Castaic’s Hillcrest residents should expect ballot for landscaping fee soon

This screenshot of a Google Maps look at Hillcrest Parkway demonstrates the reduction in landscaping.
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Residents of the Hillcrest area of Castaic should soon see a ballot in the mail regarding their landscaping concerns, county officials said Wednesday.

The word comes about a year after residents began to express frustration over their overgrown hillsides to their local Landscape Maintenance District officials, who countered with a simple solution: If the medians are to be landscaped, there’s a price to pay.

Whether the residents choose to pay that price is one of the questions that’ll be put to them on  ballot, according to Kerjon Lee, spokesman for the county’s Department of Public Works.

L.A. County’s Public Works staff has been working with residents of the area for more than 12 months in trying to identify how they can best address the Castaic quandary: The fee property owners pay to maintain landscaping hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years, and therefore the county has pointed out that cost for residents isn’t covering the cost of service.

However, it’s not as simple as pay or don’t pay, Lee said, and the county is continuing to work with residents to make sure there are options, and that they’re well understood.

“Ballots will be mailed to property owners within the Hillcrest Landscape Maintenance Zone in early June,” Lee said. “A public meeting will be held the last week of June to walk the community through the balloting process, including a discussion of how the rate was determined, a review of the ballot language and what a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote means.”

The issue inspired the formation of the Facebook group, “Keep Hillcrest Green,” started by residents of the area who are “interested in restoring the maintenance in Hillcrest Park Zone LMD37 back to 100% maintenance service,” according to the page. The group has 360 members as of Thursday afternoon.

The county expects to host a hearing July 24, by which time all ballots would be due, Lee added.

One of the group’s main goals has been to keep people engaged and informed, said Ingrid Riederer, one of the co-founders of Keep Hillcrest Green, which has been a challenge with such a lengthy process.

One of the challenges for residents who want to address the lack of landscaping is that their neighbors have, in similar past votes, declined to raise the landscape maintenance fees which would put the fee in line with the county’s cost of service.

Castaic residents decided against a fee increase in 2007 and 2014, and after the second vote, the budget available required a noticeable reduction in services.

“We’re anxious,” Riederer said Thursday, “what we’ve seen is that it’s hard to keep a comnunity rallied for something when the process takes ove a year, so people are anxious for this to happen.”

And social media and the outreach have made a difference so far this time around, she added.

“It was a low voter-participation rate in the previous vote,” she added, “so I think that having the information available is making people want to participate, and wanting to vote and know about (the plan).”

County officials were not immediately available Thursday morning to confirm the exact cost of the new fee; however, a previous bidding attempt last fall, which ultimately was scrapped and redone due to a concern brought to county officials, put the cost at around $585 per year. The current fee residents for Landscape Maintenance District No. 37, which includes Hillcrest Parkway, which was set in 1990 and hasn’t changed since, is $240.

 

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