Leon Worden

Help design tomorrow's city, tonight

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, June 5, 1996

hat's wrong with this city? I'll tell you.

One: with the possible exception of Valencia, we're becoming just like the San Fernando Valley. Two: they always stick the ugly stuff in Canyon Country.

Neither is entirely true, of course. But we hear it often enough -- in the supermarket, in the barber shop, in "Tell it to the Signal" -- to know that the sentiment can't be totally unjustified.

"I've always had a vague feeling that while we've been trying to do a better job than the San Fernando Valley, what was being built here was another San Fernando Valley," says Mayor Carl Boyer. "That's not very comforting, knowing that many people came here to get away from the San Fernando Valley."

Tonight, at Boyer's prompting, the City of Santa Clarita is asking all San Fernando Valley escapees, and everyone else, to skip Beverly Hills, 90210 (it's a repeat anyway) and become a part of the solution.

Your presence is requested at Canyon Country Park at 6:30 this evening, and at different locations every Wednesday night this month, to tell the city whether or not you think architectural guidelines would help preserve the essence, the "feel," of Santa Clarita's various communities as new development comes in.

It will either be a very long process, or a very short one. If most people believe there should be no standards, and everyone should be able to build in whatever style they want, it could be over in a few sittings.

On the other hand, if the majority of residents, business owners and builders believe the incorporation of architectural themes into their communities, or the preservation of those that already exist, will curb this San Fernando-ization, then there will be a whole series of questions for Santa Claritans to answer.

For instance, which architectural features make our various communities distinct, identifiable and special? Is it the wooden porticos in one place, the white stucco walls and red tile roofs in another, and so forth? Where, exactly, is Saugus?

And if some communities decide they want architectural standards, should those standards apply to residential development, or just new commercial?

What don't we like, anyway? The cookie-cutter look of box stores? Office buildings that look like fortresses? Condos that look like tenements? New subdivisions that look like every other peach-colored, neo-Mediterranean housing tract in Southern California?

Participants in these meetings might decide they want to develop architectural standards for builders to follow. More discount outlets, office buildings, condos and detached homes will come, of course, because property owners have the legal right to improve their land. Should those developments be compatible with the style of surrounding communities?

Make no mistake. Architectural guidelines are controversial. Developers will tell you the market dictates building styles. What was trendy ten years ago is now passé and wouldn't sell.

But would design standards necessarily infringe on property rights? No. Done thoughtfully, they can actually protect property rights -- the rights of current residents who don't want incompatible development to ruin their neighborhoods.

If someone anchors a raw metal trailer next to your landscaped Saugus home, your property values plummet. By the same token, if you're an owner on San Fernando Road and your neighbor follows the Western, Victorian or Spanish Colonial building styles that the community has outlined for that area, your property values go up. Carefully-crafted guidelines can protect property values.

Developers could benefit, too. The lengthy permit process would be streamlined if everyone knew, up front, what patterns each community wanted new construction or remodeling to follow.

The mayor has no preconceived notions about what Santa Claritans will want to do.

"I want to find out if our residents want architectural guidelines, and give them an opportunity to develop their own guidelines, community by community, even neighborhood by neighborhood," Boyer says. "It could go in any direction, and it will work only if everyone who feels ill at ease about the way our valley is going starts working hand-in- glove with the business and development community to create something wonderful."

First on the agenda is figuring out if the public wants to develop guidelines. Then, if so, where? And on what? Residential? Commercial? Both?

Tell the city tonight.

For more information call Mike Rubin at the City of Santa Clarita, 255-4949.

- - -

Don't wait until the last minute to turn in entry forms for the combined Fourth of July-Frontier Days Parade! If you need forms, call 297-5261.

And YES, THERE WILL BE FIREWORKS at Frontier Days on the Fourth of July!

    Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.

comments powered by Disqus