Our View: Thinking bigger far into the future

Our View

The city of Santa Clarita hit a milestone with its 30th birthday this past year. So it seems like a good time as we begin the new year of 2018 to look to the next 30 years — and beyond.

This is a great place to live. It’s clean. Many of the streets are wide. There’s a great sense of community because City Hall , nonprofits and other organizations in town put a focus on the people who live here. Whether it be helping those who need help or just providing many family-oriented activities, the focus is on quality of life.

The reason it is a good place to live is because of the vision and hard work of its founders way back in 1987, prudent and skilled management by city staff throughout the years, some visionary council people over the years and the fact that there has been plenty of available land to build on and make decisions about.

But Santa Clarita grew quickly after its formation and its population now is a quarter of a million people. Vision in City Hall and with our county representatives is crucial right now, as is long-term planning.

Right now, the city has on record a plan that extends to only 2020. The residents of the Santa Clarita Valley need a better sense that there is a long-term overall plan for the city and the county portions of the Santa Clarita Valley for the next several decades.

Much has been accomplished in recent years. Downtown Newhall redevelopment is finally kicking in and we believe that area will eventually be an entertainment destination for the region. The valley’s economy is maturing as more and more companies realize this is a good place to set up shop.

Both the city and the valley is maturing, and this means our city and county leaders need to better focus on the issues that come with growing up.

Our technology infrastructure still needs a lot of work. You can’t get a signal on a cellphone in parts of the city; good internet service is woefully lagging for many businesses; electric chargers for vehicles are sparse. Little, it seems, is being done to prepare Santa Clarita for its smart city future.

Asked whether the city was sending a representative to a recent smart city conference, a city spokesperson answered with a definite “no.”

Smart cities manage and deploy resources and combat pollution using technology, expertise and a “partner ecosystem” (as one provider calls it), and you can imagine the jobs of city workers will change radically, right up to the city manager’s office.

We really need to get a handle on our traffic challenges. We need more roads. Speeds are high on the few arteries that we have, and rightly so. It seems the answer to at least some of these challenges is to use the Whittaker-Bermite property in the center of the city for new roads.

Remediation of the contaminated property is close to completion. Putting roads there has been talked about, but city officials need to come up with a definite plan for what they want to see there.

Better transportation as a whole needs to be looked at. Far too many of our residents still commute very long distances on very crowded freeways to their jobs.

We need lots of new ideas on that issue and others. Younger generations can be the source for this. All the sectors of our community, from government to nonprofits, need organized recruitment of young people to be part of the decision-making process in our community.

New and younger ideas are desperately needed, but at the same time we need a more sophisticated way of approaching the decisions we need to make about our future.

It’s nice to keep saying that we are “Mayberry,” but we are not. If we want to continue to be a model of successful suburbia working both economically and in quality of life, we need to keep our eye on the ball and think of what we want 30 years from now. Our founders did that.

We suggest that Santa Clarita City Hall and other groups and businesses that are stakeholders put together working groups from all walks of life and professions to provide input for a detailed 30-year plan for the Santa Clarita Valley that most people can buy into.

Let’s start in the new year.

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