Santa Clarita's population doesn't seem like it should ever change in number. For every couple that has two children, there's a couple of empty-nesters leaving for retirement in New Mexico. It seems like a minus-two for every plus-two. Yet growth is undeniably around us. The perennial question is whether we can stay the same Santa Clarita we've always been, just bigger, or whether the influx changes the community at some fundamental level. Will these new folks and neighborhoods value quinoa bowls, aggressive driving and civic apathy the way the rest of us do? Are we really unified? As Santa Clarita grows, the verdict seems mixed.
Even if you belong in Santa Clarita, and you know that you do, where exactly you belong is another question entirely. We like Santa Clarita in the abstract, but what about the day-to-day realities of geography? Does the Target in Valencia or the one in Canyon Country feel more like home? Do you feel like cursing at traffic on Soledad or McBean? Will personalities on Stevenson Ranch or Northbridge HOAs be easier to endure? Finding one's niche is no easy matter.
The loveliness of April has been forever sullied by what happens on April 15. This year is especially bad. For in addition to the non-stop H&R Block commercials, TurboTax pop-ups and insipid news stories about last-minute filers waiting in line at the post office, it's election season. Everyone is giving their tax plans and telling us what they'll do with our tax dollars. I am powerless to resist the sheer inertia of it all, so let's explore the local angle on taxes. If you're the sort who gets riled up about this kind of thing, grab a drink and put on some soothing music before proceeding further.
Santa Clarita likes to think that it's better than your average SoCal burb. Our government is among the most responsive, our neighborhoods are among the safest, and even our amusement park has the most roller coasters. But then there are those areas where we're not so much better as we are, well, different.
It was devastating to learn that the City of Santa Clarita has officially supported LA's bid for the 2024 Olympics. I have long advocated that we compete to host. As one of the world's greatest and most vibrant cities, Santa Clarita's hosting of some future Olympic Games is all but assured, but support for LA means our chance to shine is deferred yet again. No world's greatest athletes, no opening ceremony spectacular, no Olympic flame atop the Bridgeport lighthouse- at least not until 2028. Worse, this is not our only recent disappointment. All around, dreams of what could be are being dashed by a heavy dose of reality.
Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like a mass of warm water in the equatorial Pacific producing storm after storm. It's true. El Nino, after all, means "the child." That child is Jesus Christ, whose birthday happens to coincide with the usual start of the rainy weather phenomenon. Thinking about the origins of the name adds an interesting dimension to conversations about the weather. El Nino made me late for work. I had to get the roof redone for El Nino. We can start watering our lawns again because of El Nino. In short, El Nino is coming, so we best make ready.
Winning can be such a letdown. I'm not talking about those clear-cut triumphs you see on TV dramas - mysteries solved, tournaments won, lives saved. Rather, I'm talking about winning with a "but" or winning with a little asterisk and a footnote after it. All too often, settling, compromise and unforeseen complications rob victory of its sweetness. Santa Clarita has supposedly scored some major victories lately, but somehow, winning just doesn't feel like it should.
You can learn a lot about a town by its favorite vices. Santa Claritans seem to favor restaurants with long wine lists over honest-to-goodness bars. There are no medical marijuana dispensaries, but plenty of shops sell the accoutrements. No strip clubs beckon, but there are several massage joints that might be offering more than back rubs. We like to keep our indulgences politely out of the public eye, it seems. Still, our lesser moments have a way of not staying hidden for long. Vice is here and here to stay.
Santa Clarita is a confusing place. Our roads teem with BMWs and Mercedes while our strip malls brim with Walmarts and Dollar Trees. The same fridge might contain groceries from Whole Foods, Ralph's and Target. We splurge here and skimp there, hoping it all works out. Unfortunately, there's very little logic when it comes to what we're willing to spend a little extra money on. The question of whether Claritans will pay more to get more is weighing heavily on the minds of many, and the answer will shape our valley for years to come.
Santa Clarita in August is a uniquely miserable experience. It's not just the heat - it gets hot plenty of places. It's the fact that you have to live the exact same 102-degree day and 70-degree night 31 times in a row. Finding distraction becomes essential in the face of such repetitive discomfort. So, dear reader, here are some tales of distraction with which you might distract yourself. Just don't lose too much focus, OK?
