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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : City Plans to Cull List of Projects From Brainstorming Session : Meeting: Santa Clarita leaders will gather Saturday to create the second Community Strategic Plan, an agenda of items to tackle in the future.

October 06, 1994|DOUGLAS ALGER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA CLARITA — A broad plan outlining future Santa Clarita projects will be developed Saturday in a daylong brainstorming session featuring elected officials, business leaders, property owners and other residents.

Part wish list and part planning guide for city officials, this Community Strategic Plan identifies Santa Clarita issues to be tackled during the next three years.

The meeting, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at CalArts, marks the second time Santa Clarita has created such a document, with the first completed in April, 1991. The earlier planning session drew 125 participants and identified 24 items on topics ranging from land use to transportation to shopping.

"The city follows it pretty well," said City Councilwoman Jo Anne Darcy, who took part in the 1991 planning session and will participate Saturday. "The purpose, of course, is to get community input."

Just how successful you feel city leaders were in implementing the first plan depends on whether you want to take a bus, safeguard local hills or shop at a Nordstrom department store.

Most of the varied projects identified in the first plan have been at least partially addressed in the past three years, but some are incomplete and appear to have little chance of being accomplished in the immediate future.

Getting around town received considerable attention in the first plan, with a call for road improvements, an expanded transit system and a web of walking trails. Significant progress has been made on this front.

The main thoroughfares of Soledad Canyon and San Fernando roads are being widened in several places. Santa Clarita's bus system grew from six buses in 1990 to a fleet of 22 local buses, 23 commuter buses and 10 door-to-door vans. Also the South Fork Trail opened in May, 1993, as the first four-mile leg of a 25-mile network to connect Santa Clarita's four main communities with paths for walking, bicycling and horse riding.

"The wheels grind slowly," said Vera Johnson, a longtime advocate for an improved city road system. "I'm thrilled in a three-year period that we've been able to have this much progress."

Johnson, 67, participated three years ago and said she will take part Saturday to once again stress the importance of a well-planned transportation system.

Development was also mentioned throughout the 1991 strategic plan, with requests to safeguard open space areas, create a growth management plan and ensure public services don't suffer because of additional construction and population.

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Allan Cameron, a Santa Clarita resident who watchdogs city actions on nearly all new development here, said city officials have accomplished all of the strategic plan's realistic goals.

A strict ordinance to preserve city hillsides and ridgelines was adopted in March, 1992, and city planners consistently placed restrictions on new development to provide road improvements and money for schools. Council members also vocally opposed large construction projects just outside city limits, citing a strain on Santa Clarita roads, schools, libraries and police services.

"Many of the (projects) are extremely desirable and unbelievably difficult," said Cameron. "Given that requirement, I think the city has done extraordinarily well."

Cameron said his only complaint about the city's strategic planning is that it isn't done annually.

Despite progress on these issues, Santa Clarita has yet to establish a university, a conference center or lure a Nordstrom store--each of which residents requested be included in the first plan.

City officials haven't drawn much interest from the California State University system or from conference center developers. In 1993, Santa Clarita mailed out more than 50 letters asking for proposals to construct such a center. There were no responses.

"What (we) found out is that the conference center business is a loss leader," said Mike Haviland, city economic development coordinator.

Shoppers, at least, have hope. The Newhall Land & Farming Co. is "vigorously pursuing" the addition of Nordstrom to the Valencia Town Center as part of future expansion plans, according to spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer.

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Organizers of the upcoming planning session say they expect different issues to be raised in the next meeting. At the time of the first, Santa Clarita had been a city for only four years. While the earlier meeting focused on amenities overlooked when the area was still part of Los Angeles County, residents are now more likely to be concerned about earthquake recovery and redevelopment.

"It will be interesting because times change and interests change," Councilwoman Darcy said.

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