By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
Local water officials are moving ahead with a plan to keep the existing map of their Santa Clarita Valley service area the way it is.
Right now, the service area is made up of three divisions — Canyon Country and Saugus to the north and east, Newhall on the south side of SCV and a western area that includes Valencia, Stevenson Ranch and Castaic.
Directors of the Santa Clarita Valley Water agency decided in a Zoom meeting Tuesday that the three divisions are almost perfectly balanced.
Although members of the public were invited Tuesday to take part in reviewing the agency’s electoral division boundaries, in the first of two state-mandated public meetings, no one from the public participated.
In the end, the board took no action, other than to proceed to its next public meeting with the understanding it had a consensus to keep the current division boundaries the way they are.
“At this point I’m very comfortable with what we have,” Director Bill Cooper said at the close of a presentation on the agency’s service area.
“It’s pretty hard to guess what developers are going to do,” he said. “Things can change dramatically in the next year or two.”
Members came to a consensus after Doug Johnson, president of the National Demographics Corp., explained the redistricting process, inviting discussion and any proposed changes to the map. There were none.
“Santa Clarita is obviously a fast-growth area but the growth has been fairly balanced,” he said, citing Census Bureau data estimating that nearly 286,000 people live in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“And, when we look at each of the existing divisions, they’re almost perfectly balanced,” he said, noting a less than 1% difference between any of the three divisions.
The SCV Water Agency, formed four years ago when local water suppliers merged, provides water service to about 75,000 business and residential customers.
On Tuesday, directors looked at the geography of its service area, its topography, taking into account natural and man-made boundaries, mindful to preserve its cohesiveness and integrity, and careful to weigh the impact of future growth.
“It’s only when we get to the very end of the decade,” Johnson noted. “When we finally trip over that 10% number and get to 11.82% difference between the largest and smallest (divisions), but it’s still remarkably close, especially in an area that’s growing so fast.”
Director Kathye Armitage picked up on the question of SCV growth.
“The expected growth is minimal in the next five years but I do think the expected growth, if the assumptions play out, do become significant.”
To that end, she suggested the board “accept the boundaries as they are for now but in the mid-point in 2027, five years from now, whoever’s on the board at that time, take a look and see if the assumptions are playing out correctly, see what the data looks like, and then if a decision (is needed) that the board do that then.”
In response, a couple of directors supported the idea in principle but didn’t want to dictate what a future board should do.
In the end, they agreed to hammer out a recommendation for the board to revisit the question of redistricting in five years.
Director Jerry Gladbach, reflecting on SCV’s growth, said: “It gives me reassurance that we’re good as we are for the next few years and, beyond that, who knows? But we can always take a look at it and whenever and modify that if necessary.”
No political favors
In making their assessment, board members had to make sure they didn’t draw divisions to favor or disfavor political incumbents, candidates, or political parties.
Redistricting is the process of adjusting the boundaries of election districts for cities, counties, school boards and water agencies.
Under state law, the agency, along with other local governments, must redistrict following population shifts based on federal census data once every 10 years to ensure communities have equal access to political representation.
This process is intended to ensure each elected board member represents about the same number of constituents and to determine which neighborhoods and communities are grouped into divisions to elect representatives.