Tonight's meeting of the Santa Clarita City Council made many happy by many means. An 85-year-old actor got a chance to shine before a receptive audience. A local veteran learned that his war memorial project will be discussed for the umpteenth time. A community desirous of truly high-speed internet saw a small but promising glimmer of possibility. And a little neighborhood called Canyon Country moved a step closer to getting a community center of its own. There were woes and concerns and nagging questions, too, but we'll get to those in the recap.
"A Gift from God"
Kellar delivered an invocation in which he read a bunch of quotations.
They ranged from "you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich" to
"you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and
should do for themselves." His punchline was the revelation that these
quotes came from President Abraham Lincoln. But they did not. The
quotations are often misattributed to Lincoln, but they were actually
written by William Boetcker ("The Ten Cannots"). This is the second time
that Kellar has misattributed quotations to a major historical
figure--six months ago there was some confusion about Thomas Jefferson.
Blame the Internet.
Awards and presentations this evening were
unusual. The first item was a proclamation that dedicated a whole day
to love at sea. You see, Gavin MacLeod played the captain on The Love Boat
and he has worked in the decades since as an ambassador for Princess
Cruises, which is headquartered in town. Some PR mastermind clearly saw
an opportunity, and Santa Clarita proclaimed "Princess Cruises
Ambassador Gavin MacLeod Day." Bit of a mouthful, don't you think? In
any case, the 85-year-old MacLeod spoke energetically, rapidly, and
enthusiastically about a whole variety of topics once he was handed the
microphone. He described what he likes about Santa Clarita--the free
parking, the wide streets, the school system, that his family lives
here, and even his favorite restaurant (Wolf Creek where his daughter is
a pastry chef). He encouraged people to take a cruise: "Take one and
you'll be infected and you'll want to go back!...The shows are great!
The people are great!... Princess Cruises is a gift from God!" It was an
experience, and the audience and council were generally delighted.
told me I would be following Gavin McLeod!" said City Librarian Kelly
Behle, the next person up for awards and recognitions. She highlighted
the five-year anniversary of the Santa Clarita Library system, she
promised cake to celebrate, and she described how libraries are used by
tens of thousands of Claritans each and every month.
"A Memorial Granite Thing"
participation included just five speakers but lasted quite a while.
Brian Baker spoke in support of Bill Reynolds' proposal for "a memorial
granite thing" in the Veterans Historical Plaza. He wants progress
rather than stagnation. Bill Reynolds spoke next. He said he was present
with "a few friendly reminders" about the history of the memorial
project he has been working on. He felt that he had jumped through all
the hoops but kept meeting with resistance from the city. Reynolds ran
out of time before he could fully conclude his remarks, but this wasn't
the last we'd hear of the monument plan this evening.
touched on the subject of dysfunctional public meetings. Al Ferdman
mobile home park rate adjustment panel and Cam Noltemeyer
wondered why meetings about Santa Clarita's chloride issue continue to
happen out of town. She also asked why Santa Clarita's representatives
don't do more to look out for the SCV when they have the votes to do so.
final speaker was Steve Petzold. After complimenting Darren Hernandez
on his handling of a recent meeting (Hernandez, in the same video frame,
was almost completely non-reactive), he called out Leon Worden and the
enterprise that is SCVTV. Petzold was particularly troubled by the fact
that ads and interviews for College of the Canyons/Measure E had
appeared online at SCVTV while the bond measure was being debated in the
community. Before it got any more public funding, Petzold felt that
SCVTV needed to be open to public scrutiny as to whether it was meeting
its obligation to provide fair coverage of local issues to the public.
Manager Ken Striplin tried to respond in brief. Regarding the memorial,
he said that staff were working on plans and that they had an architect
on board. Recall that the last time this was discussed, the council
decided that it ought to have a third party thoroughly consider all the
options for the best placement and design of a war memorial in Veterans
Historical Plaza. This decision was reached after a very lengthy and
often contentious discussion. In his wisdom, however, Mayor Kellar
called Bill Reynolds forward this evening to present a slightly modified
version of the memorial wall. Reynolds explained that the new
dimensions were a mere five-and-a-half feet tall by seven feet across.
It's not routine for the mayor to invite people up to present on
unagendized items, but everyone on the council decided to jump into the
issue once again. Councilmember McLean pointed out that this smaller
memorial really wasn't that much smaller--reduced by just six inches.
