I Heart SCV
Quiet Rumblings in the Fifth Season
August, 2009 - Issue #58
Judith Larner Lowry, one of California's finest nature writers, divides the year into five parts. There's fall, winter, spring, summer and then, a fifth season comprising August and October. She calls it "the quiet time" when all is parched and still: "That long luxurious warm spell with no rain."

It's easy to be so poetic when you live in Marin County where a day in the 80s is a real scorcher. In Santa Clarita, the fifth season is decidedly less luxurious, more hellish. The temperature rises diabolically. It becomes even trickier than usual to decide if you're in SCV or the Inferno, paying dearly for vanity, greed, envy, and the other sins of suburbia. And while Lowry's fifth season may be a quiet one, ours is calm only superficially, with definite stirrings beneath the surface.

The Three Councilteers
Santa Clarita's City Council has had 15 different members in 20 years. Claritans elected to office tend to stay there for a while. Jo Anne Darcy, for one, served on seven different councils and was mayor in 1991, '95, '99 and 2000.

It's no surprise, then, that all three City Council Members whose terms will be ending will be seeking reelection. What is surprising is that Mayor Frank Ferry, Mayor Pro-tem Laurene Weste and Council Member Marsha McLean announced their intentions to run at the same press conference. They made comments to the effect of "Gosh golly, sometimes we disagree, but we all care about making SCV the best it can be!" Clearly, they want to keep their trio intact. Perhaps they'll make up some hybrid slogan like "Vote Fraursha McWestry!" or "Reelect Laurshank Ferleaneste!" to remind voters that they don't want anyone new to upset their working relationship at City Hall.

While conventional wisdom says that all three incumbents will be reelected, I predict this happy little family won't be together for too much longer. It's only a matter of time before Frank Ferry, our most ambitious member of City Council, pulls a Cameron Smyth and vies for some state-level office. After nearly a decade on City Council, I think he may make a move once an opportunity presents itself.

A Toxic Blemish
The housing market has begun to stir with increases in new home construction beginning mid-year. While we're not exactly in the midst of a housing boom, the construction industry may be on its way to making up for lost time.

Enter Santa Clarita's Open Space Preservation District, created to protect wild open spaces from being developed. In its first big purchase, the City will plunk down $2.5 million for 140 acres next to Placerita Canyon State Park. Just over $700,000 will come from the open space tax assessments paid by local property owners.

The land that's being purchased is not exactly pristine. The former occupants left behind fuel and solvent contamination rendering six acres unbuildable, according to the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Still, the rest of the property is nice enough, and the toxic blemish will gradually fade away with natural weathering processes and time.

While adding open space around Santa Clarita is an admirable goal, this acquisition has raised some eyebrows. Could the City have negotiated a better deal for the polluted parcel? Was it in imminent danger of being bought and developed? Some, like Jim Farley and Cam Noltemeyer, continue to dispute whether the Open Space Preservation District itself is even legal. There's nothing like quiet open spaces to bring out loud rumbles of dissent.

According to an item discussed at June 23's City Council meeting, parties in Santa Clarita are nothing to celebrate. They're putting Claritans like you and me at risk every day. "Loud parties are a nuisance to the health and well being of the community," the item read. Apparently, two sheriff patrol cars must be on party shut-down duty on weekends, and dozens of people call to complain about noise every week.

If approved, a new ordinance will raise fines on parties deemed a nuisance. The criteria are pretty strict. If music can be heard more than 50 feet away from the party-giver's house (that's about 20 paces), or if people at the party act "wild" or "unruly," it can potentially be declared a nuisance.

This ordinance may be just the thing to keep the fifth season a quiet one, but it makes me a little sad. In the not-so-distant past, when people knew who they lived next to, neighbors would have been invited to each other's parties or at least have been courteous enough to keep the music down. But now, with unfamiliar people next door and houses packed closer together than ever, it's of little wonder that Santa Clarita is getting behind an ordinance to keep the peace. The Clarita we heart appears to be the Clarita that's quiet, not just in the still and sunny fifth season, but always.
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