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Old Town Newhall
November-December 2007 • Year 13, Number 4.
Where Is Gate-King?
Editor and Publisher.

    The Gate-King Industrial Park on the historic Needham Ranch was going to revolutionize Newhall.
    A mile-long stretch of fallow, fire-ravaged land just south of our Old Town was going to become productive. Office and light manufacturing buildings were going to be tucked neatly against the hillsides, with trees planted all around them.
    The business park was going to create eight thousand new jobs for all manner of executives, skilled workers and semi-skilled workers, without bringing so much as one new resident to our valley. It was all business. No homes.
    It was going to help the mom-and-pop shops in Newhall because those eight thousand workers were going to need to go into town to eat lunch and shop for their office parties.
    It was going to help Newhall as a whole because the developer was going to cut a check for nearly three million dollars to pay for even more public improvements in the greater Newhall area.
    It was going to generate sales- and use-tax revenues for city coffers where none is being generated today.
    It was going to be a shot in the arm for the cityís new Open Space Preservation District because almost half of the land, the best parts, where a stream runs through a beautiful oak grove, was going to be donated to the city as public parkland, free of charge.
    It was going to help the coyotes and the deer and the bunny rabbits because it was going to fund a wildlife corridor — sort of the animal version of a Valencia paseo.
    It was going to enable the city to protect and preserve the Pioneer Oil Refinery, the oldest existing refinery in the Western Hemisphere, which was in operation from 1876 to 1888 and gave birth to the California oil industry.
    It was going to include a trail for joggers and bike riders with interpretive signs pointing out the historical "stuff" along the way, such as the old Southern Pacific Railroad tunnel, which isnít easily accessed by foot today.
    And it was all going to start right around now.
    So where is it?
    Itís on hold.
    Itís still tied up in court.
    It seems there are those who donít believe weíve got enough water in this valley to support it.
    Never mind that weíre hooked up to the State Water Project. Never mind that we havenít had a water shortage since the 1970s, when we had a third as many homes as weíve got today. Never mind that there seems to be plenty of water in every OTHER part of town for new construction, if those bulldozers on all of the local hillsides are an indication.
    These misguided litigants would just as soon stop all growth in our valley and theyíre using the Gate-King Industrial Park as a test case — and Newhall is the loser for it.
    Itís ironic, really. Newhall is where the water is. Newhall is where the water always has been.
    Newhall started out in 1876 in what would later be known as Saugus, around the K-Mart shopping center. Two years later it moved to its present Old Town location. Why? Too hard to pump the water in Saugus. There was a natural artesian spring in Newhall, so the whole town picked up and moved, lock, stock and barrel — shops and two-by-fours and train station and all.
    And guess where that artesian spring was and is? Right on the Pine Street side of the Gate-King property.
    In fact, thatís why the Pioneer Oil Refinery was put there. They moved it from todayís Eternal Valley Cemetery to Pine Street in 1876 because it needed water for cooling — and so did the folks at the oil fields six miles away in Mentryville. They sent their oil down in one pipe and another pipe brought water from a pumping station next to the refinery. (Some people believe the same line was used for oil and water, but your editor isnít convinced. There is more than one pipe there, and besides — yuck.)
    Do you think it is sheer coincidence that the offices of the Newhall Water Company, now known as the Newhall County Water District, were built right along the artesian spring on Pine Street?
    Again, the Needham Ranch wouldnít bring so much as one new home to our valley. To think there isnít enough water for a business park is absurd — and, for Old Town Newhall, hurtful.
    Enough with the bad news. Thereís plenty of good news coming out of our Old Town, and if youíve seen it lately, you know there is a whole lot of change going on.
    The streets are entirely different from what they were a year ago. We have angle parking, and following an unpopular experiment with "backing in," drivers head into the parking spaces now.
    Under the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan that the City Council adopted, the "San Fernando Road" name goes away. Weíve already seen it replaced with "Main Street" in the Old Town section, and sometime in 2008, the southern end should be replaced with "Newhall Avenue" to Highway 14. The intersection at 5th Street will have to be reconfigured so that the "new" Newhall Avenue (ex-San Fernando Road) merges fluidly into the "old" Newhall Avenue.
    There has been some recent discussion of what should happen with the San Fernando Road name north of our Old Town. Under the Specific Plan, the "Railroad Avenue" name would extend all the way north to Magic Mountain Parkway, where Bouquet Canyon Road begins (or ends, if youíre driving south). Bouquet wouldnít change from what it is today; north of Newhall, "San Fernando" would become "Railroad."
    Ultimately the City Council will decide how and when the names will change. In November the Newhall Redevelopment Committee voted 9-4 to deviate from the Specific Plan and endorse a new proposal by city staff to replace the whole thing with "Bouquet," getting rid of both San Fernando Road and Railroad Avenue.
    On November 13 the City Council voted 5-0 to postpone the matter until more businesses and residents could be polled.
    In your editorís opinion, it would be a shame to eliminate the "Railroad Avenue" name for both historical and practical reasons. Historically, Railroad Avenue was the Santa Clarita Valleyís Genesis street. All businesses were located there in 1878 after the town moved from K-Mart. The townsfolk put the train station there and naturally called the street in front of it "Railroad."
    And from a practical standpoint, every Old Town planner the city has hired has said itís important for visitors to know where the Old Town is — and isnít. Names are big way for both locals and tourists to know where they are. Weíve got Newhall names in Newhall, Saugus names in Saugus, Valencia names in Valencia, Canyon Country names in Canyon Country, and so forth.
    The strongest names in Old Town Newhall that create a "sense of place," telling you where you are, are Newhall Avenue, Railroad Avenue, Market Street and a few others. If someone says "Railroad Avenue," you think "Newhall." Or maybe you think "train station." Thatís OK, too. Thatís where it is.
    One idea might be to bring the name "Bouquet" south to the natural delineation between Newhall and Saugus, i.e., the Wiley-Princessa bridge, where the old Hi Chic diner used to be. That way, the Saugus Cafť, the Saugus Industrial Center (ex-Thatcher Glass), Pueblo Building Materials and the Circle J tract would have a Saugus street name. After all, theyíre in Saugus.
    Funny thing about Bouquet Canyon: It was originally Cañon del Buque, the old Californio word for "ship." It never meant flowers. Today itís spelled "Bouquet" and it means youíre in Saugus.

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