[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
January 16
1926 - Newhall Community Hospital, est. 1922, opens in larger, more modern hospital building at 6th & Spruce streets [story]

Commentary by Leon Worden
| Sunday, Dec 10, 2017

Patricia Navarro was a UC Berkeley student in 1998 when she put the finishing touches on a plan to restore the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall and turn it into a historic park.

I wonder where Navarro is now. I wonder if she knows it still hasn’t happened.

Located off of Pine Street in Newhall, the Pioneer was operated by a predecessor to Standard Oil of California from 1877-1888. It was the first productive oil refinery in the American West and is believed to be the oldest existing refinery in the world.

Chevron USA, the 1977 merger company of Standard and Chevron, donated the refinery and its 4.6-acre parcel to the city of Santa Clarita in 1997-98. The Santa Clarita City Council voted to accept the donation in August 1997; escrow closed in April 1998.

The Pioneer Oil Refinery had been a park in the past, albeit a privately owned one, when Standard Oil restored the refinery to its former glory in 1930 — and again in the 1950s — and again in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial and what Standard considered its own centennial: the 100th anniversary of its predecessor’s success in Pico Canyon. From Pico (Mentryville), the oil was piped six miles to the little refinery in Newhall, making both equal partners in the birth of the California oil industry.

But now, in 1998, the refinery sat derelict, its two original stills (of four) having been whisked away to Chevron’s headquarters in the Bay Area and its brick chimneys victimized by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Corporate pride and a directive to shed nonproductive property compelled key people at Chevron USA to remove the refinery from the company’s books while simultaneously setting a plan in motion for its preservation.

In addition to donating the refinery to the city, Chevron committed to preparing a plan (Navarro’s plan) for its restoration and pledged $15,000 to kick-start the effort. The resulting plan earmarked Chevron’s $15,000 for signage and anticipated a total cost of $274,300 to restore the structures and create a park setting around them.

An unanticipated, quarter-million-dollar historic restoration project was not in the 10-year-old city of Santa Clarita’s budget. But change was afoot. A funding opportunity presented itself when the adjacent property owners — Mark Gates, Hank Arklin and Eternal Valley Cemetery — started planning an industrial park that would surround the refinery on three sides.

In November 2000, the City Council ordered an environmental impact report for the 584-acre Gate-King Industrial Park. Of the 584 acres, 337.5 acres were zoned industrial-commercial, 29.2 acres were zoned community commercial (retail), 124.1 acres were zoned residential and 93.2 acres were zoned open space.

Gate-King instead proposed to develop 344 acres as industrial-commercial, build zero homes, and give the rest of the land — 240 acres of riparian woodlands, or 41 percent of the total project area — to the city of Santa Clarita as permanent open space. (See chart on page 2-11 of EIR.)

It also promised to create connections to the Pioneer Oil Refinery and Hart Park, as well as hiking trails overlooking the San Fernando railroad tunnel with interpretive signage along the way. The EIR anticipated “less than significant impacts” to the refinery because the development project would “avoid the use of heavy equipment” near the refinery and/or stabilize the refinery’s acid tank; provide a drainage system to avoid the deposition of materials on the city’s refinery property; and provide “improved access and parking for the historic Pioneer Oil Refinery.”

In addition, the developers would pay $2.4 million to the city for public improvements, to be spent at the city’s discretion — in part to restore the refinery, according to public statements by city officials. After all, the developers would want it fixed up. They wouldn’t want a pile of broken bricks in the middle of their modern business park — and they said so.

Then came the lawsuits. The city certified the Gate-King EIR in June 2003; by July the developers were in court. The Santa Clarita Oak Conservancy, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, the California Oak Foundation and others alleged that the EIR did not adequately address water supplies for the project.

The development was sidelined for more than a decade by the litigation and the subsequent economic recession, during which time the city completed most of the other off-site public improvements it had expected to make with the developer’s $2.4 million.

The Pioneer Oil Refinery park project was idle but not forgotten. Every year until his untimely death in 2015, Parks Commissioner and SCV Historical Society board member Duane Harte kept the refinery restoration on the commission’s “priority” list, even as it languished on the city’s “unfunded projects” list (at an anticipated cost today of $500,000).

In 2004 the city announced it would be applying for a state parks grant to restore the refinery. State records show no such grant was awarded — which makes sense if a restoration plan hadn’t been finalized and the city’s matching funds (the Gate-King dollars) were tied up in court. The city also applied for a Getty Foundation grant that did not come through.

In July 2011, the City Council approved a new master plan for the refinery site that would preserve the existing structures and add trees and parking spaces. In June 2013 the council approved a minor land swap that had the net effect of adding 0.75 acres to the refinery site.

