Santa Clarita : New City Opens for Business

Times Staff Writer

Amid fanfare befitting the occasion, the City of Santa Clarita was born Tuesday night during a festive but dignified ceremony attended by more than 2,000 people at College of the Canyons in Valencia.

“I’ve been at many impressive events, and I’ve even been honored at some, but nothing has thrilled me more or given me more goose bumps than this event,” said state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia). He added that he is proud to be a resident of the city.

City Council members enacted a moratorium on the cutting of oak trees, a longtime issue in the area. They also dealt with several routine ordinances, most of them, contracts negotiated beforehand that are needed to continue Los Angeles County services. The council appointed E. Fredrick Bien as interim city manager and city clerk, and Carl Newton as city attorney. Bien and Newton already are on the job.

Decisions Delayed


But the council delayed most hard decisions until a meeting at 7:30 p.m. tonight, when topics are to include creation of a planning commission, discussion of a proposed dump site in Elsmere Canyon on the city’s southern border, and repayment of $2.7 million in fees for services that the county will provide through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“We wanted to emphasize the celebration aspect tonight,” said Mayor Howard P. (Buck) McKeon.

Residents of the new city were joined at the ceremony by well-wishers from other Los Angeles County cities and elected national, state and local officials.

Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) said she had witnessed the birth of three cities now. “I was there for the birth of Simi Valley, where I live, and of Solvang, and now Santa Clarita, whose time has come.”


She cautioned the new City Council to be strong and responsible to the people. “Remember you can never be any wiser than the people you represent,” Wright said.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich said, “You have a great city here, and we look forward to working with you.”

The Saugus High School band played as guests were seated in the college auditorium.

Before the 7:30 p.m. program, a slide show featured scenes in the new city, the county’s 85th. The slides were presented to a variety of recorded music, ranging from the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School” to John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”


As the Hart High School Band played and the audience applauded and cheered, the five City Council members-elect were escorted to the stage by members of local youth groups. Youths from various area groups paraded around the auditorium as members of the audience applauded loudly.

Red, white and blue decorations lent a patriotic flavor to the evening. Red poinsettias and small American flags encircled the stage.

After the singing of “America” by College of the Canyons student Melanie Usher, Clyde Smyth, temporary presiding officer, called the meeting to order. Scott Seamons, a Sulphur Springs school board member, sang “The Impossible Dream,” and audience members joined hands and swayed back and forth as Allan Cameron, a member of the City of Santa Clarita Formation Commission, led a sing-along of “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” City Council members were sworn in by Appellate Court Judge Roger W. Boren, a local resident.

Smyth, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District, presided over the election by the new council members of McKeon, 49, as mayor and Jan Heidt, 48, as mayor pro tem.


The election was a formality since council members already had agreed to abide by a tradition followed by new cities in which the top vote-getter in the election serves as the first mayor, and the second highest vote-getter becomes mayor pro tem.

Five Elected

McKeon, Heidt, Dennis Koontz, 47, Carl Boyer III, 49, and Jo Anne Darcy, 56, were elected from a field of 25 candidates Nov. 3. Voters overwhelmingly approved cityhood in the same election.

After the formality of electing McKeon and Heidt, Smyth handed the gavel to McKeon. It was at that point that the city was officially born.


Council members made brief remarks.

Koontz called on the audience to volunteer for city commissions and advisory groups. “We want you to help us do your work,” Koontz said.

Boyer asked the audience to have patience and accept the fact that it may take years to solve some of the problems of the new city. He also urged residents to have the courage to be part of the solution to those problems.

Heidt acknowledged that the newly elected are amateurs. But quoting former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin, she said: “We need leaders with the customer’s point of view.”


“The tortuous path from the county to the city--we’re now ready to get on with it,” she said.

McKeon compared the city to an acorn’s growth into a strong oak tree. “In our drive toward cityhood, we have overcome obstacles and become stronger in the process,” McKeon said.

The 40-square-mile City of Santa Clarita includes 110,000 residents who live in the communities of Newhall, Saugus, Valencia and Canyon Country. Residents gave the new city their overwhelming support Nov. 3 because of a long-time desire in the area for self-government.

Santa Clarita Valley residents unsuccessfully attempted to break away from Los Angeles County rule by forming their own county in 1976 and 1978. During the last 25 years, there also have been numerous other Santa Clarita cityhood attempts, but none made it to the ballot.