2007 news dominated by city, crime stories
2007 was a year that started out with justice, warmed up to a council chamber-packing controversy, seemed to even out with a popular ballot measure, but had both a fiery and violent end.
While the buzz included a birthday celebration for the city – 20 years, way to go! – and long-overdue closure in the Ann Racz murder case, Providence-Holy Cross proposing a new hospital and the city being named one of California’s hot new enterprise zones, our top ten is a slice of life much different from back in the day when hitching posts lined San Fernando – uh, Main Street – in Newhall.
The staff at KHTS reminisced about the year, selecting a “Top Ten” list of stories we covered. To read the original stories, simply click on the headings. Here’s our list – with a couple of ties at #2 and #5 – beginning with:
After a gathering of recent Hart graduates at a house on Arch Street in Newhall, classmates Bryan Miranda and Jose Valdez were outside talking when a dark sedan came around the corner. From within the car, gunfire erupted, killing Miranda and sending Valdez to the hospital. Miranda, who played soccer for Hart High and was attending College of the Canyons, worked as a medical assistant. No suspects have been arrested in the case, which sent shockwaves through the community.
During discussion of the proposed hospital expansion, Councilman TimBen Boydston made a surprise accusation that city planning staff had worked with former city employee Jeff Lambert (who now works as a consultant for the expansion developer) in forming a plan to take the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Campus Expansion Plan before the City Council when not all of the council members would be in attendance. Since the controversial meeting, staff e-mails are closely guarded, the council has adopted lobbyist registration and is considering enacting an ethics policy. The proposal is expected to come back for council consideration in early 2008.
Responding to Santa Clarita’s growing population, officials at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital proposed a three-phase expansion, including parking lots, medical office buildings and a central plant. The sticking point with planners and council members seems to be the lack of patient beds in the proposed campus, which will have a significant impact on the surrounding community.
#5 – TIE
March, a Santa Clarita resident, was making a routine traffic stop in Irwindale on April 29, 2002 when Armando Garcia shot and killed him. Garcia fled to Mexico, where he eluded capture until February 2006. Because Mexico does not extradite suspects who may face the death penalty, officials negotiated with the Mexican government to bring him to justice in California. In January, he was extradited to Los Angeles and in March, was sentenced to life in prison.
Josh Pipho, a former star baseball player for Canyon High School and his friend, Chad White, were stabbed and run over at a Nov. 24 brawl that got out of hand in the parking lot of the Diamondhead condominiums in Stevenson Ranch. Witnesses told police that the boys were trying to stop other young men from vandalizing cars when the violence escalated. Michael Stephens of Stevenson Ranch was charged with the murder and assault and is being held on $1.5 million bail.
Officials from the City of Santa Clarita and Cemex agreed in February to a year-long truce in the battle against the proposed mine on Soledad Canyon Road, which posed significant quality of life impairments for residents in the Canyon Country area. As well as giving the two sides a chance to work together, the agreement carried four points: Cemex would not pursue any applications for the next year, both sides would cease negative advertising, the two would jointly hold a conference with Congressional delegates and the two parties would work together to find a mutually agreeable solution. In December, the agreement was extended for six months and Congressman Buck McKeon told the media he was working on legislation solidifying the compromise between the two entities.
Jack McClellan, a self-admitted pedophile who maintained a website that rates the best places to watch pretty young girls, including some locations in the Santa Clarita Valley, stepped into the spotlight, enraging parents and engaging attorneys Rick Patterson and Anthony Zinnanti in a fight to keep him away from local youth. A 3-year statewide restraining order that keeps McClellan at least 10 yards from anywhere children congregate went into effect in August. Legislation dubbed the “Surrogate Stalker” bill proposed by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be brought up for consideration in January. If approved, it would make websites such as McClellan’s illegal.
#2 – TIE
An October 13 crash involving 34 vehicles brought traffic to a screeching halt on a busy Friday night. The southbound truck route tunnel near the Newhall Pass burned for more than 24 hours before emergency workers could clear debris and try to determine what happened. CHP officials said that road conditions, speed and a sudden rain combined to make driving hazardous in the tunnel, although a specific cause has yet to be determined. Three people; two adult men and one young boy were killed in the crash and Caltrans officials closed the interstate route completely for two days to ensure the safety of bridges and other roadway near the fire. The freeway opened in time for Monday morning rush hour and the tunnel was completely rebuilt, repaired and reopened before Thanksgiving.
A ballot measure proposing a $25 annual assessment from Santa Clarita homeowners to buy and preserve undeveloped land in and around the city limits passed overwhelmingly with 70 percent of voter support in July. The measure, which was opposed by a small group wary of new taxes that carried out its fight on YouTube and by plastering handouts on street signs and light poles, was supported by the city, civic groups and nonprofit organizations. The assessment, which cannot go up by more than $1 a year, expires after 30 years. At year’s end, the City Council was selecting appointees for an Open Space oversight committee.
The hands-down winner for Story of the Year – and the event in which most of the KHTS staff played a personal role in bringing the community up-to-the-minute information:
October 22 started out as a warm Sunday, but changed drastically when Santa Ana winds kicked into high gear, pushing gusts up to 70 mph through the valley. A brush fire started by a 10-year old boy playing with matches on the property owned by Carousel Ranch in Acton quickly spread south, burning through Bouquet Canyon, skipping over to Mint Canyon and scorching the hills along Sierra Highway, Plum Canyon and Whites Canyon Road.
After the smoke from what became known as the Buckweed Fire cleared, 93 structures were damaged to some extent, 22 of them homes that were completely destroyed. Houses along Camp Plenty Road and parts of the North Oaks neighborhood took the brunt of the structural damage. The U.S. Forest Service headquarters on Bouquet Canyon Road was burned to the ground and flames seared a large portion of Lombardi Ranch, prompting rumors that the local landmark had been destroyed.
The Buckweed Fire continued to burn Monday in the Plum Canyon area, but firefighters had to shift resources to the Ranch Fire burning in Castaic that had started Saturday but flared Monday afternoon, destroying one home and nine outbuildings. Small fires that broke out around Stevenson Ranch and Newhall on Monday were quickly extinguished. On Monday night, residents of a mobile home park on Sand Canyon at Soledad were terrorized when flames later attributed to an arsonist broke out and destroyed three homes.
All in all, it’s been a busy year and KHTS would like to thank you for making us your news source. If you’re not already a subscriber to our news alerts and news brief service, we invite you to take a minute and sign up by clicking here .