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No Place to Go and Nothing to Do : Bored Youths in Santa Clarita Say Curfew Is Insult

March 07, 1991|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Last Friday night, Heather MacDonald's girlfriends in Santa Clarita treated her to the hottest spot in town to celebrate her Sweet Sixteen.

A rock 'n' roll club? No.

A restaurant hangout? No.

A roller-skating rink? No.

They went bowling.

"This is a boring place," said Jodi Peck, 15. "There's nothing else to do."

In Santa Clarita, a lot of the kids on the block are bored. Although the town's growth has accelerated in the last decade, activities for the teen-age population have not kept pace. And now, teen-agers maintain, the grown-ups are trying to make things even worse with a curfew.

"We're not little children," said Lori Day, 15, referring to the proposal for a 10 p.m. curfew to be taken up Wednesday by the Santa Clarita City Council. "We're not doing drugs; we're just doing McDonald's."

Lori spoke in the parking lot of McDonald's, where adolescents congregate on Friday and Saturday nights to plan the evening's agenda. The police say teen-agers make too much noise, prompting on weekend nights an average of four calls an hour from irate residents. The teen-agers say they don't make trouble and need some outlet to compensate for their limited options.

City officials sympathize.

"It's very limited in this area," said Johnathan Skinner, recreational coordinator for Santa Clarita. "Magic Mountain gets stale after a while."

Added Cecilia Foley, recreation superintendent: "The resources for teen activities are just not up to standard."

Even some parents stick up for teen-age rights. "The community needs to look at what's going on," said Richard MacDonald, 44, Heather's father. "There are a lot of people who want to leave Santa Clarita just the way it is."

"Yeah, boring," interrupted Dani Martin, 17.

One by one, the teen-agers criticize all the old alternatives for weekend entertainment.

Movies: Too expensive. Malls: They close early. And the new offerings, such as the roller-skating rink scheduled to open this spring, receive the same scrutiny.

"That's for 10-year-olds," Dani said.

The teen-agers have their own ideas. Most frequently mentioned is their desire for a dance club where, for a moderate cover charge, they could mingle with teen-agers from Canyon Country and Saugus. And McDonald's doesn't exactly qualify as their ideal vision of a local restaurant hangout.

"We need somewhere where you could socialize in a restaurant and not hang outside in a parking lot," Lori said. "You know, someplace where you wouldn't get booted out for not eating something."

There is another option--change valleys. Many drive to the San Fernando Valley, either to cruise the streets or use a fake identification card to sneak into North Hollywood's FM Station or other music clubs. But that, too, has a catch.

"If you got the gas money, you can get down to the Valley," said Bunky Wright, 17. "But who's got the gas money all the time?" And not everyone has a car.

Skinner said the city is trying to find activities for its youth. Besides its normal agenda of classes--karate, street dancing, modeling, among others--Santa Clarita will sponsor "The Teen Festival" on April 20, featuring intramural sports and information on job opportunities for the summer and after graduation.

Teen-agers don't view that as much of an answer. "We do all that work in school all week," Dani said. "We surely don't want to do that stuff on weekends."

Added Jodi Olsby, 15: "That's for brainers."

Jodi and her friends prefer parties, and they have specific guidelines for them, as well:

"No board games," said Lori.

"No charades," said Jodi.

"No milk and cookies," said Dani.

Like many Santa Clarita teen-agers who meet at McDonald's, they search for the big party in town--the one sure to draw students from Saugus and Canyon Country too. The more kids, the better. Last Saturday night, the big party in town drew about 200 people to a two-story, middle-class Santa Clarita house, just east of Bouquet Canyon.

Inviting friends to his 14th-birthday party, Jeremy printed about two dozen flyers and circulated them at Saugus High School. Almost immediately, the word spread, and most of the teen-agers who showed up Saturday night didn't know Jeremy, and didn't care. "It's a party," said one youth. "Doesn't matter where it is."

To the police, it does. Shortly before 9 p.m., a caravan of five police vehicles circled the house.

"The party's over," said a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy over his megaphone. "Get in your vehicles and go home."

The teen-agers ignored him. They filed quickly into the house, and went on with their fun. Cartons of pizza and cans of Coke stacked the floor--there was little alcohol in sight. "That's because the father was home," one police officer said later.

As rap music played in the background, the kids mingled, cigarettes dangling from their hands. A few danced. A few complained about the cops.

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