BY LEON WORDEN/ SCVNEWS,COM
The on-again, off-again Newhall roundabout project – one of those European-style traffic circles as seen at the Valencia Town Center mall or at Hasley Canyon – is on again.
It’s to replace the three-way junction of Main Street and Newhall Avenue and the stretch of Newhall Avenue that used to be called San Fernando Road.
In other words, in front of William S. Hart Park.
It was going to be a redevelopment project, but when Sacramento took away cities’ redevelopment powers roughly a year ago, it got shelved.
But only for a little while. City staffers have been busy coming up with other ways to pay for it – like landscape maintenance district fees and MTA funding.
Now, the city is in the final steps with Caltrans for the go-ahead, which is expected to come this winter. Then the city will put the project to bid and construction could start next summer.
That’s the short story.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
Back in 2005, the city started assembling property for future redevelopment projects. It paid $763,436 for the property old-timers will remember as Moore’s submarine sandwich shop (24158 Newhall Ave.). The building stood derelict for two years before the city demolished it in 2007 and it’s been a parking lot ever since.
The city hoped to build a children’s museum, or some other sort of museum, on the old sub shop property as a redevelopment project.
But other redevelopment priorities came first: a new library at the head of Main Street, land- and hardscape improvements along the boulevard to make it more pedestrian-friendly, and upgrades to storefronts.
The time hadn’t come to build a museum, and now that redevelopment is dead, the clock has run out.
Part of unraveling redevelopment involved the recovery, by the state, of money and property in redevelopment accounts up and down California.
In 2006, the city had transferred the Moore’s property to its redevelopment agency. In March 2011, when the handwriting was on the wall in Sacramento, the redevelopment agency transferred the property back to the city in hopes the move would protect it from confiscation by the state.
It didn’t. The state was wise to the cities across California that were doing the same thing, so it said any property owned by redevelopment agencies as of Jan. 1, 2011, were subject to confiscation.
Technically, the state doesn’t directly take the property. It first gets transferred to an entity known as a “successor agency” to the redevelopment agency. Each city designates or appoints its own successor agency, which is obligated to carry out Sacramento’s wishes.
Now, the state controller’s office has told Santa Clarita to hand over any and all property – propety that was owned by the redevelopment agency as of Jan. 1, 2011, and which hasn’t been redeveloped – to Santa Clarita’s successor agency.
One catch with the Moore’s property.
Part of it is needed for the roundabout.
Normally, cities can use the power of eminent domain when they want to build public works projects such as roads.
It would be – well, bizarre – for the city to transfer the property to the successor agency and then have to turn around and use eminent domain against the successor agency to build the roundabout. So the city, via its successor agency, is effectively asking the state to allow it to bypass that step.
The city plans to transfer the bulk of the Moore’s property to the successor agency but keep the section that’s needed for the roundabout, and proceed with the construction next summer as planned.
Then, next fall, the city expects its successor agency to have a plan in place regarding the disposition and dissolution of its assets.
Perhaps by that time the roundabout will be built and the successor agency won’t have anything to say about it.
The City Council votes Tuesday on the property transfer.