilmembers Weste and Boydston were on board with studying the feasibility, and Mayor McLean suggested a meeting with Dalessandro to get the ball rolling. Weste also addressed the mobile home park comments. She asked City Attorney Joe Montes to explain the concept of “fair rate of return” as it applies to mobile home park owners. (Recall that after the council voted to decrease the minimum annual increase on rents, they were threatened with litigation by these owners.) Montes said that a city can set rent increase policy, but modifying existing policies in such a way as to benefit renters at the expense of owners could lead to lawsuits. The court has usually sided with the owners in such cases. In other words, Weste was again sympathetic to renters, but cognizant of how little the council could realistically do to help them.
When Boydston asked for further explanation of the Shangri La water agreement, City Manager Ken Striplin offered additional detail. He said that it wasn’t a hasty settlement but the result of three years of negotiation. Boydston was somewhat satisfied with the answer, but he asked for Striplin to determine who will actually benefit from increased water treatment capacity and share his findings at a future meeting. Boydston doesn’t want to see developers enjoy benefits paid for by current residents.
The consent calendar was approved with the recommended actions on all items and without comment. That means the City will be purchasing a $200K patch truck unit to help with city roads, you can’t get a massage after 10 p.m. (second reading), trees will be trimmed through 2016, and investment policy will stay on track.
Public Hearings and New Business
Up next was consideration of a new low impact development ordinance relating to stormwater runoff. The City’s stormwater permit requires such an ordinance, which essentially guides development to incorporate strategies that enhance rainwater treatment and retention: lots of swales and permeable surfaces. Samples of how the Newhall Library, Chick-Fil-A, and others accomplished these goals were shown. Councilmember TimBen Boydston used the item as an opportunity to riff on burdensome mandates from the State. He said these measures can be expensive for construction that will drain large areas (e.g., big parking lots). He spoke for a while longer, eventually ending with the observation that people keep moving to SoCal even though there isn’t enough water and that we can’t pass a law against that. His venting over, the council passed the ordinance to a second reading unanimously.
Master’s College is looking to build new dorms as part of its modified master plan. Roads must grow in concert. Consequently, a couple of alternative plans are being considered. Staff proposed awarding a contract to Lilley Planning Group to weight the options. Planning Manager Jeff Hogan explained that the City awarded a contract to prepare an EIR. He continued: “The City Council also directed staff to hire an independent consultant to evaluate both roadway options as a result of the project’s location [next] to a City Councilmember’s property, Councilmember Weste. The City Council believes this report and recommendation will provide the community with additional assurance that the roadway options in the EIR would be independently reviewed.” Weste has recused herself from this item because of her proximity to the college, so I wasn’t clear on why an extra $20K was needed to be somehow even more independent in the analysis of the two road options. No one from Placerita Canyon was present to speak, and it’s just an independent analysis anyhow (no recommendation yet), so the contract was awarded.
The final item of the evening was a heartfelt remembrance of Connie Worden-Roberts, a major figure in Santa Clarita's recent history and our community’s “road warrior.” At Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar’s urging last meeting, the council considered naming the Golden Vallery Road bridge to honor her. He said, “She’s got her thumb on every inch of that eight-and-a-half mile road…I gotta tell you that the level that Connie Worden-Roberts served this community, I will tell you, I look at her as virtually a stand-alone citizen.” Every one supported the proposal. Leon Worden was in the audience to witness the awarding of this honor.
There were no additional public speakers and the meeting ended a bit before 9.