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Home » Santa Clarita News » The Year In Review – 2009

The Year In Review – 2009

khts_specialreport2It’s been an interesting year – full of ups and downs in politics and people on both the local and national scale. Since it’s our job to take care of the former, we ran just short of 2,000 news stories during the year to keep you on top of what’s going on in your community. From that massive quantity, we picked a few – not necessarily show stoppers, but definitely a few “Hey Martha’s” – that we’d like to remind you about.


Since we live in the same town as the center of the rollercoaster world, let’s use that analogy, shall we? In the middle of all this, you’ll even find mention of Magic Mountain’s newest thrill ride, “Terminator Salvation: The Ride”. We loved it. Ride with us now, will you?

January –

Las Lomas, that overwhelmingly bad proposal to put 5,500 homes, 2 million square feet of commercial space and a 300-room hotel in Newhall Pass, went before the state Court of Appeals. The developer, Dan Palmer, said the city of Los Angeles was violating his Constitutional rights. The appeals court threw it out, so he filed in state Supreme Court. The Supremes gave us a nice holiday present on December 16, when the project was effectively killed and the final appeal denied.

The Amgen Tour of California lineup of cyclists and celebrities was announced. Later in the year, it would be announced that the February race would be moved to May. And in October, it was announced that the 2010 Tour would skip Santa Clarita entirely.

Mayor Dude, a way to get young people involved in government and connect with Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry, debuted on the web. We Tweeted.

Adrian Arriano was convicted of 27 out of 29 counts of sexual assault after a series of attacks in Canyon Country that occurred in 2007. He was sentenced in March to multiple life terms in prison.

February –

Furloughs for state workers started. Newspeople could never figure out which days their sources were in or out.

Esperanza Castro was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the 2006 murder of her husband, popular landscaper Ramon Castro, whose bloodied body was found in the bed of his gardening truck under an overpass on Sierra Highway.

The CHP determined that the cause of the Newhall Tunnel crash of October 2007 was not faulty brakes, rather it was speed. Three people died and 23 were injured as a result of the fiery accident.

Los Angeles County Supervisors threatened to keep the property tax collected from county residents to pay for social service programs endangered by the state budget crisis. County stood to lose $103 million. It didn’t come to that in the end.

Fifty-four people were charged with felonies after using fraudulent documents to get jobs at L&M Optical in Valencia.

KHTS started posting recalls on products and foods on There are so many, there is now a dedicated portal on the website.

The Amgen Tour of California glides into Santa Clarita, bringing Lance Armstrong to the mall, where a start was held. The race finished the next day in Pasadena, with Levi Leipheimer of Team Astana (Armstrong’s team as well) bringing home his third consecutive victory.

The budget impasse was allegedly broken in  Sacramento. $100 million in tax credits were offered to the film industry; legislator pay was frozen during deficit years; the Controller’s office didn’t get its hoped-for new furniture; primary elections were proposed to be open to all parties and a 12-cent increase in the gas tax was taken off the table. It wasn’t over yet.

A citizen’s panel was chosen to find a site for the required Materials Recovery Facility.

Senator George Runner declared his candidacy for the Franchise Tax Board.

March –

The Daily News closed its facility in Valencia and The Signal laid off staff across the board, as well as cutting salaries.

Saugus High Principal Bill Bolde tells graduating senior (and Marine) Nicholas Laccabue that he will not be allowed to wear his dress blues for his graduation walk, despite the senior having finished all his course work AND Marine boot camp. Bolde backtracked in an editorial, Nick’s mom went to the school board, politicians became enraged, and thanks to Assemblyman Cameron Smyth later in the year (but before graduation), California became the first state in the nation to allow active military troops to graduate wearing the uniforms of their service branch instead of cap and gown, if they chose.

