Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

City fails in saving landmarks.
Group issues 'report card'.
By SUSAN ABRAM, Staff Writer.
L.A. Daily News, Thursday, November 13, 2003.

SANTA CLARITA — The city of Santa Clarita received an F grade from the nation's largest historic preservation organization Wednesday for failing to safeguard historic landmarks and districts, a rank city officials dispute based on recent efforts to guard the area's rich cultural legacy.
    The Los Angeles Conservancy issued its first "Preservation Report Card," ranking a total of 89 local governments in Los Angeles County. According to the organization, 37 cities received grades of B through D, while 44 other cities, including Santa Clarita, received failing grades and were labeled "preservation truants" because no preservation protections were in place.
    "It takes hard work and dedication to develop a strong preservation program and constant vigilance to make sure it is effective," Linda Dishman, executive director of the conservancy, said in a prepared statement. "While some of our truants may be newer cities, they almost all have archaeological sites or historic buildings within their jurisdictions and need to implement ordinances to protect them."
    But Santa Clarita spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said the city has been proactive in its efforts to preserve several landmarks, implementing history into new construction projects.
    "The city incorporated an antique school bell at the Jan Heidt Metrolink station in downtown Newhall and that's one example," Ortiz said. "We have acquired 2,500 acres of open space."
    In July, the Santa Clarita City Council approved a 4.2 million-square-foot business park in Newhall on the condition that its developer would give the city $2.4 million in cash to preserve the Pioneer Oil Refinery there. Another example is the annual Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, which preserves the Valley's Western heritage, Ortiz said.
    In addition, Oritz said, the city has endorsed plans for a preservation ordinance and is working with the Santa Clarita Historical Society to account for all the historic places.
    "I think we are achieving preservation," Ortiz said. The conservancy "is looking at preservation from their viewpoint. I was surprised because it's one of the things we do very well."
    The conservancy based the grading system on a number of criteria, including whether an ordinance was in place to protect historic landmarks and districts.
    Other criteria included whether the jurisdiction has a dedicated preservation staff, a property tax incentive program for historic properties and an official historic preservation commission.
    Also ranked were the number of protected historic landmarks and districts within a community and how much power the local government has to protect them.
    The conservancy's Preservation Report Card was issued to mark the organization's 25th anniversary. It is the "largest historic preservation organization in the country, dedicated to the recognition, preservation, and revitalization of the architectural and cultural heritage of greater Los Angeles," according to the group.
    Along with Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village were graded F, while Long Beach, Pasadena, Santa Monica, South Pasadena, West Hollywood and Whittier earned an A. Calabasas, Lancaster, Palmdale and San Fernando each received a D and Los Angeles County got a D-minus grade.