Denial of Santa Clarita Land Use Plan Likely

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Clarita's attempt to gain greater influence over development erupting all around its borders, the city's third try since it incorporated in 1987, is expected to be rejected Wednesday by the Local Agency Formation Commission.

Developers, as well as some adjoining communities and residents of outlying rural areas, oppose expansion of the so-called sphere of influence, which paves the way for annexation of new neighborhoods into the city.

LAFCO staff members are recommending that the city be granted less than half the territory it says could be annexed within the next 20 years as new housing tracts stretch into undeveloped areas. A designated sphere is designed to give local governments greater say over housing density and land use issues beyond their borders.

Santa Clarita is seeking to expand its sphere from 47 square miles to 115 square miles all around the city's current borders. In contrast, a LAFCO report recommends the addition of a 32-square-mile area, roughly from the Saugus area on the northern border of the city to Angeles National Forest.

The LAFCO recommendation rejects territory west of the Golden State Freeway, including Stevenson Ranch and major projects by the Newhall Land & Farming Co., as well as land east of the Antelope Valley Freeway. Those areas have some of the heaviest concentrations of new development.

A public hearing before the nine-member commission is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday in the county Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles.

Spheres are intended to provide for organized community services and prevent duplication of such services as police, fire, parks, roads and flood control.

While sphere changes are common throughout the state--LAFCOs exist in every county--the magnitude of Santa Clarita's proposal is unusual, said Sandor Winger, legislative analyst for the Los Angeles County commission. "This is certainly the largest in recent years," he said.

After more than a year of intense campaigning, Santa Clarita officials said they are disappointed by the scaled-back staff recommendation. "The city believes we are a well-managed, appropriate level of government to provide these services and that the sphere of influence as we proposed is a reasonable request," said Jeff Lambert, director of planning and building.

"The proposal made by the city is overwhelmingly supported by all the regional agencies in this valley," Lambert added, saying those backers include area schools, water districts and businesses that believe they are affected by all of the surrounding development.

However, a LAFCO survey points to significant opposition from major developers and landowners such as Newhall Land, and surrounding communities and sites such as Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Among the most recent opponents is PacSun LLC, a Pasadena company whose plan to build 634 housing units on 1,300 acres southeast of the city was rejected in March by the Santa Clarita City Council. PacSun had wanted the city to to annex the project.

PacSun spokesman John W. Jameson called the council vote, which reflected heavy community opposition to the project, "a sign . . . to deny property owners reasonable rights to develop their property."

Others, including Newhall Land, said an expanded sphere "would only add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the planning process." They said future residents should determine their own political structure.

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