Residents of Canyon Country and Saugus, where rolling hills, green meadows and oak-filled canyons have been replaced in recent years by mini-malls, housing tracts and congested streets, heavily endorsed the new City of Santa Clarita in Tuesday's election.
Voters in the more established and historic community of Newhall and the newer, master-planned community of Valencia also favored cityhood, but by lesser margins than their neighbors.
To many longtime observers in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's regional breakdown of the vote reflected and underscored the main concern that spurred incorporation in the first place--uncontrolled growth.
Thus it came as little surprise that the heaviest community support came from Canyon Country and Saugus, where development has proceeded helter-skelter, and that Valencia's well-groomed subdivisions apparently did not trigger the same alarm.
Figures from the registrar-recorder's office show that 5,412 people in Canyon Country voted on the measure--72% of them, or 3,880, in favor of cityhood. Saugus voters favored cityhood by about 73%, with 2,646 of the 3,616 who cast ballots voting for incorporation.
About 69% of the Newhall residents who voted endorsed incorporation, with 3,109 yes votes among the 4,522 ballots cast. In Valencia, where residents prize their paseos, parks and greenbelts, voters approved cityhood 2 to 1, or by 66.4%. Of the 6,029 ballots cast, 4,004 were for cityhood.
Few residents seemed fearful that their communities' identities would be absorbed by the new city. Before the election, cityhood backers assured residents that the names of their communities would not be changed. "Community identity will be preserved," said Connie Worden, spokeswoman for the City of Santa Clarita Formation Committee, the citizens' group that pushed the incorporation measure through to victory.
"Newhall will still be Newhall and be in the City of Santa Clarita, just like Chatsworth is Chatsworth, but is in the City of Los Angeles," she said.
Within the 40-square-mile City of Santa Clarita, 21,475 votes were cast Tuesday, with 1,896 of those going to the polls not voting on the cityhood issue. About 44% of the new city's more than 48,000 registered voters turned out for the election, a high percentage for a year in which there are no state and national offices at stake.
The cityhood measure passed in all 38 precincts in the city, even in Valencia, where a small but vocal group organized to fight the incorporation.
It was Valencia--where residents are more content with the status quo because development, although almost as rapid, has been better planned--that most concerned cityhood proponents. But there, too, voters overwhelmingly said that they would rather have locally elected leaders control their destiny than a distant county government.
"I'd call this a mandate," said cityhood supporter Allan Cameron at the new city's victory party, where hundreds of people gathered to celebrate.
"For 14 years, we've wanted self-government; tonight, we have it," said Art Donnelly, city formation committee chairman.
"This is a new beginning for the Santa Clarita Valley," said JoAnne Darcy, one of five residents elected to the new City Council. "It's the beginning of local responsiveness and a more people-oriented government."
'Happy to Give Birth'
Another council member-elect, Carl Boyer III, was involved in several other attempts by the Santa Clarita Valley to break away from county rule, including unsuccessful efforts in 1976 and 1978 to form Canyon County.
"I feel like I've carried this baby for 18 years and I'm sure happy to give it birth," he said. Boyer resigned as chairman of the city formation commission in August to run for the council.
Besides Darcy and Boyer, Jan Heidt, Howard (Buck) McKeon and Dennis M. Koontz were elected to the City Council. The five city leaders had barely had time to savor their victory before they settled down to the long, hard task before them--organizing a city.
"Most people don't realize all that's involved," said formation committee member Jill Klajic. "They think you can form a city overnight."
Four of the new council members were in downtown Los Angeles the morning after the election to meet with Ruth Benell, executive director of the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission, to discuss mechanics of the transition between county and city government. Among the topics was how soon they could begin annexing territory surrounding Santa Clarita.
The cityhood proposal originally submitted to LAFCO covered 95 square miles and included Castaic and parts of the other communities. LAFCO pared that proposal to the 40-square-mile city approved by voters.
'Felt Left Out'
"That's one of the questions we were asked most frequently," said Klajic, who has been in charge of volunteers working Monday through Friday at the city formation office in Saugus. "People want to know when the city is going to start annexing. A lot of them felt left out."