City Won't Fund Convention Center Study Just Yet
City staff will revise language of study proposal.
The City of Santa Clarita will not contribute $10,000 towards a study that would have looked at the feasibility of a dedicated convention/conference center...at least not right now.
The City shelved the proposed study after public comment soured perceived support.
The Packard Companies, developers of a proposed Sheraton hotel project on Valencia Blvd. and McBean Parkway, were set to match the City's contribution to the study.
Initially the study proposed examining if there is a real need for additional banquet and/or conference facilities. If so, the study could have been expanded at an additional cost
Some initial outcry over this expense was heard by the Council during the agenda item’s comment period.
A spokesperson for the Hyatt Regency, which declined to put any funding toward the study, explained why. The spokesman said that they were led to believe that the study would examine a convention center, not a conference center. Conference centers are much smaller than full scale convention centers.
The official from the Hyatt Regency claimed that the hotel declined to help fund the study after coming to the conclusion that it did not address the need for or feasibility of a full scale convention center.
“Lets go ahead and fund a study for a real convention center, a really big convention center that could be regional,” said TimBen Boydston, community member and candidate for City Council in the 2010 election.
Fellow Council candidate David Gauny also opposed funding the study.
“I support a convention center,” he said. “But this study is clearly not for a convention center, it's for a conference center.”
All of the speakers in opposition of the study questioned whether or not the partially taxpayer-funded study would directly benefit the Packard Companies and their bid to build the embattled Sheraton project, which includes 2,000 square feet of conference space. (For reference, the Hyatt Regency hosts 14,000 square feet of conference space.)
Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Larry Mankin told the Council that he supports the study, because he feels that the area has room to grow its tourism industry and that we cannot compete with the existing facilities.
City officials defended the study, clarifying that its first two goals are to identify if Santa Clarita should have a conference/convention center, and if so, how big it should be.
City Manager Ken Pulskamp confirmed that the initial phase of this study would not examine potential locations, and therefore not benefit the Sheraton.
Although some Council members felt that the damage has been done in the public eye.
“I don’t think we need to spend $10,000 to find out that we need a conference/convention center,” said Council member Bob Kellar, who added that he believed the City should cancel the study for the time being and bring it back after some sensitive language has been cleared up. Marsha McLean agreed and supported Kellar’s thought.
Laurene Weste did not agree,
“I don’t have the answer, and I was hopeful that we would move forward with this,” she said. “What I want is information, and when someone else is paying for half of it...”
By the end of Council discussion, the four members in attendance voted unanimously to send the item back to City staff for language revisions that they hope will make the public more comfortable with a study of this kind.
In other Council news, members approved the $6.2 million purchase of about 1.7 acres off Main Street in downtown Newhall. The properties are adjacent to the planned Newhall Library, set to begin construction at Lyons Avenue and Main Street soon
One resident and two downtown Newhall business leaders spoke out against the plan to purchase the property, citing concerns over why the money was being spent on this property especially after the City opted not to complete the streetscape renovations along the entirety of main street.
City officials claimed that their funding sources, which include state Neighborhood Stabilization and housing bond proceeds, cannot be used on a streetscape project. Also, City Manager Ken Pulskamp told the Council that it is extremely rare for a City to be given the opportunity to purchase an entire block of property in a redevelopment area.
The measure passed by a 3-0 vote because Council member Laurene Weste recused herself and Mayor Frank Ferry was not in attendance.