Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment (SCOPE) Celebrates 25 Years of Volunteerism

This year SCOPE is celebrating 25 years of community work to preserve the Santa Clarita Valley's quality of life and promote good planning. We are an all-volunteer organization whose board members have also served as City Council members, Water District Board members, members of local Town Councils and in various other public service capacities. Board members come from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds including engineers, teachers, technicians and business owners. Our common interest is good planning and protection of the environment and quality of life in the Santa Clarita Valley.

What have we accomplished in these past years?

SCOPE has always sought to educate the public about planning and environmental issues. It has fought to ensure that adequate infrastructure needs accompany all development, that taxpayers will not be taxed to pay for this new development, and that development will occur in a manner least damaging to the environment. To this end in 1992 and 1993, SCOPE conducted seminars for the public about the five significant ecological areas (a Los Angeles General Plan designation) that exist in the Santa Clarita Valley including the Valley Oaks Savannah west of I-5 and the Santa Clara River. In 1995 they also helped produce a conference on the Santa Clara River to raise awareness of its many important resources such as water supply, recreation and open space. In 1998 we joined with many businesses and government agencies to examine what makes our community a desirable place to live and how we can keep it that way with a Livable Communities Conference. We have created seminars to raise public awareness about our local oak and hillside ordinances, about wetlands and endangered species laws and about the California Environmental Quality Act. (See home page for conference info.)

SCOPE representatives sat at the table to help formulate the City of Santa Clarita's Hillside and Ridgeline Ordinance and worked on its Oak Ordinance. Out of concern for continued good planning in our Valley, SCOPE volunteers put together a presentation for the City Council about what a Development Monitoring System (such as used by the County of Los Angeles) is and how it would help ensure needed community infrastructure such as schools, and libraries and enough sheriff's and fire services. Mayor Carl Boyer complimented us afterwards for one of the best presentations by a community group that he had ever seen.

Part of making sure that good planning occurs in our Valley means going to public hearings on development projects and reading and reviewing Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs). Over the last 21 years SCOPE has reviewed many dozens of projects from housing developments to oil pipelines, landfills and water appropriation applications. Members regularly attend City and County planning hearings as well as participating in many other agency meetings to encourage our government officials to preserve oaks and the Santa Clara River, provide adequate schools, libraries and roads for new development and to promote clean air and water.

We also do not shy away from pursuing protection for the Santa Clara River, our native oaks, our hillsides and our water supply through legal means. The legal process is always a last resort, but our board members have consistently felt we must use all public means available to us in our efforts to protect our local resources. Through these efforts SCOPE has achieved greater attention to water supply and water pollution, flood plain protection and preservation of habitat by our local and state agencies. We have saved oak trees and oak groves. Past legal decisions have also resulted in improved school funding and the creation of library funding for our community.

In 2003, we received worldwide attention for the first "Urban Tree Sit" - our attempt to save a 400 year old Valley Oak known as "Old Glory", threatened by a road. We thought we had negotiated preservation of this oak with the developer, but when it appeared that the agreement would be violated, we took action. The resulting treesit lasted for 3 months due to the stoic perseverance of John Quigley who remained in the tree on a small platform all that time. The oak was saved and eventually moved about mile away to a regional park where it remains in good health.

SCOPE has also fostered public education by bringing speakers to its meetings such as the biologists to talk about the river, the County Forester to talk about oaks and Planning Commission representatives to discuss local planning issues. We have helped mentor students on school projects for civics and environmental science classes. We staff booths at local events with information on our native oak trees, and the Santa Clara River. We enter an environmental float in our City's 4th of July parade and hand out an annual "You've Done Something Good for the Environment" Award. We help the public understand and participate in the planning process.

If you are interested in these activities, SCOPE invites you to attend our regular meeting. They are held quarterly with notice in the local paper and on our website. Or see the website or call (661) 255-6899 for more information on how to get involved. For contact information, contact SCOPE