City considers buying council member’s land for Dockweiler extension

A map of the Dockweiler Drive extension over-layed with Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste’s property parcels. The parcels that will be affected, according to the City Council agenda, are labeled in yellow. A sixth parcel owned by Weste — that was not listed on city council agenda — is labeled in blue and is listed as 31,494 square feet and was last assessed in 1981 at $18,515.
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The Santa Clarita City Council held a closed session meeting Tuesday to consider buying several parcels of land owned by Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste to facilitate the planned extension of Dockweiler Drive through Placerita Canyon.  

The council did not report any action out of the closed session, which listed the agenda item as a conference with the city’s property negotiator, with Weste and Los Angeles County listed as the negotiating parties. According to the agenda, under negotiation was “price and terms for acquisition and disposal of property for Dockweiler Drive extension project.” 

Approximately 6.4 acres of Weste’s property would be affected by the route of the planned Dockweiler Drive extension, according to Los Angeles County Assessor maps.   

Five of Weste’s six properties would be affected, including one that contains a roughly 1,000-square-foot home, according to the assessor’s map, and the City Council agenda item. 

Between the five affected parcels there are approximately 278,647 square feet, or roughly 6.39 acres, owned by Weste, according to the L.A. County Assessor’s figures. Los Angeles County owns a handful of other parcels to the west of Weste’s property that would also be affected by the new road extension. 

The plan to align Dockweiler Drive and Railroad Avenue at 13th Street and Arch Street was approved in 2018. The move has drawn the ire of some Placerita Canyon residents who have voiced their concerns over public safety, traffic and noise. 

Weste has abstained from the council’s conversations about the purchase and the project during open and closed sessions over the past several years, including the portion of Tuesday’s council meeting in which the negotiations were discussed.  

She confirmed on Thursday that the road would cut through the backside of her land but said she did not know whether she would be selling the land to the city. 

“They’re finishing up their studies … and the city is doing their job and they’ll let me know when they want to talk to me when they need something,” said Weste. She added that she has not sought an independent appraisal for the land, nor was she in the room during the closed-session discussion on Tuesday. “I don’t know anything about it. I’m not in their meetings.” 

“It accommodates (The Master’s University), it goes around the canyon to give secondary access from one point to the other and they’re doing what cities do, which is studying proper, safe, street alignment and trails and all those things, which is a big job,” Weste said. 

Of the five lots of Weste’s land, four were last assessed in October 1985 and one was assessed in October 1981. Based on their last assessments, their assessor’s roll values were $217,596 in total. However, they have not been reassessed since then due to the rules stipulated in Proposition 13. 

“We’ve got Prop. 13, which limits how much we can raise property taxes …. So, when I’m looking, there’s a base year of 1975,” said Anthony Lopez, an appraiser with the L.A. County Assessor’s North District office in Sylmar. “There wasn’t a lot going on over there, property values were much lower. They’re not paying (assessments based on) current market values.” 

A vacant plot of land — which has been used in years past for the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival’s parking and shuttle service — located just down the road from Weste’s plots and owned by another owner, measures 166,947 square feet. It was valued at $1,263,800 in July 2020. Adjacent to that is another plot of land, also assessed on July 22, 2020, that is 176,246 square feet and was valued at $1,343,200. 

The city has said that the Dockweiler extension project would bring multiple benefits to the community, including improved pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle circulation, relief of traffic congestion on Newhall Avenue, and additional emergency access for Placerita Canyon residents. 

Residents, including Sandra Cattell, said at the time of the road’s approval that, with proposed lane additions, traffic would increase in the area. Others have said in past meetings on the issue that they did not understand why the city would be taking this route when other routes could be available.  

“We reject the extension — nobody who has stood there thinks this is a good idea; please reject the proposal,” Newhall resident Trisha Fasa said during a 2018 public meeting of the council. 

City spokeswoman Carrie Lujan said city officials could not immediately comment Thursday. Mayor Bill Miranda could not be reached Thursday evening.  

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