No-kill shelter talks dogged by bickering

Politics and government

Despite the meeting agenda having a relatively small number of items for the Santa Clarita City Council to address, the latest council meeting Tuesday evening was not immune to animated back-and-forth discussion between members of the public, city staff and even the elected officials themselves.  

At the end of the public comment portion of the meeting, Councilwoman Marsha McLean attempted to address a now-regularly attending group of speakers who have for weeks advocated for the city to pursue developing and building a no-kill animal shelter.  

While attempting to address those who came to the podium on behalf of the no-kill animal shelter, McLean was cut off by Mayor Laurene Weste, who stated that she was breaking the council’s rules of order.  

“We don’t address public participation,” said Weste, “unless we’re having a whole council discussion about it.”  

McLean then pivoted to ask city staff directly what they would need from the City Council in order to conduct a feasibility study. Weste responded, saying that Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs, who had been a part of a meeting with the advocates in the days prior to Tuesday’s meeting, would be able to answer the question.   

“So, in other words, Madam Mayor, you are shutting me off and not allowing me to speak,” said McLean.  

“No, councilmember, we’re all going to have this discussion tonight,” said Weste. “Can you just let him go first?”  

“OK, I apologize to all of you that the mayor will not let me address…”  

“You will address, but let the man who was in the meeting go first.”  

During his time to report out from the dais about what he learned after sitting down with the no-kill shelter advocates, Gibbs said he had two takeaways: The residents are passionate, but this will not be a simple issue to solve.  

“It’s not just as simple as putting together money, putting up a building and having a shelter,” said Gibbs. “So, we are willing to look at it.” 

Gibbs said the council should ask city staff to investigate how the shelter would work as it relates to the services L.A. County already provides and how the shelter would be an ancillary resource to the county’s Castaic Animal Shelter.  

Despite the council members suggesting they’d be willing to work with the residents, the back-and-forth between the council members would make one more appearance.  

For approximately a year, city staff said they had been working on finding and developing a private sponsorship for The Cube. The deal, in exchange for an annual sum of cash, would give the sponsor prominent advertising space on the outside and inside of the building.  

Ultimately, the city staff made the recommendation to move forward with a sponsorship deal with FivePoint Holdings LLC — which is developing the 21,500-home planned community formerly known as Newhall Ranch, now bearing the Valencia name, along Highway 126. The agreement would amount to a total of $350,000 over the next seven years. 

However, McLean drew issue with the proposed design plans, saying that the “FivePoint” aspect overshadowed the city of Santa Clarita portion.    

“I’m not sure whether you can negotiate the size of ‘Valencia’ on the side or make ‘City of Santa Clarita’ much more prevalent,” said McLean. “This is the city of Santa Clarita’s Cube.” 

City Manager Ken Striplin said the designs provided for the council were not exactly final, but stated city staff had worked to ensure The Cube was the focal point of the signage.   

“This is where they’ve landed,” said Striplin. “We can certainly see if we can get a little smaller but I’m not overly confident that for the sponsorship that they’re giving that they’re going to be much amenable to making it much smaller.” 

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously in favor of approving the sponsorship deal.     

Additionally, although the topic was discussed again during a closed-door meeting before the regular meeting began, city staff said there was nothing required to report out regarding pending litigation against the city and its at-large election system.

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