Deputies became extremely concerned about motorcycle gangs invading our quiet little berg, so much so that they made a significant presence at a VFW barbecue on Sierra Highway and questioned the wisdom of the monthly Bike Night at Route 66 on Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Bikers protested. Both sides were heard on the air, during KHTS’ “Something To Talk About” news show. A compromise was reached for Route 66, which was allowed to continue the bike nights with additional security.

The new and improved skatepark was opened at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex, to rave reviews.

For the fifth year in a row, KHTS rounded up a bus full of movers and shakers and headed north, to talk with Sacramento politicians and learn first-hand about transportation, water and budget issues. It’s not as easy as it looks.

The City of Santa Clarita saw a 15 percent drop in sales tax revenue, from $8.6 million to $7.3 million, forcing the city to reduce spending and cut 16 positions from staff.

April –

Stanley Howse, better known as Flesh-N-Bone from the group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony was arrested and charged with violating his parole and being in possession of narcotics and a firearm. The charges were later dropped.

A car-to-car shooting on Camp Plenty Road sent two men to the hospital with gunshot wounds, a month later, the suspect was found and arrested in Mesa, Arizona. Good work, detectives!

Redmond O’Neal, son of Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal, was arrested at Pitchess Detention Center after deputies found narcotics in his possession. He was visiting a friend. He would later be sentenced to serve his rehab at Pitchess.

Santa Clarita Valley’s primary water source, the San Joaquin River system (which includes the Delta near Sacramento) was deemed “the Most Endangered River” by the American Rivers group.

The Loose Goose Wine Festival goes beak-up, lead bird Peter Goosens says he just can’t make it in this economy. Angry investors take issue with his bookkeeping, but not much comes of it. Wine cellar, offices close in downtown Newhall, another October date becomes available, filled by a new wine festival hosted by another wine cellar.

KHTS launches its text alert program so you can get news right on your phone every day. It’s free! Sign up now!

Pornography pioneer Marilyn Chambers, star of “Behind the Green Door” was found dead in her Vasquez Canyon mobile home. “Green Door” was the first hard-core porno movie produced in the USA.

Hundreds of people showed up to protest a variety of things – mostly taxes – during a “Tea Party” at City Hall.

“Dancing With Our Stars” became the latest fundraiser to join the ranks of social events that help local charities.

LA County Sheriff’s Department hosts a “Gifts For Guns” program, where people can get gift cards when they turn in firearms. Local deputies collect 255 guns over two days.

School campuses have scary events; some kids firing BB guns near Leona Cox Elementary School (bad recreational choice) and Aquafina bottled water is reported to be tainted (it wasn’t).

The Environmental Impact Report for Newhall Ranch project was released for review and comment.

Swine Flu (a name health professionals dislike) becomes the latest threat, deemed a pandemic for which there is no vaccine yet. It takes the country months to call it H1N1, but in April, there are no cases. By summer, it is found on several school campuses and by the fall, vaccines are available and everybody is nonchalant about having it.

Bear sightings in Valencia; black bear spotted near Rancho Adobe Road in Valencia, later that weekend in Old Orchard park, a week later, black bear carcass found on the I-5 near Valencia Boulevard, hit by a car. In July, bear sightings at Pyramid Lake (near wilderness, but bear was coming into human areas because fishermen were feeding it). Bear had to be killed when it came looking for food.

San Fernando Valley Fair decides it doesn’t want to play in the Santa Clarita Valley anymore, takes a year off to find a location in – wait for it – the San Fernando Valley.

May –

Manny Ramirez was suspended from the Dodgers for drug use.

“In God We Trust” was added to the wall of the City Council chambers.

A special election was held with issues resoundingly defeated: establishing a rainy day fund in Sacramento, funding education, modernizing the lottery, additional children’s services and mental health funding. Only measure that passed was limiting legislator’s pay during a deficit year.

Santa Clarita Valley detectives moved into new quarters in a former furniture store. Finally some elbow room.