Billions of human beings have lived and died before us, but you'd be hard pressed to recall more than a few hundred by name. Our minds simply don't have room for all of them. Being forgotten bothers some people, and that's what legacies are for. We want to know that a little piece of ourselves will live on in the world we leave behind. It's a little vain, but then so too are most Claritans. Perhaps that's why talk of legacies is making the local news.
Laws are pretty good at regulating our behavior, but sometimes shame does an even better job. Take the brown-is-the-new-green trend we're seeing with lawns. It's still perfectly legal to water your grass, just not enough for it to look good. You'll start getting glares from the neighbors when yours is pristine green and theirs is full of brown patches. They're the same kind of glares you receive when you don't pitch in enough to cover your share of a restaurant bill or when you cut in line for the freeway onramp. It's a law of human nature, at least in Santa Clarita: If we suffer, everybody else should, too.
A church fish fry recently made the front page of The Signal. Yes, Lenten dinner was one of the top stories in a valley of a quarter-million people. It's all too easy to assume that the rest of our local news is just as quaint, but this is certainly not the case. In addition to battered cod, 2015 has seen murder, school scandals and unprecedented citizen-driven movements in the SCV. These stories are few and far between, but they happen. And that's the problem with the news in Santa Clarita: it's boring until it's not. The only solution is to suck it up, scan all the news sites and repeat daily. That plan might not be entirely realistic, but it's clear that the current state of news consumption leaves much to be desired.
Visit the City of Santa Clarita's website, and you'll find a very prominent banner proclaiming "Santa Clarita Named Number Three Safest City in America." In this case, the ranking was bestowed by Parenting magazine, but the source doesn't matter much - Santa Clarita is happy to take an accolade from anyone.
Santa Clarita is the great compromise of Southern California living. You can enjoy the beach, but it's an hour's drive away, not a flip-flopped stroll. You can lay out in the summer sun, but it'll be 105 degrees, not 79. Santa Clarita, in sum, really excels at almost giving people what they want.
Every year, The Signal comes out with its guide to the SCV's biggest and brightest holiday light displays. North of Newhall Ranch Road, there are spots where whole streets shine in spectacular excess. Christmas lights stretch rooftop to rooftop and themed decorations adorn all the lawns. One neighbor dresses as Santa, another DJs Christmas music, still others pass out candy canes to bundled up kids. I've never lived in one of these communities, and for this, I am truly grateful.
Why isn't local politics followed as closely as football? Scratch that: why isn't local politics followed more closely than football? LA has no NFL team to get invested in, but Santa Clarita has a homegrown government made up of people you actually know. If your team wins or loses, you're amped or bummed - that's it. But depending on which politicians get elected, laws and taxes and things that actually affect your life are at stake. The most important difference, though, is that unless you're a coach or an owner, you can't do a whole lot to impact professional football. But this November, whether you're a teacher or a CEO or just some random bro who likes to fill in bubbles on official ballots, you'll have a direct say in our local political future.
Santa Clarita is home to Fox's "Utopia." It's a year-long, $50-million-plus reality series about 15 strangers creating a new society. The show takes place on a five-acre ranch in the SCV complete with a lake, cows, chickens and 100 cameras streaming the Utopians' every move. It's lovely that Fox recognized Santa Clarita as the closest thing to a utopian paradise we have on earth, but I wonder if our fair valley deserves the reputation in light of certain recent events. Is there more danger than we'd expect in paradise?
These days, more Santa Claritans are employed, there's a better real estate market and the excuse "in this economy" seems to be losing some of its punch. Most families still aren't rolling in tons of extra cash, but there's enough to see that the basics are covered. You needn't survive on home-brewed lattes or deny yourself annual phone upgrades any longer. Austerity is out. Still, the recession packed a wallop, and we're all searching for reassuring signs that the local and global economies really are getting back on their feet. If you look around the SCV, I think there's reason to be optimistic.
Santa Clarita is big enough that most SoCalers have heard of it. But I wonder what image, exactly, jumps into their mind at mention of the name (barring the obvious choice of Six Flags). Say Santa Monica and you picture the pier, say Westwood and you envision the drive down Wilshire Boulevard. What about Santa Clarita? There's a mall that looks like most other malls, homes that look like most other homes and schools that look like most other schools. As we continue to grow, it's hard to tell whether Santa Clarita is coming into its own or just looking more and more like everyplace else. I hope it's the former, because we're not very good at trying to be something we're not.