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Another 1,000 Units Approved

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: March 3, 2008 9:50 p.m.
Updated: May 1, 2008 5:02 a.m.
You wouldn't know that we have a housing downturn in Santa Clarita. Developers continue working on the many projects already approved here including the 2,500-unit West Creek Project, the 1,100-unit Riverpark project and the 900-unit Keystone project.

And even with houses in foreclosure, and supposedly the worst housing market in years, developers continue to get approvals from the county for more. So it was no surprise that projects, with a total of 1,000 additional units, were approved by the county Tuesday. And according to one developer, our city endorsed this approval.

It's no surprise, but one can still wonder why. With complaints about traffic generated by the 5,800-unit Las Lomas project proposed for the Newhall Pass, why isn't anyone saying anything about all these "smaller" project approvals along Highway 14? They certainly will generate the same amount of traffic through that same Newhall pass.

With all the concerns about water this summer, why were another 1000 units approved in the Canyon Country area where well water is not sufficient to support additional housing and all water must come from Northern California? I guess since we have had adequate rainfall in the last few months, the water agencies forgot that we had the driest year on record last year. So no one even required drought-tolerant landscaping for these new approvals. In fact, one planning commissioner was quoted as saying, "If there isn't enough water for all these new houses, all of us will all just have to use less."

And with concerns about climate change, global warming and air pollution, why are such units approved way out on the fringe of our valley with the automobile as the only means of transportation?

But the real laughs to me were the findings of approval. Finding Number 8 of the CUP (Page 7) states: "The proposed project is conveniently served by (or provides) neighborhood shopping and commercial facilities, can be provided with essential public services without imposing undue costs on the total community, and is consistent with the objectives and policies of the General Plan."

Hey, did any of you folks out in Pinetree see a nearby shopping center and commercial facilities? Or do they mean the Vons market that is five miles away? Maybe five miles is convenient, since no one can get to the development without a car anyway. Boy, this is sure going to help reduce our carbon footprint!

And what about that fire out in Canyon Country last year? Didn't it cost all of us taxpayers around $9 million to fight, not to mention the homes that were lost? Is building more houses in this fire-prone area with the nearest fire station three and a half miles away really 'providing essential public services without imposing undue costs on the total community?' Geez!

Then there is Finding Number 36 that states that the subject property "does not contain any stream courses." Since Tick Canyon Creek lies within the project and will be modified as a result of this approval, such a finding is blatantly incorrect, not to mention that it contradicts findings under Flood Hazards, Section 4.2, page 15 that says Tick Canyon will be concrete-banked to avoid flooding. Yoohoo! Is anyone down there at the county actually reading these documents?

A recent article in the March Atlantic Monthly described the new phenomena of suburban "slums." Like old inner-city tenements, these projects had broken windows, trash-laden front yards and homeless squatters taking advantage of the empty housing. But they weren't in the city. These slums were in the heart of suburbia in failed housing projects where only a few units had sold, and foreclosures and unsold units left an eyesore of unkempt lawns and vandalized and empty houses. Can't happen here, you say? Santa Clarita is one of those real estate hot spots where housing will just keep selling. You might want to take a quick peek at the back of the classified ads and note the number of foreclosures if you are unsure about this.

On the happy side, the Atlantic Monthly article ended with a discussion of the "new urbanism," describing how hip young people were moving back to lofts in the city that were close to their jobs and entertainment. But that is not just happening in larger urban areas. Hopefully it will flower right here in downtown Newhall as revitalization proceeds. Mixed-use housing is planned above the commercial sidewalk stores in our new "theater" district. Walkability will be the answer to high gasoline prices, and with the train station just a block away, even those that still must commute will find a relaxing and less expensive way to do it.

There can be a brighter future, but our land-use patterns must change. We cannot continue to sprawl out in search of the perfect house. Diminishing water supplies and increasing gas prices surely will put a stop to it soon. And we will all undoubtedly enjoy a healthier and happier future with a little more walking or bicycle riding and a whole lot less air pollution when the change comes.

Lynne Plambeck is the SCOPE president and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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