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Friday, February 13, 2009

North L.A. County City is Buying a Ring of Green Space Around the City

excerpted from the L.A. Times, February 12, 2009

for full story:,0,3961129,full.story

...To that end, the city of Santa Clarita has launched a full-court press to acquire and protect the wealth of unspoiled lands and wildlife sanctuaries that surround the Los Angeles County suburb.

"The goal is to get open space all the way around the city," said Weste, who has championed the cause for more than three decades.

In 2007, Santa Clarita property owners helped put the city one step closer to that goal when they voted to create an Open Space Preservation District.

It will secure a greenbelt buffer around the city by saving lands from development while protecting rare biological and geological regions and establishing additional trails and parklands....

The fees currently earn the city about $1.2 million a year, officials said. ...

But few cities have established a system that requires property owners to pay for creating a greenbelt, she said.

Property owners in the part of Los Angeles that includes the Santa Monica Mountains agreed to such a measure in 2002. It has so far resulted in the preservation and protection of almost 2,000 acres of open space, Stolarz said.

Santa Clarita has already acquired more than 3,200 acres, officials said.

The plan is for the greenbelt to stretch across the San Gabriel and Santa Susana mountains and create wildlife corridors in the Angeles National Forest.

In addition to buying land, Santa Clarita is partnering with public agencies such as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to acquire property.

The city also hopes to persuade would-be developers to donate land in exchange for the opportunity to build housing tracts or commercial centers.

Such was the case with Golden Valley Ranch, a 1,200-acre swath of land where developers had planned to build hundreds of homes and a retail center.

After years of negotiations, the developers agreed to donate 900 acres, which will remain open space, said Rick Gould, Santa Clarita's director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services...

...In the 1970s, she and county planners walked the entire Santa Clarita Valley. Weste noted every mountain range, suggested routes for trails and urged the creation of a non-motorized integrated trail system throughout the valley.

"You can't put a price on this," Weste said, describing the rugged recreational land that surrounds Santa Clarita. "Its value is incalculable. It will grow forever. I truly believe that this is the single legacy Santa Clarita will have for its future."

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