I Heart SCV
Growing Smart Lessons from Hardware Stores and Hasley Hillites
March, 2008 - Issue #41
I often wonder how much bigger Santa Clarita can grow and still feel like, well, Santa Clarita. My grandparents moved here in the early 1960s and they say the hometown they once knew has all but disappeared. We bade good riddance to onion fields for soccer fields, close-knit neighborhoods for interaction-phobic ones, and jokes about hokey small towns for much-beloved suburban cliches. My favorite of these cliches is "smart growth." Defined in textbooks as an anti-sprawl, pedestrian-oriented urban planning strategy, we have a more liberal definition in the SCV. Any growth is smart growth so long as it throws in a park, a few trees and some of those terrifying bronze people statues or other forms of "art."

As momentum builds for big new growth in Newhall Ranch and other areas in and around the valley, I think it's high time we take a look at what else is growing around here and just how smart it is.

The Wrong Kind of Grass in Valencia
In late January, Sheriff's deputies received a tip about a certain smell coming from a certain home on the outskirts of Valencia. On January 29, the tip led to a surprising discovery. As you have probably heard, "grass" wasn't just growing on the front lawn but inside the house itself. Indeed, seedlings flourished in the bedrooms and the garage held plants worth as much as a few million dollars. Appropriately, the home was located in the Tesoro del Valle community - that's "Treasure of the Valley."

I've never given too much consideration to "urban farmer" as a career option, but I think I would have been way better at the job than the people behind this house. It was a textbook example of not-smart-growth. They should have realized that they needed to keep a tidier visage. SCVians are a people obsessed with appearance and well-versed in CC&R codes. Just as Native American hunters were aware of the slightest change in the wind, we are uniquely sensitive to grass clipped too infrequently, paint colors one shade too brown and condensation coming from garages. That last faux pas was one of the signs that prompted a dog walker to contact police about the house. It's all about camouflage, people: a decorative daisy flag, some copper yard lights, an over-pruned rose bush and no one would have given the house a second glance (maybe I should be a consultant...). Clearly, the growers should have grown a little smarter.

A Home for Hasley Hills
Hasley Hills, a Castaic-area community, wants to annex into the City of Santa Clarita (can we blame them?). Around 70 percent of its residents are keen on the idea, and the powers-that-be in Santa Clarita have said they'd be happy to welcome the additional tax revenue - oh, and the fine, upstanding citizens - to the City of Santa Clarita fold. While these Hasley Hillites' desire to become Santa Claritans speaks to their intelligence and ambition, I think we need to proceed with a bit of caution. After all, just because a neighbor shows up on your doorstep and offers you money if you'll share your name with them doesn't mean you welcome them into the family. Get me a background check, an oath of undying loyalty to the banner of Clarita and a signed promise to adopt our way of life - terrifying bronze people statues and all - and I just might say that growth via annexation is smart.

We'll Miss You, Newhall Hardware
While the onion fields and two-lane
roads my grandparents remember have disappeared, Newhall Hardware has weathered massive growth and change. It was one element of Clarita past that appeared to be making it in Clarita present. Unfortunately, Newhall Hardware is shutting its doors. I snuck into the coroner's office and found out the cause of death: back-in parking. Indeed, the traffic re-routing, parking fiascoes and general headaches of Newhall redevelopment were the collective straw breaking this much-loved camel's back. Newhall Hardware was everything that Lowe's, OSH, Home Depot and their ilk can't be. The store was short and squat, dark and mildly claustrophobic, but all in a friendly sort of way. It was a business that people in City Hall, the redevelopment committee and Newhall really liked. But that's the thing about growth: sometimes it causes changes we just couldn't foresee.

Growing Concern
All of this growth and its consequences are causing some folks a bit of anxiety. We want to be neighborly and welcome new people into our valley, but we'd also like to keep some of our history and small-town charm. It's a question of what we heart more: that which Santa Clarita is or that which it can become. Can I heart both?

Contact I.M. Claritan at
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