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Bonds and Bounds of Cityhood
January, 2010 - Issue #63
Unlike alchemy and bloodletting, geography is a medieval discipline that still holds sway in modern times. No amount of cross-continent Skype-ing or international jet-setting can eliminate the importance of place, the particular patch of earth on which we dwell.

A keen knowledge of place is especially important in Santa Clarita. Those who have just moved here will want to know whether they live in Canyon Country or whether they should make fun of Canyon Country. (Pubs. note: We should probably mention that we all live in - and heart - Canyon Country.) They'll also want to know how their new home address will impact the schools, sports teams and gangs that their children will be joining - the Newhall 13, Val Verde 13, Canones 13, etc. Kids mustn't fall into the wrong gang, after all.

Still, many Claritans are as blissfully deluded about where they live as they are about other important aspects of their lives. Someone can unknowingly live in the Santa Clarita Valley but not in the City of Santa Clarita. Indeed, there is an invisible line separating the city folk from the county folk, and many aren't quite sure on which side of the line they fall.

Yes and Yes
Voting on a secret ballot isn't exactly complicated, but we're always finding ways to mess it up. During the vote in November, people living outside of our City's official boundaries were presented with three yes/no questions. They were asked whether they wished to remain official communities in unincorporated LA County (1A); to form a new city comprising Sunset Pointe, Stevenson Ranch, Southern Oaks, Westridge, Tesoro, Castaic, and Val Verde (1B); or to annex into the City of Santa Clarita (1C). The option of forming a new city was unpopular everywhere, but more than 50 percent of voters gave a "yes" to both 1A and 1C. That is, a majority of unincorporated residents want to both join and not join our City... at the same time.

After breaking down the vote by geographic area, the desire to annex appeared strong in Tesoro and weak in most of Castaic; Stevenson Ranch was a bit of a mixed bag. While it would make the most geographic sense for all of our valley's communities to unite as one city, there is something undeniably attractive about the City of SC's current curvaceous western border carved by the 5. As this was a purely advisory vote, the future shape of the City's boundaries remains unknown.

Sort of the Same
All of this City/County border business might seem a bit superficial. Last I checked, we're allowed to associate with friends both incorporated and unincorporated, and we can buy things in Val Verde and Valencia alike. This is also the perspective the City has been taking of late. Though taxes and fees from intra-City properties and businesses feed directly back into City Hall, the powers-that-be have recognized that spending money anywhere in the Santa Clarita Valley supports our larger community.

You know how this story ends - we no longer think of just Santa Clarita when we shop but rather "Think Santa Clarita Valley." One troubling consequence of this broadened vision is the creation of fraternal twins of sort. "Think Santa Clarita" and "Think Santa Clarita Valley" sound almost identical but are linked to different promotions and yield different web results. An independent, non-profit Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation has formed to do almost-but-not-quite-exactly the same thing as the City of Santa Clarita's Economic Development Division and the Chamber of Commerce. Adding a simple "Valley" to the end of "Santa Clarita" has become a make-or-break distinction, one that embraces rather than alienates those outside the line of cityhood. It's the newest word of reckoning.

Mouse Ears
Assuming the world doesn't end in 2012 - contrary to what the ancient Mayans and Hollywood filmmakers have suggested - we'll be around to see Disney open a major new production facility on its Golden Oak Ranch right here in the Santa Clarita Valley. The company has presented plans to build a dozen sound stages plus production offices and other support buildings. This means that nearly 3,000 jobs will be created at the site in addition to thousands of construction jobs to help realize the massive development. Given how much Hannah Montana is watched in Claritan homes, bringing this project to Santa Clarita seems like a fair trade.

Even this happy news has been framed in terms of City boundaries, though. The production facilities will be slightly outside of our official city limits, something that may be remedied to the advantage of both Santa Clarita and Disney, of course. Whatever political boundary it may ultimately fall within, I am already both anticipating (by which I mean dreading) the ribbon-cutting ceremony. There will be mouse ears, character costumes, giant scissors, and finally cheers as SCV says it hearts Disney and Disney replies that it hearts SCV.
This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions, catty comments and veiled threats intended for the author can be e-mailed to iheartscv@insidescv.com.
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