Local population growth no surprise for public service providers

The Plum Canyon area including the future Skyline Ranch and Toll Brothers developments in the distance are set to be annexed into the city of Santa Clarita. They are currently in unincorperated Los Angeles County. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Recently released 2020 Census data showing that the city of Santa Clarita added more than 52,000 people in the past 10 years did not come as a surprise to those charged with providing a range of public services to the residents of the city and Santa Clarita Valley. 

The city’s population grew by 29.7% to 228,673 people since 2010, nearly twice as much as the 16.7% population increase between 2000 and 2010. 

That growth was not unexpected, according Gary Martin, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency board of directors. 

He said the district’s Urban Water Management Plan prepared this year concluded that the district’s water supply will meet the demands of a growing city and valley through 2050 thanks to a “diversified water supply portfolio that accounts for population growth and the resulting water supply demands.” 

That plan estimated that it served 289,192 people in 2020 and projected it will need to deliver water to 362,100 people valley-wide in 2030 and 432,200 people in 2050. 

Martin said that seasonal issues like droughts seem difficult, but the district’s water sources have prepared it to meet the valley’s growing water demands. 

“We’ve got water parked up in the Central Valley. We’ve got other supplemental sources that will add to our local…aquifer supplies,” he said. “So, we can meet demand. That’s what the numbers say.” 

Population growth has impacted local schools, too. 

The Valencia development formerly known as Newhall Ranch, a 22,000-home FivePoint Valencia community near Six Flags Magic Mountain that is currently under construction, will add three new schools to the Newhall School District, according to Jeff Pelzel, the district’s superintendent. 

“Which is a lot when we only have 10 (schools),” he told The Signal. “We’re just in the planning stages. We selected an architect for our first school.” 

Despite 10 years of population growth in the city, in the Newhall School District, which serves 5-year-old through 12-year-old students, enrollment has declined from 6,800 to 5,800 students over the past eight years.  

“Because there’s not been a lot of movement with the housing market, our kids have aged out of our system,” said Pelzel, noting that the district has tried to mitigate the decline by enrolling students from outside of its boundaries. 

He called the new development west of Interstate 5 significant for his district. 

“The majority of those families will end up residing in our school district,” Pelzel said. “So, valley wide, we’re going to see some significant growth over the next 10 to 15 years.” 

Sulphur Springs Union School District recently turned around declining student enrollment this year, according to Catherine Kawaguchi, the elementary school district’s superintendent. 

Serving the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley, Sulphur Springs’ enrollment has also benefited from housing developments. 

Kawaguchi said families locating to the Skyline Ranch and Vista Canyon developments have fed into her district. 

“We’re very fortunate we’re able to accommodate all the students,” she said. “And what we’ve done also is we are building two classroom wings on Pinetree Community School and Sulphur Springs Community School to accommodate for the growth.” 

Each wing includes 12 classrooms, which will serve the children of families that are already in Santa Clarita as well as those moving to the area. 

“Santa Clarita is a great place to live and I think one of the main things that I think (is) drawing our families is we have great schools,” she said. 

Arthur Sohikian, executive director of the North Los Angeles County Transportation Coalition, said the joint powers authority he oversees uses a broader regional framework directed by the Southern California Association of Governments to plan for a growing population in north Los Angeles County.  

“We are constantly advocating for transportation funding both for highways – Interstate 5, (State Route) 14, (State Route) 138 – and for transit – both our transit operators and Metrolink’s Antelope Valley line,” he said. “So, we want to increase service.” 

Sohikian said planning for the proper infrastructure for a growing region, which includes the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, has been an ongoing effort. A July 2020 letter to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority authored by Sohikian noted chokepoints on local freeways and increased ridership on the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line. 

“It’s very important for our region to always try to put our local planning together so that we speak with one voice,” he said. 

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