Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Meeting That Scarcely Was

I am tempted to summarize tonight’s meeting thusly: nothing happened. But that’s not entirely accurate. There were interesting developments on the Villa Metro/soccer front with sympathy for Villa Metro residents fast evaporating. And some legitimate business took place—bridges will be widened, permits streamlined, and bonds transferred. So let’s get into recapping tonight's lean, mean City Council-ing.


Hispanic Heritage Septober

Councilmember TimBen Boydston’s invocation was a short, somber prayer for Armenian Genocide victims, hundreds of thousands of whom were killed a century ago. After the pledge and some housekeeping, it was time for less grave matters.

“It was the Spaniards who named the Santa Clara River, which led to our name, the Santa Clarita Valley,” explained Mayor Marsha McLean as she prepared to proclaim Hispanic Heritage Month. Unusually, the “month” stretches from September 15th to October 15th. It’s a Hispanic Heritage Septober, if you will. A large number of residents came forward for the photo and proclamation. There was laughter as Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar lifted a little girl onto the dais for a better view—McLean admonished him to set her back down. Patsy Ayala, chair of the SCV Latino Business Alliance (among other titles), was proud of the month and said it recognized “American citizens whose ancestors came from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.”

After applause and photos, a second proclamation was made, this one for Rubber Ducky Festival Day. Proceeds benefit the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers. Unfortunately, the usual guy in a big yellow duck costume wasn’t present. The absence was keenly felt when Mayor McLean asked, “Do we have a rubber ducky?” When she discovered he wasn’t there, she lamented with an "Oh, darn."


Villa Metro and the $160,000 Wall

Public participation began with Elaine Ballace asking that Santa Clarita more fully realize its role as Hollywood North. It was a somewhat confusing comment as she likened Santa Clarita to the LA subway--something that people know of but not particularly well. Ballace said that affordable housing for artists, a film festival, and an entertainment fair would be good places to start the SCV in realizing its cinematic destiny.
   
A couple of residents then spoke about parking challenges near the park-and-ride on Newhall Avenue (the one near the condos). They were worried that parking requirements weren’t being enforced, that there wouldn’t be enough parking with the low-income housing planned for the area, and that no one was taking accountability for managing the area.

While there were no Villa Metro residents present this evening, their complaints about soccer noise from earlier this month were addressed by both the soccer center and the developer. Scott Schauer of the Santa Clarita Soccer Center said that they’ve installed light shields and automatic light timers to make certain that lights are unobtrusive and go off when they’re supposed to. He claimed that the center has a strict policy against cussing and promised that repeat offenders would face consequences. Schauer asked that people remember the center’s long history in the valley and said that he thought some complaints made were unfair. Rick Bianchi of the New Home Company (Villa Metro builder) said that he spoke at a well-attended Villa Metro HOA meeting last week. Binachi was dismayed that his company’s offer to build a $160,000 sound wall to reduce noise by about 50% “was not very well received.” He restated that disclosures had been signed when residents were buying their homes. Thus, it seems that Villa Metro residents aren’t happy with the soccer field nor the offer to build an expensive sound wall that would lessen its impact.

In response to the speakers, City Manager Ken Striplin said that Ballace’s movie industry suggestions would be considered. He said that he knew the park-and-ride on Newhall Avenue was a “maintenance challenge”, but affirmed that it should be well-patrolled. Councilmember Boydston weighed the Villa Metro developments soberly, saying that “there are two sides to ever story.” If I had to pick a side for him, though, he seemed sympathetic to the soccer folks so long as they operated within the bounds of their permit.


Consent Granted

The consent calendar was brief and approved with just a little protest. Item 5 was the toughest pill to swallow. Councilmember Dante Acosta asked Striplin to expand on the ordinance, which expedited and streamlined residential solar cell permitting. Sounds good, right? The City Manager explained that legislators in Sacramento have now required cities to adopt such policies. He was a bit upset at the imposition, saying that Santa Clarita’s permitting process had been working just fine and that top-down control was counterproductive if anything. Al Ferdman was more intrigued by Item 7, which involved a lot of movement of library bond proceeds but ultimately seemed like a zero-sum game (it was, confirmed Striplin). Without any further discussion, the consent calendar was approved unanimously with the recommended actions taken on all items. Thus, solar panel permitting will change, Lost Canyon Road Bridge will be widened, and bond funding will be sorted out.


There was a public hearing on financing of Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments under a Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) resolution. Part of the approval process included extending the amount of time that the apartments would be restricted to older, low-income persons. Councilmember Weste was pleased, but she asked that everyone think about ways to achieve even longer-term agreements to provide such housing. As it stands, most of these requirements expire after a few decades. Without further discussion, the TEFRA resolution was adopted. The meeting ended just a little after 7. 

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