About 100 people turned out at Rosedell Elementary School in Saugus on Thursday night to get a progress report on the proposed Saugus branch of the Santa Clarita Public Library – and they heard two significant pieces of news:
* A third possible location for the library is now being considered by the city – Copper Hill Park.
* The size of the project has been scaled down from its original 38,000 square feet to between 25,000 and 30,000, based on surveys of area residents of what services they want in a library.
Meanwhile, though the meeting was pitched as a chance for residents to voice their concerns and ask questions, several said afterward that no one actually got that chance — as the program consisted only of Deputy City Manager Darren P. Hernandez detailing survey data and other information, and then collecting written comment cards.
There were no other public comments or give-and-take, aside from a group of about 25 residents who gathered around Hernandez after his presentation and peppered him with questions.
“They actually did not permit us to speak in favor of this either way,’’ Natalie Moreno, an area resident and leading opponent of the proposed site on Plum Canyon Road near David March Park, said after the meeting.
“The consensus was, we were not allowed to voice our opinions. People felt silenced and frustrated. I wanted to hear from the Copper Hill people, so I can hear their concerns. I don’t want to support something that might hurt some other neighborhood.’’
Mike Koeller, another Saugus resident, had similar thoughts.
“Why not at least a show of hands about who supports this location or that location?” he said. “If people want it, fine, but if people don’t want it, the city shouldn’t force it down people’s throats.”
Hernandez announced Copper Hill Park as another possible landing spot for the library several months after a previous proposed site near David March Park sparked heated opposition from residents of that residential area over traffic, safety and noise concerns.
Hernandez said Plum Canyon remains a possibility, along with Copper Hill Park – both city-owned – as does a privately owned tract on Haskell Canyon Road between Bouquet Canyon Road and Copper Hill Drive, which the city would have to purchase.
Hernandez said the city surveyed 223 homes around the Copper Hill Park location and got 68 responses – 52 in favor, 16 not in favor. Public outreach has not been conducted about the Haskell Canyon Road location, he said.
While the city’s three other libraries – in Valencia, Canyon Country and Newhall – are all located in commercial areas, Hernandez said the Saugus branch will have land in a residential area because, “There are no available commercial locations in Saugus.”
Hernandez also said that, wherever the new library winds up, it will cost between $30 million and $35 million and take about 18 months from initial groundbreaking to opening its doors.
He added that a decision needs to be made some time in 2017 to get the new library open by the end of 2020. The proposed new library is part of “Santa Clarita 2020” – an umbrella of city projects covering community enhancements, public safety, infrastructure and economic growth.
One woman at the meeting, who declined to give her name, was opposed to the library altogether.
“I won’t even bring my kids to the Valencia library – it’s filled with homeless people and criminals from the courthouse looking for free Wi-Fi and bathrooms. There, I said it,” the woman said, as several people around her nodded.
But Hernandez, citing more than 850,000 library users city-wide in 2015, said, “We’ve surveyed the community and there is an overwhelming desire for the library.”
Hernandez said residents can email him their thoughts at [email protected].