Locals in Santa Clarita Valley live amongst some of Southern California’s most breathtaking landscapes. There are sand dunes, mountainous terrain, and towering oaks alike, as well as plenty of open, wild spaces that are protected by local agencies.
One of these agencies is known as SCOPE, the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. The organization provides critical support for environmental causes, which includes tracking updates to ordinances that directly affect local ecologies.
Currently, SCOPE is battling LA County due to a recent violation of the Brown Act. The Brown Act requires governmental bodies to present clear plans of action for communities affected by upcoming actions. In mid-May, LA County violated the Brown Act by failing to indicate changes to the County Oak Ordinance, which protects local oak trees.
The news comes only a month after Santa Clarita Valley hosted a virtual Earth Arbor Day celebration on April 20 by planting trees. Countrywide, local groups and large companies alike have undertaken eco-friendly initiatives like reforesting in an effort to help the environment. First launched in 1970, Earth Day now sees millions participate in environmental efforts of all shapes and sizes worldwide.
Campaigns cover a range of issues, from plastic waste reduction to preserving natural areas to reforesting urbanized areas. But for many Santa Clarita residents, Earth Day is just one annual event that celebrates and protects the environment. For many, SCOPE members included, the battle to protect Santa Clarita’s wildlife is a full-time job.
The Oak Tree Ordinance
SCOPE has been active since 1987 with a mission to protect the ecological resources abundant in Santa Clarita Valley. More specifically, SCOPE looks to address infrastructural and planning changes proposed by LA County with respect to the local environment.
One of the group’s first missions back in the 1980s was to preserve local oak trees by creating the Oak Tree Ordinance. The Ordinance called for each oak to be documented so that any proposed changes or demolitions could be made subject to public hearings.
In May, the County Board of Supervisors released a ‘Title 22 Tune-up’ related to local environmental resources. In the description of the tune-up, there was no direct mention of the Oak Tree Ordinance, which led local organizations to believe oaks would remain under protection.
However, the finalized Title 22 Tune-up weakened the Oak Tree Ordinance, violating the Brown Act for its failure to sufficiently notify residents of the proposed changes. Had locals and members of SCOPE known the Oak Tree Ordinance was under direct review, they could have launched protests or asked for revisions to the Title 22 changes.
As of 13 May, SCOPE filed a complaint with the County Board of Supervisors for a violation of the Brown Act. To date, LA County has yet to release an official statement related to Title 22 or SCOPE’s formal complaint.
Ongoing Battles & Victories for SCOPE
Santa Clarita is an area that deeply values its ecological resources. The local government hosts Arbor Day and Earth Day events to engage residents when it comes to environmental efforts. Few groups have had such a long-lasting effect as SCOPE.
Though the battle to protect local oaks via the Oak Tree Ordinance is their largest mission this year, SCOPE has also fought for local resources like water and open spaces. With Santa Clarita Valley receiving the lowest amount of rainfall in the last four years and drought allocations tightening, SCOPE remains present at local Urban Water Management Planning hearings to help plan the area’s future of water management.
Recently, SCOPE also scored a victory with the Planning Commission after helping protect 300 acres of open space. They crafted a Resolution to Deny the Sand Canyon Hotel and Resort, which was a proposed project that would compromise open space.
However, Santa Clarita City Council has previously approved a measure that would perpetually protect the 300-acre plot for local recreational use. The area is already home to numerous developments, including the Sand Canyon Country Club, which is owned by the developer behind the Sand Canyon Hotel and Resort.