Now, more than 14 years after the City Council gave the go-ahead, the Gate-King Industrial Park is happening. Grading on the first of three phases started last month.

Today’s little walk through history has no happy or snappy ending. The final chapter has yet to be written. I hope Patricia Navarro will still be around to read it.


Leon Worden is president and CEO of SCVTV. His opinion is his own.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. jim says:

    Nicely put Leon. As Judge Gideon J. Tucker (or Mark Twain, take your pick) said; “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session”.

    Given enough different legislatures, I suppose that no one will ever know just how hosed they have become.

    I sincerely hope that a reasonable local dickering over the various issues will end up with something that won’t make us all feel like we’ve been hosed.

    At least more than is usual.

  2. Brown says:

    Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Thursday, Jan 11, 2018
There may come a time in your life when you need mental health care. Your Medicare covers a wide variety of such services, in both hospital inpatient and outpatient settings.
Monday, Jan 1, 2018
Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin previews Year 4 of the city's five-year Strategic Plan in his monthly message for January 2018.
Sunday, Dec 10, 2017
Derelict since the 1994 earthquake, the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall was the first productive oil refinery in the American West and is believed to be the oldest existing refinery in the world today. Unfunded restoration plans have come and gone. Now that the surrounding property is under development, will the promises be kept?
Friday, Dec 8, 2017
A National Memorial designation for St. Francis Dam will honor those who lost their lives in the nation’s worst engineering disaster and the role it played in ushering in a new era of oversight for dam construction.
Thursday, Dec 7, 2017
Eliminating net neutrality would allow Internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, Spectrum and AT&T to create a “slow lane” and a “fast lane” on the Internet, prioritizing certain companies over others and dictating what websites you’re able to visit and at what speed, or even blocking you entirely from visiting certain websites of your choice.
Monday, Dec 4, 2017
In his monthly message for December 2017, Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin encourages residents to shop and party locally during the holidays to keep the cash in our community.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1926 - Newhall Community Hospital, est. 1922, opens in larger, more modern hospital building at 6th & Spruce streets [story]
The cities of Santa Clarita, Piru, Fillmore, Bardsdale and Santa Paula along with National Historic Site Rancho Camulos will mark the 90th anniversary of the St. Francis Dam Disaster with special events throughout March 2018.
St. Francis Dam Disaster 90th Anniversary Events Set for March
A man arrested for allegedly burglarizing a Walmart Monday morning posted bail, then was soon arrested again for allegedly vandalizing the Valencia Library, according to officials.
Man Arrested After Alleged Walmart Burglary, Library Vandalism
The minimum wage in the city of Santa Clarita for all industries is $11 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees and $10.50 an hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, effective January 1.
Santa Clarita Hourly Minimum Wage Now $10.50-$11
Princess Cruises has unveiled the 2018 programming to be featured at the Valencia, California-based cruise line's custom designed wilderness treehouse at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.
Princess Cruises Invites Guests to Play in the Trees This Summer
The Master's University women's basketball coach netted a 78-50 win over San Diego Christian at Grossmont College.
Tough Mustangs Take Out Hawks 78-50
Returning on Saturday after a 91-69 win over San Diego Christian, The Master's University men's basketball team found itself in a markedly better position than it was at this time last season.
Mustangs Beat San Diego Christian, Win 17th Straight
College of the Canyons sophomore volleyball player Emily Burns has signed a National Letter of Intent with San Diego State University, after she earned conference Player of the Year and All-State team honors and led the Cougars to the CCCAA State Championship tournament.
Emily Burns Signs with San Diego State University
Saugus High School senior Jacqueline Cascione is the top pick for the 2018 Foothill League cross country season, according to Brando's Blog, compiled by Santa Clarita Valley athlete-journalist Brandon Jauregui.
Cascione Tops 2018 Foothill Girls’ Cross-Country Pre-Season Picks
Federal immigration authorities have quietly resumed accepting requests to renew deferred action under DACA as a result of a preliminary injunction issued last week by a federal judge, according to California's Attorney General.
Feds Resume Accepting DACA Renewal Requests After Injunction
College of the Canyons will host "College2Career Day" at the Valencia campus on Saturday, January 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to give students of all ages the opportunity to explore college and career opportunities in promising industry clusters.
Jan. 27: College2Career Day at COC Valencia Campus
Starting Monday, February 5, parking on both the Valencia and Canyon Country campuses of College of the Canyons will not require a parking permit or pass after 2 p.m.
