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A sense that change is underfoot ...

Data seem to defy the expectation of some longtime residents who have witnessed rapid growth

Posted: March 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Driving through the Santa Clarita Valley on Highway 14 in 1994 was like driving through a desolate desert, Canyon Country resident Eileen Lopez said Saturday.

At the Sierra Highway off-ramp, nothing but hills and dirt lined the highway. At Golden Valley Road, there was more dirt and more hills.

Today, Target, Kohl’s Department Store and other large retail shops line Highway 14, which, like some of the streets in the city, have filled with more cars and trucks over the years, said Lopez, 35.

“It’s night-and-day different,” she said. “For the people that come here now, it’s changed a lot.”

Santa Clarita, like many other suburban communities in Southern California and across the country, has seen its population steadily grow in the last decade, experts said. The city’s population grew 16.7 percent during the past decade, and stood at 176,320, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

Determining exactly why the suburbs have grown can be difficult to determine, said Derek Hyra, an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech. 

“What’s happening in (Santa Clarita) is actually happening all over the country,” Hyra said. “We are trying to understand the trends. Why are certain suburbs still developing? What’s attracting people to the suburbs? I don’t know,” he said laughing.

Despite the growth she’s seen since moving to Canyon Country from the Antelope Valley, Lopez said she considers Santa Clarita a relatively small city.

On Saturday, Lopez and her husband, Angel, brought their 21-month old son to Valencia Town Center to go shopping.

“I consider Los Angeles humongous,” Lopez said. “(Santa Clarita) is very family-oriented. Mom, dad and kids. There’s not too much action.”

Despite relatively large populations, it’s common for people living in the suburbs to consider their communities small, Hyra said.  

Cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have developed downtowns with more residents packed into smaller areas, Hyra said.

Most suburbs, meanwhile, don’t.

Mark Livingston, 50, moved to Valencia about 15 years ago. While more people and more traffic have come to Santa Clarita in that time, he considers it more like a small town than a big city.

“I don’t venture far outside of Valencia, because it has everything I need,” Livingston said. “Maybe Santa Clarita is a big city that has a small-town feel.”


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