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500k people in the SCV?

Santa Clarita city planners say it could happen

Posted: May 20, 2008 3:05 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2008 5:02 a.m.
If you ever get frustrated driving across McBean Parkway at rush hour and wonder just how big Santa Clarita Valley will likely get, city planners have the answer.

Take all the people in Santa Clarita Valley and double that number - that's the biggest Santa Clarita Valley will ever get, they say.

The population of Santa Clarita Valley is expected to grow to 450,000 but not exceed half a million.

Paul Brotzman, Director of Community Development for Santa Clarita, is working with representatives of Los Angeles County and the Castaic Lake Water Agency to develop a general plan for the Santa Clarita Valley.

"We're going to have to build new housing to sustain all the new people," Brotzman said. "Historically, in Santa Clarita Valley, over the last 30 years, the valley has grown by 5,000 to 7,000 residents a year."

The so-called "One Valley, One Vision" plan is expected to be completed in the new year.

In it, planners assess water availability, crowding and the jobs-to-housing ratio.

Planners don't refer to the second priority as crowding. They prefer to use the term ‘circulation element' and focus on the ability people have to get from point A to point B.

"The land use map used by the city and the county calls for projected development to bring population to between 450,000 and 500,000," Brotzman said Monday. "The city and county, together with the water agencies, are working jointly to develop a new general plan that should be ready early next year."

Population caps previously endorsed by city officials and set as benchmarks to ensure prudent development are being reassessed in the new general plan.

Any concerns about over-development, Brotzman pointed out, become moot given the current downturn in the housing market and the resulting slowed construction.

Despite that, he said, growth is inevitable and planning for it is wise.

"Every year, year-in and year-out, for the last 40 years, California has grown by 400,000 and 500,000 every year. Assuming California will continue to grow, where are they all going to go?" he said.

When the population hits 500,000 that's it, Brotzman said.

After that, you can't fit any more marbles in the jar, as it were.

There's only so much real estate, he said.

"It will probably stay at the low end of the estimate, about 450,000," Brotzman said.

At the very core of new development is water.

Nothing gets built without having access to water.

Under the current Urban Water Management Plan, the Castaic Lake Water Agency can distribute water to between 350,000 and 380,000 residents in the Santa Clarita Valley, even though about 250,000 live here now.

Despite the agency's ability to fulfill its mandate of providing residents with an uninterrupted supply of clean drinking water, agency planners continue to explore ways of obtaining new supplies of water.

Water projects undertaken by the agency include plants to recycle water and plants to remove the harmful chemical perchlorate from groundwater.

Brotzman points out that more efficient ways of managing water only serve to enhance the "One Valley, One Vision" plan.

"Water conservation has never been factored into the plan," he said.

"Water reclamation has never been factored into the plan."

The public is invited to attend a meeting of the water agency's Finance and Administration Committee tonight at 6:30 p.m. at its Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant on Bouquet Canyon Road overlooking Central Park.


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