Traffic is probably the number one issue in Santa Clarita today. It manifested itself by our city allowing development, without providing sufficient infrastructure to support the increased traffic flow. What makes it even worse is, City of Santa Clarita codes allow each new development to be under-parked (not having sufficient parking spaces to accommodate its residents), thereby also creating city streets and adjacent neighborhoods packed with parked cars. If the situation was not bad enough, our City Council created a public transportation system, which in many cases, has buses stopping in high flow traffic lanes further restricting traffic flow.
Even the “Cross Valley Connector” (Newhall Ranch Road) which was opened with a fanfare and speeches telling us of a new way to cross our valley, has currently become developed to such an extent, traffic regularly sits idly in long lines waiting for left turn arrows to move cars out of the way, so other traffic can flow freely. For now, additional major road construction in Santa Clarita is at a standstill. We have been waiting a very long time for the two halves of Via Princessa to be merged by construction through Bermite property, and it looks like we will be waiting for many years to come.
I’m betting all our long-term residents remember a time when traffic congestion was not an issue. Yet, while our city politicians brag we are the third largest city in Los Angeles County by population, they do not seem to have much of an answer for the problems it has created. Just like any other municipality, our city is comprised of many categories of streets and roads. There are residential streets, collector streets, arterial roads and highways. As you might imagine, each type of street and road has a different intended purpose, and whenever those purposes are ignored to improve traffic flow, a major resident uprising has occurred. It is easy to understand why residents who live on a quiet residential street do not want to see changes which bring high traffic flow in front of their home.
For example, there was the situation at Benz Road. City planners linked Bouquet Canyon with Copper Hill via David Way. With a traffic signal to allow left turns, traffic was supposed to turn onto David Way, make a left turn on Copper Hill. Next, drivers would immediately be subjected to a 4-way stop at Katherine before being allowed to progress. It was inconvenient and frustrating. To resolve the issue, then Councilmember Ferry told the community “a road is a road” and we need to use any road at our disposal to improve traffic flow. Our city council voted to open Benz Road to Copper Hill, and this quiet residential street became a primary “cut through” traffic path in avoidance of David Way. Only after residents complained vigorously for a very long time, were stop signs and speed cushions installed to help mitigate the problem.
While the situation at Benz Road is one example, there also have been others. Affected residents are always told, what we (the city) did was planned all along and you should have been aware of it. Even if it was true, city planners, and the County before them, should not have allowed a developer to build a residential street, when they planned to use it later for another purpose.
Today, Placerita Canyon and Dockweiler Drive residents are faced with a city proposal to construct an extension of Dockweiler Drive to Railroad Avenue. A Public Hearing was opened at the February 27 City Council Meeting. The staff report indicated the project was part of the General Plan, was identified as a Santa Clarita key transportation project, and the Joint Highway Plan designates Dockweiler Drive as a “Secondary Highway.” They have got to be kidding. Where is the Primary Highway going in the same direction? Area residents came out to the hearing and seemed to speak with one voice. They advocated for the extension, if built, to be connected to Market Street, to avoid increased traffic on their residential access routes.
So, here is the major rub and why the city is pushing the issue. Connecting Dockweiler Drive to Market Street instead of 13th Street eliminates the road crossing Councilmember Weste’s property and thereby does not provide and increase her property’s value. (Councilmember Weste did recuse herself and was not part of the discussion). Reading the Staff Report showed, parking on Dockweiler needed by the current residents will initially remain, but could be eliminated when proposed development causes traffic flow to reach a certain level. Then, where will the current residents park? Will they also be just told, they should have known? Lastly, the project will be constructed with Proposition C Grant funding and therefore lower the financial commitment needed of future development.
Fortunately, the decision on how to proceed has not been finalized. If you want to express your opinion or are just interested in how this project turns out, the Public Hearing will be continued at the April 10 City Council Meeting. Remember to watch this issue closely because, what happens anywhere in our city is an indicator of how your neighborhood could be impacted in the future.
The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette