TMU students participate in local government

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TMU students participate in local government

Michael Brown, Managing Editor

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On Tuesday, April 10, Santa Clarita City Hall was more crowded than usual. Seats were filled with students and faculty from The Master’s University, as well as residents of the Placerita Canyon neighborhood.

They were there to make their voices heard regarding the proposed extension to Dockweiler Drive.

While an extension for the nearby Dockweiler Drive was already approved by the Santa Clarita City Council, another proposed extension that would connect Dockweiler Drive to 13th Street had yet to be decided by the council.

“The Dockweiler Drive extension project is designed to improve traffic circulation, safety and access to the Placerita Canyon and Newhall communities,” said Santa Clarita officials in a statement on the city’s website. “Additional project benefits include wider traffic lanes, enhanced landscape medians, and a bike lane.”

The council was set to vote on whether or not they would accept the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which listed the effects the proposed project would have on surrounding communities, as well as offered several alternative options for the council to consider.

Back in February, the council members voted 4-0 to make their decision regarding the road on April 10, with Mayor Laurene Weste recusing herself to prevent a potential conflict of interest, as she owns property near the proposed extension. This decision was made after many Placerita Canyon residents came forward and expressed their dissatisfaction with the road.

“We reject the extension,” said Newhall resident Trisha Fasa during the February meeting. “Nobody who has stood there thinks this is a good idea. Please reject the proposal.”

Two months later, the City Council was greeted by a full room of people passionate about the project.

During the project’s presentation, Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion No. 6 Chief Keiji Seta expressed safety concerns for first responders with the current conditions of Placerita Canyon.

“From a fire service perspective, a secondary egress and access point would help us provide service to the Placerita Canyon,” said Chief Seta.

Several students and faculty members from The Master’s University were present, and made their support for the project known.

“We have an obligation, a responsibility morally and ethically and legally to provide for the students that we house an environment that is going to be safe for each and every one of them,” said Bill Bolde, the executive director of community relations and career services at TMU.

However, many Placerita Canyon residents at the meeting expressed their disdain for the project.

“We don’t need 1,500 more cars going through our neighborhood,” said Dawn Zirbel, a resident of Placerita Canyon. “We don’t have sidewalks or gutters, we don’t want those things. That roundabout is going to kill somebody.”

After hearing many testimonies, and after discussing the matter, the council voted 3-1 to accept the final EIR, with Councilman Cameron Smyth voting no and Mayor Weste recusing herself.

During the meeting, many residents of Placerita Canyon questioned the motives and neighborliness of TMU.

“Shame on Master’s College, who have said that they are our friends, and our neighbors,” said Cathy Salisbury, a Placerita Canyon resident. “That’s not very neighborly. You’re only there for four years. We’re there for a lifetime.”

In the face of these remarks, Bolde took the time to address the residents’ concerns.

“Despite the fact that there are some people who think that we don’t want to be good neighbors, one way or another Master’s University is going to be every bit of a good neighbor they can possibly be to everyone who resides in Placerita Canyon,” said Bolde.

The next step in the project will be to submit an application to the California Public Utilities Commission to update the 13th Street rail crossing. The design of the roads, and the proposed roundabout, would then begin and be set for completion in the next couple of years, according to Ken Striplin, the city manager for Santa Clarita.v