More money, more maintenance: Hillcrest to vote on fee increase

Clouds billow in the distance looking north-west at about noon from Dockweiller Drive in Santa Clarita. The Old Town Newhall Library can be seen, lower right, and the homes of Stevenson Ranch are visible on the hills in Feb. 2017. Dan Watson/The Signal

For Los Angeles County to keep neighborhoods well kept, landscape maintenance districts must be funded to do so.

Residents of the Hillcrest neighborhood in Castaic pay a yearly fee of $240, or about $4 a week, to ensure the landscaping surrounding their homes is up to the county’s standards.

This yearly cost, however, hasn’t changed since the landscape district was formed in 1990.

In order to continue to meet the demand, county officials are allowing residents to vote if they want to increase the yearly fee.

“The assessment was looked at by the county because the cost of things to maintain the area had gone up and the assessment had not,” Senior Civil Engineer Lani Alfonso said.

If they vote for the increase, the landscape will be better maintained. If they vote against it, the landscape will be tended to less often or less space will be maintained.

Property owners from the 897 Hillcrest homes voted against assessment increases in both 2007 and 2014.

The discussion in 2017 is the result of complaints from residents that the landscape was not being maintained as often as they would like, according to Alfonso.

Hillcrest residents will be able to vote by mail in the fall on Proposition 218 to decide if they are willing to pay the increased fee. According to Alfonso, residents said they were.

During a community meeting hosted in March, county officials proposed less maintenance for a lower cost, but said that was not well received by residents.

“Because of what had happened (in 2007 and 2014), we felt there probably wasn’t support for an increase assessment,” Alfonso said.

“We heard the exact opposite. We had overwhelming feedback from the community that they were in favor of us at least looking at what that would cost.”

At the county level, officials are still deciding how much the maintenance might cost and how often it should be tended to and will conduct an engineering report to decide this.

There are about 30 maintenance districts in Los Angeles County and many of them are in Santa Clarita Valley. Each district ranges in size from 50 to several thousand properties.

County officials will be at the Castaic Town Council meeting on July 19 to further discuss the possible fee changes to the maintenance district. The county will hold another community meeting to garner feedback at the beginning of August.

“We want people to be well informed when they receive their ballots and make an informed choice,” she said.

If the proposition does not pass, the county will no longer maintain Hillcrest and upkeep will be the responsibility of the private property owner.

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