Santa Clarita gained a bit more say Wednesday over development outside its borders, but far less than the city had sought.
The Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission approved the addition of 32 square miles to the city's so-called sphere of influence, largely in the Saugus area, from the city's northern border to Angeles National Forest.
The commission, however, declined to include another 36 square miles outside the city where the most extensive development is underway or proposed.
A sphere of influence serves as a planning guide to determine areas that eventually could be incorporated into a city. Its purpose is to ensure that a growing region receives adequate services, such as schools, roads, police, fire and utilities.
LAFCO staff members recommended a smaller sphere for Santa Clarita after a number of major developers and landowners argued that services provided by Los Angeles County are sufficient.
The excluded areas are west of the Golden State Freeway and encompass Stevenson Ranch and the planned Westridge and Newhall Ranch projects of Newhall Land & Farming Co. Also deleted from the city's request is land east of the Antelope Valley Freeway, site of the proposed 1,300-acre Golden Valley Ranch development.
Mayor Laurene Weste and City Council members Frank Ferry and Cameron Smyth argued for expanding the sphere from 47 square miles--territory now within the city's borders--to 115 square miles. Since incorporation in 1987, the city has steadily grown through 21 annexations approved by LAFCO, mostly sought by residents of new housing developments after projects were completed.
But LAFCO Executive Director Larry Calemine recommended a smaller region, excluding areas where major landowners oppose expansion of the sphere.
"My choice is to leave the people out who don't want to be in," said LAFCO Chairman Henri Pellissier, though he conceded that some requests for exclusion could not be honored because they would create "islands" surrounded by the included area.
In arguing for a larger sphere of influence, Smyth said residents of the area already use the city's services.
"They use city roads. They use park and recreation facilities. It's important that as the valley grows, the council has a voice," he said.
Smyth added that the city has overcome major criticisms lodged during two previous attempts to expand its sphere of influence, including establishing a track record showing the city is financially healthy.
Representatives of the Stevenson Ranch Town Council and the local Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors testified in support of the city's application.