And McLean re-emphasized her desire to take some time in considering the
memorial. "We keep getting lambasted!," she said, for not acting more
quickly. She made one of her concerns about the wall more explicit
tonight. In the past she's said a large wall could shield unsavory
activities, and she elaborated that this could include using the plaza
as a bathroom (something similar has already happened in the area).
TimBen Boydston and Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta wanted to know how much
was being budgeted for an architect/consultant. Parks Director Rick
Gould said it was about $18,000 but that the contract might not yet have
been signed. Boydston found that figure "crazy." He felt that the wall
proposed by Reynolds already had a lot of community support and that the
$18,000 would be better spent on more pressing needs. Acosta added, "I
like what I see here," though he would later backpedal and state, "We
need to get this right." Discussion was beginning to consume a lot of
time when City Attorney Joe Montes spoke up and advised the council to
agendize the item. He said that their last direction to staff had been
to develop the various possibilities (staff was doing that), but it
seemed like the council now wanted to discuss whether it would make more
sense to just take the plan submitted by Reynolds as-is. So look
forward to yet more contentious discussion about a war memorial at a
City Manager Ken Striplin continued with his
responses to public remarks. "I agree that it doesn't work," he said of
the mobile home panel. This is what Elaine Ballace and other mobile home
park residents have been saying for months. Striplin said that they
will look into what can be changed to make for fairer, more functional
hearings once the current batch gets worked through. Updates about
events and various goings-on from the councilmembers followed.
"It's Already Ugly"
consent calendar had a couple of items that attracted the attention of
Cam Noltemeyer. She spoke on the 2016-17 budget (some $220M), wondering
about costs associated with water monitoring and a loan for road
construction that included no timetable for repayment. Noltemeyer then
spoke on an item that would implement the zoning and construction
changes proposed by Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital at the last meeting. She
said that the zoning change, which essentially allowed the campus to be
built more densely (with council approval), was a bad idea. "It's
already ugly and too dense as it is," she complained, and she predicted
that the hospital and developers would push to build even more densely
than they had originally agreed to.
Carl Kanowsky spoke on behalf
of the Valley Industrial Association about an item that proposed leasing
some of the city's unused ("dark") communications fibers to a third
party, Wilcon. He said that the city spent a lot of money laying these
lines for its use, and he wondered whether they could think bigger
(e.g., sell/offer service on their own, look for a better deal, etc.).
However, it was clear that Kanowsky felt that making high-speed internet
access available was absolutely essential so he was generally
supportive of the item. even if the deal wasn't perfect. He identified
the "dearth of high-speed internet connectivity" as a "black hole" in
terms of competitive advantages against other communities.
Boydston asked about the dark fiber proposal. A member of the city
staff came up and gave some helpful particulars. He said that only about
half of the fibers that were laid are currently used for traffic and
other communications, and that's in the busiest situations--it's often
much less. Wilcon would lease just 2-8% of the fibers. Boydston wondered
about the length of the contract (potentially 25 years if all renewal
options are exercised), but it was explained that contracts are usually
long-term in duration and that the city could get out relatively easily
after 10.5 years. Mayor Pro Tem Acosta was familiar with the issue, and
he added that there are other potential providers of ultra-high-speed
internet, so while this would help businesses looking for fast
connections, the city infrastructure would be just one part of the
The consent calendar was approved with the recommended actions.
"A Real Coup for Canyon Country"
were a couple of public hearings on assessments for open space and
special districts, but these came and went with very little fanfare.
more interesting was the conceptual plan for the Canyon Country
Community Center to be built at the corner of Soledad Canyon and Sierra
Highway. Rick Gould explained that one of the main challenges facing the
city is the oddly shaped and arranged parcels that have been aggregated
for the project. The plan proposes a 20,000 square-foot community
center, a dual-use parking-lot/"mercado" (e.g., for farmers' markets),
and an outdoor event area. Gould explained that it was more of a
"vision" than a binding, specific plan, and that things would be altered
and negotiated. The only speaker was Al Ferdman, who gave it his
blessing as a "really robust plan." And as he often reminds us, he is
chair of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, so he's got the street
Councilmember Laurene Weste found the plan "lovely." She
felt good that Canyon Country would be getting some additional
amenities, but she was worried about whether there would be safe access
to the center. She hoped for a "paseo" style bridge that connected to
Santa Clarita's trail system. Weste felt this would be good for safety,
vaguely alluding to her concerns about the area: "If you're gonna have
as many children there as I can imagine you will with the kind of
neighborhoods that are there..." Acosta called the plan "a real coup for
Canyon Country". Boydston thought it was a "great idea," and Kellar
simply said, "Phenomenal".