The new wooden coaster “Terminator Salvation: The Ride” opens at Magic Mountain. KHTS News staff rides it, give it thumbs up. Unfortunately, the movie of the same name doesn’t do as well.

Senior citizen couple Racquel and John Ruiz die in murder-suicide pact some say prompted by declining health. End-of-life counseling becomes hot topic on senior talk shows.

June –

Judge tentatively approves Lennar bankruptcy plan, which leaves company with 15 percent interest in Newhall Ranch. The deal receives final approval in late July.

Congressman Buck McKeon campaigns to become the Ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. He is confirmed in mid-month.

Sharon Lee Pritchard hangs herself in the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s station jail.

Kansas murder suspect Franklin Grammar barricades himself in Gorman motel, alert deputy runs plate and sets up containment. Grammar suffers what cops first think is a gunshot wound, but later find out is a dog bite to the chest.

The Police and Fire Games, an Olympic Games with badges, is held in Santa Clarita.

Residents of “the Westside” – collectively Stevenson Ranch, West Ranch, Tesoro and Castaic – start considering how they want to be governed, a non-binding advisory vote is scheduled for November. Meetings and analysis are planned.

Activist Cam Noltmeyer is targeted for removal from the Summit Homeowners Association Board. She is recalled at the end of the month.

The Legislature reconvenes to talk budget.

July –

LAPD Narcotics Detective Susan Clemmer, who rose to national attention for her testimony in the Rodney King police brutality trials, shoots herself in the lobby of the SCV Sheriff’s Station. She had just short of 20 years service to the department.

Another murder-suicide, this one suspected as domestic violence, takes place in Canyon Country.

Marco Antonio Valencia, 20, hits and kills cyclist Joseph Novotny, who was riding with a large group on Bouquet Canyon Road just south of the Big Oaks Lodge. Valencia is allegedly drunk, this is his second drunk-driving Saturday morning incident; earlier in the year, he took out a power pole on Whites Canyon Road in Canyon Country.

A new fire battalion – Battalion 22 – is established in Santa Clarita Valley, now 15 stations serve area between Bat. 22 and existing Battalion 6.

Ronald Weiss of Encino and Antony Crippen of Pacific Palisades are killed when their light plane crashes in Sand Canyon.

A new group is formed to fight a Sheraton Hotel planned for the corner of Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway.

Charismatic ex-con and evangelist Tony Alamo is found guilty off 10 counts of transporting girls across state lines for sexual purposes. He receives a sentence of 175 years in federal prison later in the year.

California budget is signed, after several Sacramento all-nighters.

KHTS Sports writer Tim Haddock is picked as NASCAR’s exclusive blogger/correspondent.

Amber Alert program, created by Senator George Runner, celebrates its anniversary, Runner reflects on 179 lives saved since program’s inception.

Local charities feel the impact of budget cuts, Domestic Violence Center has to move, cut programs; YMCA considers cuts, finds funding at last minute.

August –

Sweet Charity Cake Auction is the next new fundraiser added to nonprofit circuit, auction of confections benefit SCV Youth Project.

Journey cover band “Don’t Stop Believin'” breaks attendance records at city’s Concerts In the Park series, attracting 10,000 enthusiastic fans.

Newhall Incident shooter Bobby Augustus Davis found unresponsive in his prison cell at Kern Valley State Prison. He was serving a life sentence for his role in the 1970 massacre of four CHP officers in Newhall that changed law enforcement practices forever. His death was ruled a suicide.

Residents on Decoro Drive slam the city for painting bike lanes on the street, prompting an immediate reversal.

Morris Fire in the San Gabriel Valley blankets the SCV with smoke. We told people not to worry.

Pitchess inmate Adrian Mitilica was captured by LA County Sheriff’s deputies helped by Simi Valley Police after escaping in a laundry truck. Schools in Castaic and Newhall were locked down as a precaution.

