In its first meeting of the new year, the Santa Clarita City Council hit the gavel on one of the most pressing citywide topics of 2018: the landscape and lighting district processes.
Council members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to terminate the landscape and lighting district assessment proceedings and cancel a public hearing that would have taken place Jan. 22.
“I have one thought: the reality is that the cost of maintaining anything does not stay static,” Councilwoman Laurene Weste said. “But 2018 doesn’t allow (the city) to just increase the cost …”
That increase was proposed to be 560 percent for annual streetlight maintenance rates, which were to rise from $12.38 to $81.71. More than 33,000 residents were notified via letters in November, with directions to vote either “yes” to indicate support for maintaining services or “no” to show opposition. The result left recipients confused and angry over what many called confusing language.
“The community has made it clear that additional outreach and information is necessary,” Mayor Marsha McLean said in a city news release, sent out on Dec. 31, explaining the City Council’s plans to consider terminating the assessment processes.
Six community members expressed their thoughts during public comment, all recommending council members to go through with ending the processes.
“Staff needs to go back to the drawing board,” said James Farley, a Valencia resident. “Provide a clear narrative to the voters about the reasons for the increases requested and the specifics of what is being done. Citizens should not be expected to dive into an engineer’s report to learn this.”
Farley also suggested that on future ballots, city staff should not couple together zones where one receives an increase and another a decrease on separate items. “This only comes off as a sneaky way to engineer a ‘yes’ result overall.”
Canyon Country resident Alan Ferdman said he hopes to see a follow-up mailer, one that is “easy for a nontechnical person to understand, explain the assessment election in detail.”
After hearing from several residents, Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth asked the staff if there was an opportunity for the City Council or a subcommittee to review the language and materials planned to go out as a follow-up to “provide some impact prior.”
City Manager Ken Striplin said yes.
McLean also suggested having a chart to indicate what most residents are paying and what the city is asking so that all ratepayers are in line.
The city has said terminating the assessment proceedings will not affect its decision to purchase the streetlight system from Southern California Edison or the planned installation of LED fixtures. Conversion to energy-efficient fixtures will be conducted in phases, with completion anticipated by the end of the year. The approved action will not affect future services for streetlight maintenance, city officials also said.
With the cancellation approved, staff will take no further action on the current process and recipients will receive a letter explaining the termination of all proceedings.