Starting Feb. 5: Free Student Parking at COC Campuses After 2 p.m.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will provide resources to assist current mudslide recovery and clean-up efforts in Santa Barbara County January 16 through January 22 as part of a mutual aid request from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
LASD to Aid with Mudslide Operations in Santa Barbara County
The four leading Democratic candidates agreed Saturday that President Donald Trump is a racist, while the top two Republican candidates defended Trump’s immigration policies but did not comment on his now-infamous language.
California Governor Candidates Tee Off — on One Another
The Sheriff's Department's VIDA program for young people ages 11-17 is now accepting applications for the SCV Sheriff Station's next 16-week session starting in February.
Applications Now Open for Sheriff Department’s Next VIDA Session
Deputies from the SCV Sheriff's Station spotted an illegal encampment in a Canyon Country wash Thursday morning and arrested a man on drug charges and an outstanding warrant, according to a post Sunday on the station's social media.
Deputies Spot Illegal Encampment, Arrest Man on Warrant, Drug Charges
Special Victims Bureau detectives from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station are looking for a suspect in an alleged sexual assault in a public restroom in Saugus Friday afternoon.
Suspect Sought in Alleged Sexual Assault at Saugus Park
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested two local men for driving under the influence in separate early-morning incidents over the weekend.
Weekend Update: SCV Deputies Arrest 2 for DUI
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Special Assignment Team deputies arrested three people in Canyon Country last week on drug charges, with one arrestee also the subject of an outstanding no-bail arrest warrant, according to a post on the station's official social media.
SCV SAT Deputies Arrest 3 on Drug Charges, Outstanding Warrant
1875 - Henry Mayo Newhall buys western half of the Santa Clarita Valley for $2 an acre [story]
1978 - Banker Sara Faye Wood installed as president (chair) of SCV Chamber of Commerce [story]
1847 - Gen. Andres Pico (as in Pico Canyon) surrenders to Col. John C. Fremont, effectively ending the war between U.S. and Mexico [story]
At the next regular meeting of the Saugus Union School District, the Governing Board members will hear proposals for candidates for the district's new Superintendent from three executive search firms on Tuesday, January 16.
Saugus School Board to Hear Proposals from 3 Search Firms
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is Wednesday, January 17 at the Administrative Center, 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita 91350.
Jan. 17: Hart District Governing Board Regular Meeting
The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation reports tremendous momentum in the past year as more tech companies are either relocating to the SCV or are founding their startups here.
Valencia One of 5 LA and OC Tech Areas to Watch in 2018
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, three adult suspects were arrested for possessing methamphetamine and heroin. Plus, the newest Jersey Mikes gave a big donation to the WiSH Foundation. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, January 12, 2018
The COC Art Gallery will begin the new year with 'Budding Artists,' an exhibit featuring artwork by the children in the college’s Center for Early Childhood Education, opening on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Jan. 16: ‘Budding Artists’ Open House at COC Art Gallery
To better assist high school seniors, College of the Canyons will offer Information Nights for high school seniors on Jan. 16 and 17 at the PAC and at the Canyon Country campus on Jan. 18.
Jan. 16-18: COC Info Nights for Prospective Students
The nonprofit Family Promise of the Santa Clarita Valley is in need of volunteers, meals and donations to aid homeless families and individuals.
Family Promise Seeks Volunteers, Meals, Donations, Superheroes
The city of Santa Clarita Planning Commission will hold its Regular Meeting, Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
Jan. 16: Planning Commission Regular Meeting
FEMA has granted the state’s request for expanded federal disaster assistance in response to the devastating mudslides that have impacted Santa Barbara County and Montecito.
Brown Secures Federal Aid for Communities Hit by SoCal Mudslides
The flu arrived early this year in the United States, and health officials say Americans from the West Coast to the East Coast can expect several more weeks of flu season.
CDC: Flu Now a Coast-to-Coast Epidemic with Weeks to Go
Deputies arrested a man early Wednesday morning for assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly pulled a knife and a gun on another man at a local cocktail lounge in Canyon Country.
Man Arrested for Assault with Deadly Weapon in Canyon Country
The WiSH Education Foundation has received a $9, 564 donation from Jersey Mike’s to support the public school libraries of the Hart District, serving nearly 23,000 students in grades 7-12 in the SCV.
Jersey Mike’s Donates Nearly $10K to WiSH Education Foundation
Fine artist Richard Gallego will demonstrate oil painting during the March 19 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists Association at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd., starting at 6:30 p.m.
March 19: Richard Gallego Oil Painting Demo at Barnes & Noble
The 15-member SCV Water board has approved the dissolution of Valencia Water Company, formally transferring assets, property and liabilities as well as all VWC employees into SCV Water.
SCV Water Board Dissolves Valencia Water Company