Station Fire smoke drifted into SCV, putting everyone on high alert. Fire approached Acton. We told people not to worry. Two firefighters died and the fire turned out to be the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history. It was also deemed to be arson, making the firefighter’s deaths a homicide.

September –

Hart High School Board looks for a new site for Castaic High School.

Some local students opt out of listening to President Barack Obama’s “Back to School” speech.

John Michael McGrath, candidate for Newhall School Board, backs out of election for personal reasons. He ends up getting more votes than anyone else in November, forcing board to fill vacancy by appointment.

Computers were seized from Engine Dynamics auto shop in Newhall. Investigators suspect the computers contain child pornography.

Newhall CHP officers join forces with West Valley station to build more fencing than Altadena CHP station at a Habitat for Humanity project in Pacoima.

Studies predict lower taxes if the West Side annexes into the City of Santa Clarita. Forming a separate city looks to be too expensive. Staying part of unincorporated county area is a wash. Big forum set for October 8. Fifty people attend, November vote (which is  advisory only) throws out separate city proposal, but is pretty even between status quo and city annexation.

Belcaro residents sue Southern California Edison over the Antelope-Pardee Transmission Line Project because of the ugly skyscraper towers being built.

Twenty-nine unlicensed contractors cited in a sting bid request.

Congressman Buck McKeon hosts a Health Care forum at College of the Canyons, it lasts more than two hours, several hundred people attend; lots of yelling and interrupting.

October –

Skeletal remains of a man are found by a hiker looking for his lost dog on the South Fork Trail. Coroner still doesn’t know what killed him.

First-ever Main Street Zombie March attracts 625 of the undead to downtown Newhall. City tourism folks are thrilled, 150 people came out to watch them.

Founding “families” – commissions and council – are honored with brick assemblies at corner of Historical Veterans Plaza in Newhall.

Economic hope in the air, Disney announces plans to build 12 sound stages and auxiliary facilities at north corner of Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon. EIR should take a couple of years, ground breaking should be in 2012.

Bridget Kennemore disappears from Castaic bus stop; 18 year old Valencia High student allegedly has argument with boyfriend. Scent dogs, search and rescue used to look, she is found hanging two weeks later behind a business complex on The Old Road near the 126.

November –

A routine traffic stop in Centre Pointe ends up as a deputy getting beaten up by two men; $35K reward from Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County offered, arrest of one of two suspects made in late December.

Hart governing board approves two sites for further examination as locations for Castaic High School; one is Romero Canyon site owned by developer Larry Rasmussen, other is Hasley/Sloan site owned by district’s Facilities Foundation.

Drug houses in Castaic busted after numerous neighbor complaints, 10 children taken into protective custody, guns, cash, methamphetamine found in both houses raided.

Canyon Country street dedicated to fallen SCV officer, Deputy Randy Hamson Court in Fair Oaks Ranch area.

L.A. County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman announces his retirement, which he withdraws a month later, adding that he is staying to help the department deal with budget crisis.

December –

Theaters are dedicated at West Ranch and Golden Valley High Schools.

Patricia Hanrion and Dennis King leave the Hart governing board, with 36 years of service between them. Joe Messina and Bob Jensen are sworn in to take their places.

Saugus School District announces they might be closing Bouquet Canyon School.

Prostitution, other violations found in 24-location raid of “massage parlors,” some closed after sheriff visit.

New CEMEX bill introduced by Congressman Buck McKeon to both House and Senate. Hopes to get it into committee by spring. Conflict has been going on for a decade.

Businessman Nabil Tawab was shot to death outside his Westridge office.


And let’s not forget those friends who left us this year – remember their service and the mark they made on the community and be sure to tell their stories so others will remember too …volunteers Juanita Heinley, Sheldon Allen, Jill Harper, Ron Murphy and Kurt Wagner; Walk of Western Stars honorees Monte Hale and David Carradine and CalArts benefactor Roy E. Disney.






The Year In Review – 2009

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