by Ken Pulskamp, Retired City Manager
I have a unique perspective on the City’s first quarter century, largely because I have been here for virtually all of it. When I arrived in mid-1988, the City of Santa Clarita was in its infancy. An infrastructure study conducted shortly after cityhood revealed in excess of a billion dollar deficit in roads, parks, trails, sewers, schools and other needs. We definitely had our work cut out for us in those early years and in retrospect, the City did not disappoint!
I recently thumbed through our very first five year strategic plan, created in 1989 and took a walk down memory lane. The action plan included a whopping 49 different projects and programs -- some very complex. I wanted to see how many we have completed and whether those projects and programs had made a difference in our quality of life. For those of you that have lived here a couple of decades or more, you may remember Santa Clarita in the 1980’s and the daunting list of needs this community had. For those who have moved here in the last few years, you may be surprised by how far we have come in 25 years.
That very first plan included goals such as: widening San Fernando Road (now Railroad Avenue) from two to four lanes; build the Wiley Canyon bridge; adding an air quality element to the general plan; adopt a sphere of influence; add landscaping; develop uniform street signs; create a five year capital project program; develop a plan to preserve open space; create a comprehensive sign ordinance; establish a public information program; pursue the development of a regional mall; create a city-wide volunteer program; and the list goes on.
Since then, we’ve had new strategic plans and dozens of more action items; the majority of which have been completed. As I drive through our City, I can see the incredible difference our City has made on this community in 25 years. The investments made by the City will have far-reaching benefits for generations to come. Clean, wide streets with landscaped medians; timed traffic signals and off-street pedestrian trails provide everyday benefits to our residents. The City’s 22 beautifully-appointed parks; facilities such as the Sports Complex with its Aquatic Center, Skatepark, Activities Center and dog park, and our signature 130-acre Central Park will be enjoyed for years to come.
We’ve invested in transportation by building three Metrolink Stations; the Transit Maintenance Facility, and the McBean Transfer Station. We created Santa Clarita Transit that carries thousands of our children to school each day.
The City made a conscious decision to invest in the long-term welfare of our youth by allocating more funding for parks, recreation and community services then for law enforcement. This decision has paid off big time. By providing timely, high quality programs and facilities for our youth, we are helping to prevent youth crime, which is infinitely more expensive to deal with when you calculate incarceration and law enforcement costs over the long run. Today, we have the lowest crime rate in the history of our City and this year, a double digit drop in part one crimes.
In the back of the City Council Chambers hangs a large plaque with the names of the original city-formation committee members. They number over 180 and while some are no longer with us, I want to give a big high five to these founding mothers and fathers. They knew what they were doing when they made up their minds to create a new City. Their goals to have local control over their destiny; to keep locally-generated tax dollars right here in Santa Clarita and to create a well-run community that people want to live in have been achieved. It is an honor to be part of the realization of their vision and to celebrate one of California’s most desirable places to live, work, visit and recreate. Happy 25th Santa Clarita!
Ken Pulskamp is the retired City Manager for the City of Santa Clarita. The current City Manager, Ken Striplin, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.