SANTA CLARITA — The City Council may sue Los Angeles County supervisors for approving a mammoth shopping center just outside city limits, fearing it will harm small businesses, adversely impact city services and divert sales tax revenue.
Council members voted 5 to 0 Tuesday night for the city attorney and staff members to review the county Board of Supervisors' July 7 approval of the Valencia Marketplace. The council is concerned the county hasn't enforced the Development Monitoring System that is supposed to help public services keep up with new construction.
"I want to take this to court and say we need more out of this development," said Councilwoman Jan Heidt. "Are we going to stand up for small businesses that made this city?"
Planned by the Brentwood-based Riley/Pearlman/Mitchell Co., Valencia Marketplace will be west of the Golden State Freeway, between McBean Parkway and Pico Canyon Road.
The so-called "power center" includes 830,000 square feet of retail space, with large discount stores and about 35 smaller retail shops and restaurants. It will be the largest shopping mall in the Santa Clarita Valley and is expected to generate up to $3 million annually in sales tax and property tax revenue.
Heidt, who owns a small bookstore in Santa Clarita's Newhall community, had sharp words about the center and what she characterized as a lack of support for local merchants.
"Small businesses don't have any other rabbits to pull out of their hat (to survive)," she said. "How much can 150,000 people buy? And how much sales tax will this drain from the city?"
Heidt's concerns were echoed by the handful of residents who addressed the council Tuesday.
"This is no doubt a revenue bomb, ticking since the city was planned," said Allan Cameron, a local activist. "If you were to spend $1 million litigating this project, you would make it up in four months. That is how important this is."
"To stand by and let this Valencia Marketplace be built is almost economic suicide," said resident John Stephens.
Santa Clarita's review will focus on the Development Monitoring System, a mechanism the county uses to make sure roads, schools and other public services keep up with development in high-growth areas.
Critics say the DMS should require the Valencia Marketplace to better offset its impact on traffic and law enforcement. Santa Clarita unsuccessfully asked the county for 80% of the shopping center's tax revenue to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Heidt called for immediate legal action, but other council members wanted first to check the center's projected impact on the community and whether it violates the DMS.
"It's fine to say 'The community is going to die' and 'This is going to mean the degradation of the community.' We have to be smart enough to evaluate . . . what that loss is going to be," said Councilman Clyde Smyth.
Councilwoman Jo Anne Darcy, who is also a field deputy to Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said a large shopping center will provide jobs and bring customers into Santa Clarita.
"There is going to be spillover," Darcy said. "They are going to eat here and buy their gas here."
"And rob and steal, too," Heidt responded.
Smyth also called for Santa Clarita's business groups to take a stand on the issue, asking why the chambers of commerce haven't announced their positions on the shopping center.