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UPDATE: Red Cross loses lease at local office

Some concerned local services may leave the valley

Posted: November 13, 2013 1:31 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2013 6:49 p.m.

The Valencia office of the local American Red Cross chapter is closing its doors at the end of month, prompting fears the international agency is abandoning a community regularly in need of its services.

“Not having an office here is a big concern,” Carl Goldman, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition, said Wednesday. “If we have another tunnel fire or another 1994 (Northridge) earthquake that shuts down the (Interstate) 5 and the (Highway) 14, the Red Cross is not going to be able to get here in a timely manner.” Goldman said.

A 2007 multi-vehicle crash in the Newhall Pass truck tunnel started a fire that killed two men and a boy and injured 31 people. Damage from the fire temporarily shut down Interstate 5.

The Santa Clarita Valley Red Cross Disaster Team responded with immediate aid. But a team from the San Fernando Valley would have been delayed by the freeway closure, Goldman pointed out.

Monica Diaz, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross office in Los Angeles, said Wednesday its Santa Clarita District Office on Valencia Boulevard will relocate locally.

“We lost the lease” and will be forced to close down by Nov. 30, Diaz said. “We’re searching to see if there are (local) spaces available,” she said.

But Goldman said he’s not buying it. He said the agency has known for a year about its lease expiring.

“This is strictly a budget decision made by the Red Cross down in L.A. who don’t have an understanding of what goes on up here,” he said.

Meanwhile, between 40 and 50 volunteers who make up the local American Red Cross Disaster Team are looking for a place to hold their monthly meetings.

The team serves on the front line of any local emergency response. The SCV Disaster Coalition, which Goldman heads, takes over for the Disaster Team once the immediate emergency is dealt with.

“The Red Cross was an unbelievable anchor for us here,” Goldman said. “They supply medicine and even something as simple as diapers. To lose that would mean we really lost an important service.”

Disaster Team Services Chairwoman Mary Douglas said the Red Cross office serves as a “command post” for the team’s coordinating efforts.

Santa Clarita’s Emergency Management Supervisor Donna Nuzzi is part of the disaster relief coalition.

“The Disaster Team called me and told me that they don’t have a place to meet,” she said Wednesday. “They’re still going to meet. We just have to find a location where they can meet.”

Nuzzi said she and the Red Cross volunteers have drafted a short list of three possible new meeting sites. “They really just need a room once a month,” she said.

The Santa Clarita Valley has had a local Red Cross chapter for 38 years. “It’s a loss for our community,” Nuzzi said of the office closing.

Doors at the Valencia office remained closed Wednesday morning with boxes stacked near the door. Three Red Cross vehicles — an SUV, van and box truck — plus two trailers and an industrial storage bin remain on the site and will also have to find a home, Nuzzi said.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt



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