To some, perhaps, Ken Dean might seem what the press seems to a professional athlete: a necessary evil that is part of the job you just have to deal with. Eventually they’ll go away, only to resurface again later.
Dean has attempted to win a city council seat seven times without success, although he has come close three times. He’s back for an eighth try, loudly beating the same drum he always beats — bemoaning the traffic and congestion. Now he’s added a new wrinkle with the need for affordable housing.
This time, his chances might just be different. Dean says more people are coming around to his thinking and as proof he points to the last two elections in which he finished fifth both times and received the highest vote totals he ever has.
Additionally, Signal Editor Tim Whyte predicted Dean will win; and with Bob Kellar retiring, one seat is wide open.
It’s not like Dean is unfamiliar to city officials beyond shouting how bad traffic is. He has served on several city committees, including the formation, open space, housing and ridgeline committees. He also opposed the city council’s approval of placing a Mello-Roos tax on the ballot and led the charge to defeat it.
He’s not alone in his belief that traffic is worse. Two Canyon Country residents, Alan Ferdman and Rick Drew, said as much. Ferdman criticized the city for not doing enough, and Drew said it’s going to get even worse once the Vista Canyon, Mint Canyon Plaza and Skyline Ranch projects are completed and opened.
Then again, maybe this is just another example of Dean raising his voice and not enough people responding. In the past seven elections, he has received a combined 31,645 votes and never reached 10 percent. Twice, he finished second to last: 10th of 11 in 2006 and 12th of 13 in 1994.
Additionally, Whyte wrote that he was “taking a flier just for fun” in predicting Dean’s victory, and neither Ferdman nor Drew endorsed him.
But Dean marches on undeterred.
“Traffic and congestion is a nightmare and a disgrace,” he declared, “and nobody does a damn thing about it.”
Dean has plenty of examples, but his most common ones are the intersection of Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads, which he calls “a disgrace;” the section of McBean Parkway between Magic Mountain Parkway and Creekside Road and the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Ruether Avenue.
He also said what used to take him eight minutes to reach Valencia High via Newhall Ranch Road more recently took 20-25 “because (the city keeps) putting in traffic lights and doesn’t synchronize. The city says it’s synchronized. I say that’s insulting.”
Dean’s solution is to form two committees and task them with specific functions: a roads committee to develop roads through the Whittaker-Bermite area; and a traffic committee to synchronize signal lights and use bus egresses, or turn-ins, so stopped busses don’t block traffic lanes.
Doing nothing, he said, is out of the question because it would violate an early-cityhood objective to avoid turning into the San Fernando Valley. Now, Dean said, he has friends in Sherman Oaks and Studio City who say the traffic is worse in Santa Clarita.
Related to the traffic woes, he said, are the housing woes. If there is no affordable housing, people have to commute to the jobs, whether inside or outside of the city. More commuters mean more traffic. Therefore, affordable housing also is needed, he concluded.
Dean said he is excited for the new Costco to open at the Valencia Town Center. Costco typically hires minimum-wage workers, so he would like to see the city do something to make housing affordable for these and others.
To Dean, affordable housing means two-to-three bedroom units with one or two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area and family room. They could be as small as 1,200 square feet and cost between $350,000 and $400,000. “They can’t be all houses that sell for $600,000,” he said. “They don’t have to be 2,500 square feet.”
Dean states he knows one-bedroom apartment rents run about $1,800 a month, not including utilities, food, gasoline and entertainment. Renting a room costs about $800 a month. “There’s no affordable housing out here,” he added.
But make no mistake, housing is secondary to traffic and Dean will continue to sound the alarm as long as there is a reason to sound the alarm.
“Everybody I talk to says, ‘You know, you’re right. Traffic and congestion are the number one issue,” he said. “Traffic, traffic, traffic.”
Will the eighth time be enough? The election isn’t until November.
“I’m saying what people want to hear, and I’m consistent,” Dean concluded.