Gary Horton | In Praise of Infrastructure

Gary Horton

Red tape. Excessive review. Burdensome requirements. We hear it all the time about government review of building projects and developments. A little less so here in the Santa Clarita Valley; a lot more in L.A. County – but generally, builders of all types wish and plead for quicker processing of their projects and less government oversight. And, to an extent, they are well justified.  

But “Hurricane” Hilary this past Sunday put a great big exclamation point behind much of the planning and process we have built into our land use planning, grading permits and building codes. One might notice the SCV didn’t make the news for homes floating away down river, like we often see with perpetually flooding Southern states. 

I ride my bike around much of the SCV most mornings. (Try it, it’s fun. You meet people, and it’s an excellent way to stay in shape. Good for the brain, too.). Today’s ride revealed some unexpected results. 

The Santa Clara River was nearly empty. Just two days ago it was raging rapids behind the auto mall and today it’s just a sandy bird sanctuary with a few ponds scattered here and there. 

Indeed, all around the center of town was nary a puddle. And this, after a once-in-75-year storm, dumping over 5 inches of rain in our valley over 24 hours. We’ve had drought years with only twice that much rain over an entire year! 

And today, here we are, warm and dry.  

Consider, we have over 250,000 souls in the SCV. Tens and tens of thousands of houses and as many apartment units. We’ve built these dwellings up hills and down hills and in valleys and on plateaus. And still, the water pretty much went exactly where it was supposed to go. 

That’s quite an engineering feat – to take the best Mother Nature has thrown at us and have our infrastructure quietly do its job and keep us safe. Hat’s off to the L.A. County and SCV planners who somehow make all the grades work as they should in the SCV.  

I do recall as a kid in the San Fernando Valley, heavy winter storms would bring water all the way up to our porch from the street. They’ve since fixed most of that problem, but the SFV never was SCV as far as planning goes. 

So, next time you see a Building and Safety or Public Works employee, give ’em a high five. You can’t hug them due to H.R. regulations – but a high five should pass the “no touching” test … 

Speaking of planning – let’s hope the City Council greenlighted the Shadowbox Studios development last night. If you’ve been reading this paper, you know Shadowbox is a very large proposed sound and video production stage facility located right here in town. Covering dozens of acres, Shadowbox promises to bring in 3,000-plus high-paying jobs for many local workers. 

Think local, clean jobs. No emissions, no fumes, no dumping anything. It’s also located next to Metrolink and bus access. 

But mostly, our own local population will have dibs and some truly great, fun, solid middle-class-paying jobs. And isn’t this what we want for our valley? Ditch the commutes and employ locally? What a win for SCV if it passed.   

I personally know the value of a local job. I relocated my own company, Landscape Development Inc., from the SFV to the SCV some 33 years ago. 

My commute, and the commute of most of our large office staff, is a mere 10-20 minutes. Our people appreciate it, and the quick commute keeps the load on our freeways down. 

Most valuable of all is the quality of life local, short-commute jobs can provide. I spend perhaps 1.6 hours total to and from work each week, like many of our staff. We save at least a full 10-15 hours of behind-the-wheel time for own personal living simply by working inside the SCV. 

Again, credit our planners with an additional shout-out to the SCV Economic Development Corp., which together help bring quality companies to build facilities right here close to home. 

Speaking of close to home and infrastructure, here’s something you’ll be hearing more and more about: The College of the Canyons ATC, or Advanced Training Center. 

Always on the cutting edge of what a community college can provide to the community, COC has developed a new high-tech business curriculum focused on training our SCV workforce and students for the demands of our fast-paced and ever-changing future. 

Soon to fire up in a temporary facility, local general contractor powerhouse Intertex Co. is already developing a permanent home for this skills training center devoted to building a highly skilled local workforce, which itself draws high-tech, high-pay jobs to our local area. It’s a synergistic solution solving problems as diverse as employment relevancy in a changing world, to companies’ needs for exacting skills, to cutting personal commute times, to providing more time for families to grow together. 

Win, win, win. More to come on this one as it further unfolds … 

Perhaps one day the SCV will look like the Jetsons. Until flying cars park at COC’s fancy parking lot of the future, our city’s infrastructure just subdued the powerful will of Mother Nature. 

Tomorrow, we’ll subdue the demands of a fast-paced world.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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