Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment is celebrating 35 years of standing up for the environment and quality of life in the Santa Clarita Valley. Formed the same year as the city of Santa Clarita (1987) by 18 residents with a goal of watching over our river, oaks and open spaces as the valley grew, SCOPE members were involved with city formation and many of its first ordinances, including the oak tree and ridgeline ordinances.
SCOPE has had many successes that improved our quality of life through legal challenges and legislation. We provided seminars on various topics, conservation tours, and lobbied for legislation to support a healthy environment. Besides open spaces, we focused on water and air pollution with Whittaker-Bermite, Cemex mine and Chiquita Canyon Landfill being major areas of concern.
One of our first actions in 1991 was to protect the Valley Oak Savannah, a county-designated significant ecological area, to ensure elementary school children were protected from dust pollution as housing was built. With a successful court ruling, we ensured 150 acres of oak savannah along Interstate 5 remained and an air filtering system was placed in the school.
We worked with school districts and the county library to ensure adequate funding for schools and library were incorporated in development fees so the public would not suffer a reduction in services.
In 2003 we initiated the “great urban tree sit” to save the 400-year-old oak, “Old Glory.” John Quigley sat in this tree for 71 days. The developer agreed to move it to a nearby park, where it still thrives.
In 2006 we made a settlement with an auto dealership over a river alteration permit that provided a $25,000 planning grant for restoration on a portion of Bouquet Creek. Now complete, it provides habitat along this tributary to the Santa Clara River next to Central Park.
Our biggest long-term effort has been the Newhall Ranch project. In 2002, we won the court battle to ensure it would have an adequate water supply. The project was set aside by the state Supreme Court in 2015 over failure to address climate change. It was reapproved with better mitigation and a requirement for solar roofs. This resulted in legislation requiring solar roofs on all new housing throughout California.
Since 2014 we worked with Val Verde to stop or mitigate the effects of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. We were successful in getting the county to provide a summary and all notices in Spanish and English to this majority Spanish-speaking community. We also secured air quality monitoring requirements, odor reporting and a health study. We continue to work with the community to ensure their enforcement.
SCOPE worked with the local community college to get 68 valley oak saplings planted in the college’s conservation easement to replace others that died in the previous drought.
In 2019, SCOPE Radio began broadcasting to the SCV. Among music and talk shows, we air “Bird Notes” from Cornell University, “Climate Connections” from Yale and “Extinction Diaries,” produced by high school students about species loss.
Last year we focused on wildlife corridors and wildfire evacuation. We worked with Sand Canyon residents to block the loss of that corridor and ensure a safe evacuation route. We also brought the Los Pinetos Wildlife underpass to the attention of legislators, leading to funding to acquire property around it.
This year our group voted to focus on plastic reduction, wildlife corridors, the California Environmental Quality Act and the Santa Clara River. Of course, as the founder of the Sierra Club famously said, “Everything is connected to everything else.” So really, that work will include air and water quality, environmental justice issues and global warming.
SCOPE is an example of “think globally, act locally.” We know that even though our group is local, we have made a difference in the SCV, our community and for the world.