Council focuses on budget, continued community conversation in second quarter

At the city council meeting on June 13, the chambers were full of community members.

Santa Clarita City Council’s second quarter was heavy on budget preparation and ongoing community discussions.

While the first quarter was comprised of various smaller projects as the council settled in, the second highlighted various reoccurring issues.

“The second quarter was pretty heavy in policy with the budget, the mobile home park municipal code and Measure H,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. “We spent a lot of time in the weeds making government policy decisions.”

Ongoing discussions

After Measure H was passed in March, which raised taxes one-fourth of a cent for homeless services, the council’s ad hoc committee on homelessness met twice to determine tactics to access that money.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of changing the narrative that there is a degree of homelessness in the city,” Smyth said.

Smyth, who is on the committee with Councilwoman Marsha McLean, said he has learned more about how homelessness uniquely affects Santa Clarita, especially among families.

The city will rely on service providers, including nonprofit organizations and faith groups, the mayor said.

Among one of the most heavily discussed topics over the course of the quarter was the mobile home park code in the city. The councilmembers had mobile home park-related conversations a total of eight times, according to City Manager Ken Striplin.

Municipal Code 6.02 was going to be updated to clarify language and consider a new form of internal governance. However, vocal mobile home park residents shifted the conversation from one of general updates to specific concerns they had brimming for years.

“It is a tremendous challenge to find a reasonable compromise that is fair and responsible to all,” Councilman Bob Kellar said. “Where do you go if you cannot maintain yourself in a mobile home park? That is a huge issue for me in this discussion.”

According to city staff, the purpose of the code was to prevent residents from overpaying for rent and prevent owners from being underpaid.

Council members also held several discussions about the danger and fines associated with buying and using illegal fireworks. The council made a point of mentioning their enforcement of the fireworks at several meetings and also participated in a collaborative press conference with the county and the fire department.

“It may be fun for the people setting these off but it is not fun for the people around them,” Councilwoman Marsha McLean said. “The inconsiderate nonsense of people needs to be stopped.”

When several senior citizens used public comment time to express concern with a lack of affordable housing, council members began discussing solutions to the issue.

Councilman Bill Miranda said the council is looking to find more units for seniors and work with developers and real estate professionals to get more affordable housing.

“What are we telling (seniors) when we say we don’t have room for them in the Santa Clarita Valley?” Miranda said.

Out of all the committees, Smyth said the legislative committee is the most active as they continue to take official stances on legislation that affects local government control and land use.

Budgeting money

Months were spent detailing the city’s $197.7 million budget, which was finalized and approved in June.

“It is important for the city to support a balanced budget that has sufficient reserves, meets all requirements and is passed on time,” Smyth said.

Smyth, Weste and McLean agreed that they have an obligation to capital projects, public safety and parks and recreation.

“My favorite thing is when people tell us things they need something in their area and we are able to take a look at those and fund those,” McLean said, referring to projects such as the Old Town Newhall revitalization, the Saugus Library and the Canyon Country Community Center.

When it comes to the budget, everything is important and nothing is left unconsidered, according to Kellar.

“Being a city councilmember, you’ve got to be able to appreciate the myriad things that are on the table that add to the quality of life and the safety of the community,” he said.

Also during the quarter, the council ordered $350,000 for Habitat for Humanity to build 24 homes for veterans for their Enriched Neighborhood Affordable Housing Veterans’ project.

“We were happy to be able to contribute towards that,” McLean said.

In July, the council approved $386,942 for increased public security guards and $223,670 for the Safe Routes to School Program.

Also, the city spent about $9.5 million to buy Santa Clarita’s streetlights from Southern California Edison in order to save money long-term.

Breaking ground and cutting ribbons

Councilmembers broke ground on the $16 million Newhall Ranch Road Bridge project on May 2.

Set to begin construction over the summer, the project includes widening the bridge, raising the median and building a protected pedestrian walkway and a bike trail underneath.

“We made remarkable strikes this year on our 2020 focus,” Councilwoman Laurene Weste said.

After nearly 30 years of efforts to acquire it, the council held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the 240 acres of Newhall Pass open space on June 15.

The city and Trust for Public Land fought so the land would not become track housing and could instead be maintained as trails. Dignitaries and community members celebrated by following the event with a two-hour hike.

“That was a huge victory,” Weste said. “We have protected that whole southern rim of the Santa Clarita Valley.”

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