The former Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center building on Market Street could become the new hub for both local veterans and community arts, Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Wednesday.
Since the opening of the new Bella Vida senior center in April, the former facility, a county asset that housed the nonprofit for 40 years in Newhall, has remained vacant. Barger made the announcement during a joint meeting at City Hall with the Santa Clarita City Council to discuss topics ranging from homelessness to transportation and public safety.
“I believe we have the opportunity to do a collaborative effort that’s going to benefit everybody,” she said. “When you look at the talent coming out of the Santa Clarita Valley, we have a unique opportunity to enhance and provide opportunities for young people to get into the arts … But we also have an opportunity to work with the veterans. I think we can look at doing both. It should not be an either/or. I’m committed to that.”
Her comment followed after Councilman Bill Miranda provided an update on what the city has accomplished for the local arts scene in collaboration with L.A. County.
“(The Market Street building) would be ideal as a site that’s located in the city’s Old Town Newhall arts and entertainment district,” he said. “Since the senior center has already been relocated, we’re hoping there is an update regarding the concept of having the old site serve as the arts center.”
Some members of the Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative, which serves as a one-stop referral for resources, services and support to local veterans, asked Barger to consider using the building for their growing needs.
“We have requested that the county community center provide the Collaborative with partial space for veterans but to date, that request never came to fruition,” said Elliot Wolfe, president of the Collaborative. “However, a large number of veterans are currently attending our local veterans center on Lyons Avenue because it is the main location in this valley for one-stop shopping for all veterans and their families.”
Wolfe emphasized that the Collaborative’s current locale is not large enough to service the number they see daily, which ranges anywhere between eight to 12 individuals on weekdays and up to 20 on Saturdays.
“Due to the ages of my wife and I, we are unable to continue to finance this project forever, but our primary request at this time is for assistance in obtaining a larger space so that we might improve the number and quality of our services,” said Wolfe.
The SCV has the highest number of veterans per capita in California, with an estimate of about 8,000 to 12,000 individuals, plus their families, according to Wolfe.
Barger said county staff members have walked the building and are looking into “what can and cannot be done,” as any activity must comply with the Public Park Preservation Act, which states that any real property used as a public park cannot be used for any nonpark purposes.
“The answer is a simple, ‘Yes.’ That is the direction we are moving. I talked with staff and it is doable so let’s just figure out how to get it done,” said Barger.
Should the plans move forward, the next use of the property would ultimately require approval from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.