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Our view: City growth numbers can deceive

Posted: March 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

U.S. Census figures showing Santa Clarita grew by a whopping 9,613 new homes between 2001 and 2010, as reported in Monday’s Signal, were a bit jarring.

As it turns out, not many of those homes were OK’d to be built by the city itself.
The vast majority of homes new to the city were approved by Los Angeles County years before outside city limits and later annexed to Santa Clarita.

Such was the case with about 80 percent of all new homes added to the city between 2001 and 2010.
The city itself granted permission to 1,400 single-family homes and 2,470 multi-family units — some apartments, but mostly condos — totaling 3,870 in that time frame.

This means that the remaining 5,743 units that are now under Santa Clarita’s umbrella were a product of annexation because they were physically close to the city’s borders, and the residents wanted to use the city’s services.
Large housing tracts that were annexed include the communities of Northpark in Valencia and Stonecrest in Canyon Country.

Financially speaking, it’s a wash when Santa Clarita annexes a neighborhood; there’s generally neither a substantial gain nor loss.

The city studies anticipated outcomes of each annexation for months, sometimes years, doing a cost analysis of adding the geographic area and the residents. It pits that against the potential income the city could receive in property and sales taxes.

If the revenue is there, and the majority of residents in the neighborhood want to become part of Santa Clarita, then it happens.

Had the city been allowed to encompass the entire valley when it was first formed, as founding fathers proposed, development might have moved ahead in a more planned fashion.

Although Santa Clarita was denied its initial plan to take in the entire valley, and later denied proposals for spheres of influence, it’s encouraging to see developers who own land outside city limits working with Santa Clarita planners to ensure a smooth coupling of their projects with city plans and infrastructure.

Such was the case with the eastside Golden Valley Ranch shopping center, which came about through an exemplary private-public partnership. The city and county, the land owners and a committee of interested citizens hammered out a plan that not only gave Canyon Country a long-awaited new shopping center, but also set aside a vast amount of acreage for open space.

We see a similar process under way now with Vista Canyon, whose developer, Jim Backer, has been working with the city to annex even before construction begins. With the guidance of city planners, Backer has shaped his proposal from a bunch of condos to a mini-community that includes a train station and a community garden.

Such long-range planning means a better community for all Santa Clarita Valley residents.


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