It is time for the West Ranch communities to fish or cut bait. Meaning, it is time for the west side of the Santa Clarita Valley to either annex into the city of Santa Clarita or form its own city. Staying in the unincorporated Los Angeles County is no longer tenable.
Last November, I attended the State of the City presentation by the city of Santa Clarita at the newly opened Canyon Country Community Center. The theme was “We are the champions!” — an opportunity for some City Council members to relive their glory days. That is, the past.
Fortunately, the audience was spared the tap dancing. In recent years these presentations have been synced up with each council member introducing their own video on an aspect of the city’s past year’s accomplishments. Substantively, it was impressive.
Over the city’s more than 30 years in existence, it has matured and grown. Much of that growth has been through acquisition of open space and annexation of new communities contiguous to the city’s boundaries.
More than 20 years ago, then-city-Councilman Frank Ferry came to a West Ranch Town Council meeting and did a very good impression of Nikita Khrushchev, sans banging a shoe on the speaker podium, warning unincorporated residents then that if we didn’t agree to annex into the city of Santa Clarita, he (the city) “would bury” us. Those were his precise words.
That never happened. The reason? The city refused to negotiate an annexation and there was little desire of residents to be part of the city. After all, then-Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, representing the 5th District of Los Angeles County, was very attentive to the unincorporated communities in the Santa Clarita Valley. If there were concerns or issues, he was quick to listen and to take necessary actions. That is no longer the case since Antonovich termed out of office.
The city has no interest in the West Ranch residents except the potential sales tax revenue windfall from The Old Road commercial corridor from Calgrove Boulevard to the Santa Clara River. It doesn’t want to negotiate an annexation because it wants to use that tax revenue as it pleases in other parts of the city. That might work if the City Council was more diverse and there was equality of representation, but that is not the case.
The city of Santa Clarita would have to change its current general-law form of government, which operates under a council-manager form of government, to a charter city that is district-based, and increase the number of City Council seats with a paid elected mayor. Doing so would increase diversity of the council and representation of all city residents.
Yet, the current Santa Clarita City Council is opposed to such a move simply because it will threaten their titular positions and ostensibly their perceived relevance. The likelihood of the city trying to change to a charter city is slim to none as it would upset the power structure.
So, if the city doesn’t wish to negotiate an annexation, which could change the city’s governing structure, then that leaves two other options. One, remaining in the unincorporated L.A. County or two, forming a new city.
As mentioned, staying in the unincorporated county is no longer tenable because the 5th District has turned its back on the West Ranch communities. Just drive through the community to see the deteriorating landscaping that is managed by the L.A. County Department of Public Works through the landscape maintenance districts. It is a problem exacerbated by the mismanagement of the LMDs.
Public Works is already sticking it to the Sunset Pointe homeowners with a proposed 1,000% increase in that community’s LMD fees. It is only a matter of time before the other West Ranch communities suffer the same fate.
The 5th District senior field deputy is ineffective in her ability to do anything other than fluttering around functions like a gadfly while shirking her responsibilities to the community. Issues take four or five months to be halfheartedly addressed while being pushed off to other county departments and individuals only to circle back to the field office where it should have been dealt with in the first place. It’s one hot mess that envelops the 5th District supervisor.
The solution that appears to be most plausible at this moment is for west side residents to form their own city. Past studies have shown that the sales tax revenue alone from the current commercial corridor along The Old Road will support a new city. Further, with reasonably new infrastructure in place in the existing communities, the city of West Ranch could flourish with additional revenues coming online as new communities and commercial centers, already underway on the west side, are built out and annexed into the new city.
There are naysayers who will come up with weak excuses as to why there shouldn’t be another city in the Santa Clarita Valley, but those are self-serving reasons by opportunists.
As an optimist, I point to the city of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood or Burbank and Glendale coexisting as neighbors. This is the rule, not the exception.
By forming the city of West Ranch, the residents will be able to take charge of their own destiny as a community while increasing the quality of life and their property values just like in any other highly desirable ZIP code.
Now is the time to start that effort so residents can take charge and get out from underneath the weight of a bloated county bureaucracy that has done nothing to fix the many issues our communities are facing. The county continues to drop the ball on vital services to our communities with no relief in sight — just excuses.
Forming a new city is no small undertaking and requires involvement of the community with years of hard work for it to come to fruition. But now is the time to plant that seed to see if this effort can grow into a strongly rooted, desirable municipality. If you live in the unincorporated west side communities, I encourage you to get more information and to get involved by visiting: www.cityofwestranch.com.
Dave Bossert is a long-time community volunteer who serves on several boards. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organizations he is affiliated with or those of The Signal.