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Old Town Newhall
May-June 2006 • Year 12, Number 3.
Build The Future
With Eye On Past.

Editor and Publisher.

    "This project will change forever the face of Santa Clarita," City Manager Ken Pulskamp told the City Council during a March 7 study session.
    He wasn't exaggerating. Under the plans that are now being implemented, San Fernando Road will no longer be a major thoroughfare. It will be a quaint, tree-lined, two-lane street that's only five blocks long, ending in a "T" intersection at Lyons Avenue.
    And it won't be called San Fernando Road. The section from 5th Street/Newhall Avenue on the south to Lyons on the north will be renamed "Main Street." There will no longer be anything called "San Fernando Road" within Santa Clarita city limits. After all, many people moved to Santa Clarita to escape the San Fernando Valley, and they don't need reminders!
    What of San Fernando Road south of the Old Town, between 5th Street and Highway 14? Are they ripping it out?
    No. South of Old Town, the road that's called "San Fernando" today will be renamed "Newhall Avenue." It will continue north along its current alignment — on the west side of Old Town — to accommodate commuters traveling to and from Lyons and beyond to Valencia.
    What of San Fernando Road north of Old Town? Are they ripping it out?
    No. It's going to be called "Railroad Avenue." On the south, Railroad will start where it starts today (by the train tracks), and it will continue north to Bouquet Canyon as the road called "San Fernando" does today, to accommodate traffic to and from Saugus.
    The city is purchasing the old gas station property at the corner of Lyons and San Fernando for $860,000 to facilitate the realignment. (It also purchased the old Moore's submarine sandwich shop at 5th and San Fernando for $764,000 with the intent of building a children's museum or some other public amenity.)
    Confused? See the map on page 9.
    That's just the beginning.
    Or more like the middle.
    Right now, the city is in the process of identifying and hiring developers to build what they're calling "catalyst projects" — the city's first true "redevelopment" projects, as defined by law.
    (Much has happened since Newhall "revitalization" started in 1996 or so. But unlike "revitalization," which is just a word, "redevelopment" is the process of buying, assembling, reconstructing and often selling property. A redevelopment agency — such as the one that's redoing Newhall — is the only type of government entity in California that can resell property to a private party for public benefit — the benefit being the stimulation of the local economy.)
    For starters, the Santa Clarita Redevelopment Agency — governed by the members of the Santa Clarita City Council and run by city staff — will be working with developers and property owners to aquire parcels for a pair of new parking structures.
    Parking has long been a complaint among Old Town merchants. Many believe they'd do better business if it were easier for shoppers to park.
    Some of those merchants will have to move elsewhere. Either the Redevelopment Agency itself or an approved developer will build a "south" parking structure on San Fernando (Main Street) between 5th and 6th Streets. Much of the designated land is a privately owned parking lot now, but the new structure will actually consume fourteen separate parcels with five owners, including Roger Dunn Golf.
    Additionally, a "north" parking structure will take eight parcels from six owners — among them the Rendezvous bar, Take Two Thrift Shop, German Autohaus, Taco Llama and Newhall Muffler.
    Of note, the Rendezvous is the oldest building in Newhall that's still in its original location — and original use. It has been rebuilt through the decades, but it first went up in 1878. It is this editor's hope that the Rendezvous can be saved or at least incorporated somehow into the plan.
    Anther "catalyst" project is the "north civic site," on the north side of the future "T" intersection of Main Street and Lyons. Ten parcels and seven owners will give way to a library or other public building. Included is the Antique Flower Shop (see feature, page 6). City officials recognize its historic importance — it was Newhall's first jail — and plan to preserve it.
    The final "catalyst" project is transit-oriented housing in today's Community Center and Metrolink parking lot. Flooding issues must be resolved first, and one of the two parking structures must be in place before Metrolink will sign off.
    The demolition of the Tex Williams house on Maple Street in Newhall got past the folks at City Hall. The owner pulled a remodeling permit — not a demolition permit — and remodeled it all the way to the ground.
    Tex Williams was one of America's most popular Western recording artists of the 1940s-50s-60s. The demolition has moved the drafting of a historic preservation ordinance to the front burner. Ironically, it began as a goal of then-Mayor Laurene Weste in 2001; she's mayor again this year, and the ordinance is back.
    With the demolition of the Tex Williams house, there seems to be heightened recognition at City Hall of the need for an ordinance to preserve Newhall's — and Santa Clarita's — most important historic treasures before they're all gone.
    Stay tuned.

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