Santa Clarita Kills 135-Acre Housing Plan


The Santa Clarita City Council, ending the most divisive and bitter dispute in the young city's history, on Tuesday night voted to kill a proposal that would have netted the city millions of dollars in new roads in exchange for the council's approval of a controversial housing project.

The council voted 4 to 1 to deny without prejudice the Santa Catarina project proposed by G.H. Palmer Associates. Councilman Carl Boyer III dissented.

Mayor Jo Anne Darcy, who had long tried to forge a compromise to let Santa Catarina proceed, said she could no longer support the project because of its potential impact on the environment, particularly a nearby stream.

Darcy, repeating concerns raised by critics of the proposal during months of public hearings, also said the 135-acre site in Canyon Country was not suited to high-density development. Homeowners living near the proposed Santa Catarina site had waged a vociferous, high-profile campaign against the Santa Catarina project for months.

Darcy had been viewed as the swing vote on the council. Councilwomen Jan Heidt and Jill Klajic had opposed the project earlier.

The proposal was modified many times during the past six months as city planners and representatives from Palmer Associates tried to hammer out a deal that would let the company build a condominium project in return for substantial contributions to roads badly needed in a city choked by traffic.

One proposal would have let Palmer Associates build 1,452 units in return for more than $55 million in road projects in and around the proposed development. The Santa Catarina site is north of Soledad Canyon Road and southwest of Ermine Street.

Developer Dan Palmer offered yet another compromise to the council Tuesday night. Among other things, he offered to build no more than 800 units and said he would redesign the project to protect the nearby stream.

But Heidt, saying Santa Clarita should not even consider such a giant project until the city has completed its general plan, made a motion that the project be denied.

Boyer tried to save the project, moving that the city retain an outside mediator to work with Palmer, the council and homeowners to find a solution. His motion died without a second.

Critics and supporters of the project, however, agreed on one point Tuesday: The debate over Santa Catarina destroyed the sense of civic unity that prevailed in Santa Clarita shortly after it incorporated on Dec. 15, 1987.

Darcy said there have been 10 council meetings and three Planning Commission hearings on the project. "It has literally torn this community apart," Darcy said.

"This is a community sharply divided," Palmer said. He added: "I think it's time for this community to heal its wounds and lay down its swords."

Boyer and Darcy said Tuesday that in recent weeks they had received increasing amounts of hate mail and threatening phone calls from opponents. "I have received slashed pictures of myself--eight of them," Darcy said.

Darcy said she disliked those tactics but they did not influence her vote.

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