We all care about how our city develops and want to know about proposals that will affect our neighborhoods or broader issues in the community. So, it is really discouraging when the city Planning Department seems to be hiding information from the public for a large development.
That’s exactly what is happening with the Bouquet Canyon Apartment development.
SCOPE commented on this project in 2020 when it received final approval because of the large number of oak trees that would be removed (28) and the additional box concrete channel that would be added to the Bouquet Creek. Both of these decisions represent poor planning for our current situation.
It is well established that protecting and planting more trees, especially natives, will help reduce green house cases. Older trees are especially important for carbon sequestration. In addition, native oak trees use less water and are more likely to survive drought while still providing the cooling benefits of shade.
Concreting over a creek that provides recharge to our groundwater when we are in the midst of long-term drought is also poor planning. While the city uses millions of our public tax dollars to build groundwater capture basins, it fails to protect natural recharge areas such as Bouquet Creek.
Now the national developer Lennar Corp. has proposed changes to this project. Even though SCOPE commented on the project, we did not receive a notice of these changes. I only found out about it because I was listening to the council meeting when a neighbor complained that she had gotten this notice but didn’t know what they were changing.
So, I tried to go online to obtain the information. The web access for the Bouquet Apartments environmental impact report was blocked to public access. I called the Planning Department and was first told to submit a Public Records Act Request to get the public notice. Come on! That error was straightened out, and I was subsequently emailed the public notice.
Then I saw why the neighbor couldn’t understand the changes. How could she? No specific changes were included in the notice. But it did require public comment by June 3. So, I called the Planning Department again to ask for the addendum so that SCOPE could make comments. The planner at the desk informed me that the addendum had not yet been completed and wasn’t required to be shared with the public anyway.
What is going on in our city Planning Department? Are secret decisions being made behind closed doors? Is the public now blocked from knowing what our planning commission is approving? Apparently so. What other projects are being moved through the Planning Department without public input or even public notice?
I just want to know how the public can comment on an environmental document that has not yet been written. The hearing for this project, now scheduled for June 7, should be delayed so the public has adequate time to review it.
The city Planning Department should also review its procedures. This Bouquet Canyon Apartment process for a controversial project certainly does not display any effort at public transparency.
Lynne Plambeck is president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE).