"Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal City Editor Leon Worden. The half-hour program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
This week's newsmaker is Henry Schultz, who is challenging Mayor Bob Kellar and Councilman Cameron Smyth for one of two open seats on the Santa Clarita City Council in the April 13 election. (A "Newsmaker" interview with Smyth was published March 14; Kellar is scheduled for next Sunday.)
The following interview was conducted Feb. 23. Questions are paraphrased and answers may be abbreviated for length.
Signal: You're challenging Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth for a City Council seat. Some of your troops have sent out e-mail indicating your opponent is Kellar. Are you hoping to oust Kellar and not Smyth?
Schultz: No. I'm running against both candidates. The main issue here in Santa Clarita is overcrowding, overdevelopment, and both candidates Kellar and Smyth have been active supporters of growth which would be OK if it weren't bad growth. We have a lot of projects that go in and the infrastructure is left behind and the public is short-changed. That includes things like schools, parks, services, libraries.
Signal: Can you cite an example of a project the council has approved that you would consider "good" growth?
Schultz: Yes. In fact there is only one that I know of that would be reasonable, and that would be the Golden Valley Ranch project east of (state Route) 14, between the 14 and Placerita (Canyon Road). That property was acquired by the developer for a song I believe there was a tax lien, and it's too bad the city didn't get ahold of it so they didn't have as much invested in it. So when the council was a little reluctant to go ahead with that project, they were able to dicker around and get 1,000 acres of open space and protect the whole back side of that area, which goes down and is contiguous with Placerita Canyon.
One of the benefits of that project, besides saving all this open space and the vernal pools there, would be that it is contiguous to Placerita (Canyon State) Park. Since (the development site) is annexed into the city, that means that that land in Placerita Park can then be annexed by the city. One of the things that I'm advocating in my platform is that the city take advantage of this and at some point annex Placerita Park.
Right now, as you know, Placerita Park is going through a little bit of difficulty in getting money and support from the county. And then there are other complications because that's state land, so it's a county park on state-owned land, but in the end, most of the work there is done by the Placerita Canyon (Nature Center Associates), the docents and the volunteers. So the actual cost to the city would be rather minimal to keep that up.
Signal: Do you think the benefit to Canyon Country of the new big-box stores at Golden Valley Ranch will outweigh any economic detriment to nearby merchants, for instance in downtown Newhall?
Schultz: Well, we could have asked the same question when the Newhall thing went in over on what was the name of it? On Lyons avenue I forget the name because I don't shop there
Signal: You mean Wal-Mart?
Schultz: Yeah, Wal-Mart, that whole area. That was built outside the (city); nobody seemed to care much what happened to local merchants when Wal-Mart and all those other guys moved in. And of course they wiped out the riparian (habitat) there, too. The results of that, you can see, are the three large pipes that go underneath it.
Poe, who is the previous developer of stuff in that area, had to jump through a bunch of hoops to provide stuff, and (The) Newhall Land (and Farming Co.) didn't have to do anything. So they wiped it out and leveled the hills. And besides, it's ugly architecture, but that's minor detail. In the end, you have all these businesses that are competing with the small businesses in the city. And one of the things that I am supporting is, I'd like to go out and find ways to help small businesses in Santa Clarita because they typically get the short end of the stick here.
Signal: Recognizing that most growth in our valley is happening outside city limits, what ideas do you have for economic development inside city limits? What can be done to bolster business and keep tax dollars local?
Schultz: Right now, one of the best things we can do ... is to handle all of the development that is happening outside the city. As you know, when the city was originally formed, the plan for it was three times as large as it currently is. After all the special interests got finished with it, the final city was one-third the size and included most everything that had already been developed. Most of what hadn't been developed is still outside the city. So here you have a situation where the city was supposed to control and direct growth and how it's going to occur, and yet had no power to do so.
One of the main things that needs to be done is the sphere of influence. We need to get out and work. Now, the city has tried before, but I believe that if you had a real, concerted effort in the city to get a sphere of influence, we could do so.
Right now the county wants development outside the city because (the county is) broke, and new development for them means cash for their coffers. If those land areas are annexed to the city, they're going to lose that revenue. Newhall Ranch? Why do they like the Newhall Ranch project? That's huge revenue for the county.
Signal: Tell us about Henry Schultz.
Schultz: I was born in L.A., Queen of Angels hospital, attended elementary and junior high school in L.A. city. My elementary school is the site of the second L.A. riot. (I'm) proud to say that. I went to Pasadena High School and was (in) the first graduating class. ... My high school counselor was Clyde Smyth, one of our former mayors. I have stories about him, but he has stories about me, too, I'm sure. Then I went on to college and ended up as a professor of mathematics...
I taught at the University of Michigan, then I came back to California and worked at the Lockheed Skunk Works for five years, working on all kinds of projects. I was what you call a senior scientific software applications specialist. ... Then I went on to work at CADAM Inc. in the (computer-aided design) area. It was a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed, but it was the main supplier of IBM's CAD software, and I was manager for advanced design there. Then I came to work for 3D Systems here in Valencia, and I was the software manager there for two years. Then I went out as a consultant and I consulted for a couple-three years, and I ended up finally working at Amgen, where I have been for the last 10 years as a scientist, what they call a computational biologist. ... Now I work in research automation...
Signal: What is a computational biologist?
Schultz: Someone (who), in my case, thought up algorithms for finding interesting genes in the human genome. When Solara and these other folks were racing to sequence the whole human genome, there was an issue of, see if we can find the genes that are there, and look for targets for therapeutics.
Signal: You don't deal with cloning, do you?
Schultz: Well, cloning is a different issue altogether. There is also the issue of doing what they call gene therapy, where you modify the DNA in your body. For instance, if you could change some of the DNA in your body on the fly, you might get rid of tendencies toward certain diseases.
Signal: How do you go from that to seeking public office? You ran twice for Castaic Lake Water Agency board
Schultz: Yes, twice. Losing twice, I might add, to well-financed opponents.
Signal: And now you're running for City Council. Is there a nexus there? How does your professional background relate to your political interests?
Schultz: Well, I've always been interested in politics, and in Santa Clarita, I've always found that things weren't being done well here especially the water companies. I got involved in water issues because Castaic Lake Water Agency it's basically wholly owned and operated by friends of Newhall Land and Farming. That's a bought-and-paid-for organization.
Signal: The elected members of the CLWA board would probably take issue with that.
Schultz: They would certainly do that, but I wouldn't change my position. So that led to other things, and people had been asking me to run for council for awhile.
I served four years as (city) Parks and Rec commissioner, and I served 3 1/2 years on the city's Transportation Advisory Committee ... and I got a lot of experience learning how the city works, what the budget is, and what the problems are.
You remember a couple of years ago Frank Ferry ran as the road warrior, and in doing so, the claim was that since there was so much congestion, if we just got in and built a whole bunch of roads, problem solved. And he did. He got in and we did build some roads, actually. And we got more congestion.
Hold it, there's a problem here. So what happens in all these things? And you notice that he didn't run that way the second time. No mention of roads. What happens is, every time you build a project here, to get the project built, the roads have to be paid for by the developer. So if you want a road, you have to get development. By the time you get done with the development and you add all those new people to the roads, the roads are more crowded than they were before. And you can see this in the traffic models that are generated there are mathematical traffic models. And the same is true for schools
Signal: How do you solve the problem, if you're saying we can't build our way out of it?
Schultz: You don't build your way out of the problem. What you do is, if each development project has a net gain of infrastructure instead of a net loss of infrastructure like we do now, you're not going to solve the problem immediately, but you might be able to alleviate it.
Let's take an example of a current project that's up for consideration. They have the Riverpark project, which is over by Bouquet Canyon and the river there. That project is going in, and it's going to have, as part of its build-out, a bridge that goes over the river, connects with Newhall Ranch Road. That's running right through a beautiful riparian area. It's going to wipe everything out, and they're going to have to pay millions and millions of dollars for this bridge.
Signal: The developer is going to have to pay
Schultz: Yeah. Well, and there is money that comes from elsewhere. So I would recommend, take all that money, don't build the bridge, save that area, attach it to the Central Park. You can make a beautiful, nice Central Park out of that. Then, if you need development to pay for this, which you might, you could push it down south and east, where you could have lower density. Ingress and egress could be reduced. ... No matter how you put homes in these areas, you're going to have more traffic problems. So the only thing you can do to try to mitigate it is to reduce the density.
The real problem in the valley, of course I don't care how many roads you build, cross-valley connectors or whatever you call them in the end, there are a certain number of geographic pinch points in the Santa Clarita Valley. There is no escaping that. When you add all these new people, which you have to, to build these roads, you're jammed up even more.
When I came here first in 1980, to Santa Clarita, I could drive all the way down Bouquet, one stop light. That's it. Now you have to get your tent and everything if you want to get down Bouquet (Canyon) Road to get anywhere.
Signal: The cross-valley connector would link Newhall Ranch Road from the Valencia Industrial Center to Golden Valley Road and state Route 14. Don't you think it will relieve those traffic problems?
Schultz: You can say you heard it here first. This isn't going to help. Because what happens when this gets built in? Right now there (are) no people living up in the Bermite area. If you look at it from the mountains across the way and you look down at the city of Santa Clarita, there's a big open area right in the middle. There's nothing. That's where Bermite that whole center area it has not been built out. When these roads go through, that's all going to be built out, and what are you going to get on all those roads? More lights, more traffic. It's only going to get worse.
Signal: You don't believe the cross-valley connector will be a net benefit?
Schultz: No, I don't.
Signal: Do you know of any traffic models that indicate that?
Schultz: If you look at the traffic models, they're based on build-out, and as I remember it, they're all at "1" in certain areas, "1" meaning we're full at certain times of the day...
Signal: To date, the city has probably spent more than $150 million in developer money and state and federal funds on the connector. What should be done with the pieces of the connector that have been completed so far? Should the city just ditch that investment?
Schultz: Well, I would say that the cross-valley connector you're going to need to build anyway, as the cross-valley connector that connects up with Magic Mountain (Parkway). It's going to come out of the Bermite (property).
My feeling is, though, you don't need to connect the bridge across the river, through the Riverpark project. You can build that connector you're going to have to anyway, because if they're going to have building over there, they're going to have to connect it to something. But you don't need to connect it to the Riverpark project. And the Riverpark project doesn't need a breakthrough to Newhall Ranch Road. You can have egress going into Canyon Country. As long as you don't have high density, you have a relatively low number of folks in that area. Then you could support that ingress and egress without having a bridge over the river.
Signal: Newhall Land's Riverpark project would add about 1,100 homes at the northeast corner of Bouquet Junction, south of Central Park. You want to move the bridge, the connection to the cross-valley connector, south?
Schultz: I don't want to have any connection to the cross-valley (connector). I don't want to have anything crossing the river there. You can have egress from that if it's low density that just flows straight out to the Canyon Country (area) ... or you can have a small egress coming out the other way. But I think any egress that comes out through the north end is going to ruin that whole area. You really don't want roads there. You'd like to have that as a park with no roads through it.
Signal: When Central Park was being planned, it was recognized that eventually, a road would run through it.
Schultz: Yes. There were several road alignments.
Signal: This is the same road?
Schultz: Yes. Well, it changed its visage a number of times, starting from maybe a one-lane to a two-lane, and originally it wrapped around the west end of that property, and then eventually it was twisted through it, and then eventually there was a plan to go around up on the upper edge, past Rio Vista (Water Treatment Facility).
Signal: How did you vote as a parks commissioner?
Schultz: When I was there, we never actually took a real vote on how that was supposed to be. Everybody said it must happen, because it's on the General Plan of the county. And I say, why should it happen? Would you want a road going right through the Central Park there?
Signal: What do you mean by the term, "smart growth"? It doesn't just mean, "let's build smart," does it?
Schultz: No. Actually, there is a formal definition of smart growth, which is to build sort of like Newhall Land tried to do in the area of the mall: high-density housing attached to commercial. Some of it could be in the same structure, in fact. So it would be dense housing locally, where everybody can walk and get easy access, and then open spaces that surround that.
We've got part of that in (the Valencia Town Center) we have the shopping area, and people can walk from their high-density housing. What we missed is the open space.
More generally, people use "smart growth" just to mean lower density or higher infrastructure, however you want to look at it. But that's the official definition of smart growth, at least among people who do city growth.
Signal: Newhall Land has indicated some of its oak preserves meet the "smart growth" requirements for open space, and Newhall Land won an Urban Land Institute award for smart-growth planning of Town Center Drive. What is Newhall Land not doing that it should be doing?
Schultz: First of all, the claim that they've preserved all this open space if you look at the Westridge project, which sits on the west side of (Interstate) 5 between Valencia (Boulevard) and McBean (Parkway), and it's got a golf course and stuff well, that used to be Significant Ecological Area 64. It's the last remaining large, open valley oak savanna in Southern California. It's gone.
Now, people from Newhall Land, when I mentioned that to them, will tell me, "Oh, well, we preserved a certain number of acres of trees." Duh. That's not habitat. You can't have just a little patch of land here and a little patch here and call it open space. If you want to have viable open space, it has to be contiguous open space so that animals can come and go, so that you have enough room for plant communities to exist.
Of course, that was highly degraded land anyway, because it had been grazed on for years, so you didn't even have baby trees growing there because those all got eaten.
Signal: By cattle.
Schultz: Yeah. In fact, all through the mountains I hike all through the mountains there, and that's all been historically degraded by animals. But you can see in areas where they've been removed, that it comes back. The native grasses come back...
Signal: The city has been fighting the proposed Cemex sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon. You're opposed to that project?
Schultz: Not only the Sierra Club, of which I am the chair, was the first person to sign onto the city's (lawsuit); we were listed first on their suit.
Signal: The city is fighting that full-bore, but the city isn't fighting the planned Newhall Ranch development full-bore. Do you see a comparison between the two in terms of the effects they'll have on the SCV?
Schultz: Sure. They both have huge effects. Cemex one situation here is, you have all this dust. There's tremendous air pollution. There's impacts on the river. You go over to Newhall Land and Farming's Newhall Ranch, and what you have is a beautiful chunk of the river, one of the most bio-diverse areas on the river and it's going to be the very first project, which they call River Village we call it River Pillage will be running right over the river. They're going to build in fill, 12-feet-high fill, cuts right into the river...
If you're going to build in Newhall Ranch, the best place to build is up in Potrero Valley. Don't kill the river. My feeling is that no matter what you do, you should stay out of that whole river floodplain all the way down to the county line. And if you're going to build, build a bridge or two across the river, go back up into Potrero and put your development there. That would be a huge improvement over what they're doing now. That's a real loss to the community.
Signal: You're on record in support of a permanent homeless shelter.
Signal: Where should it go?
Schultz: That's a good question. That I can't tell you. There's been a lot of places proposed, and that's something that the community is going to have to get together and decide. But one thing's for sure: You're going to have to have a shelter.
Signal: Who should pay for it?
Schultz: (It's) sort of like the Placerita situation: Some should be government-funded the city can help fund some of that and then also, people can donate time and money.
Signal: You discussed roads. Schools have been playing catch-up, too. Local school districts oppose the Newhall County Water Board resolution that essentially states less water is available than previously believed. You favor that resolution. The school districts say their schools can't be built if the water board won't approve hookups for the new homes that fund the schools. As a former CLWA board candidate, what's your answer to that?
Schultz: Fear. These folks are playing on the fear of people that they won't get water for their schools. That's nonsense. State law requires that the schools be able to get water. There's nothing that the Newhall Water District can do about that, and the Newhall Water District knows that. The same is true for businesses. Businesses have no reason to be afraid of not being able to get water. They'll be able to get water. Who is going to have a problem getting the water if there is a shortage and that hasn't been determined (are the) developers whose homes may not be able to be built, or built as quickly as they'd like, because they're going to have to run around and do some work. You can't just say, "I've got water," or, "The Castaic Lake Water Agency was allocated so much water" (from the State Water Project). They have to say, "This is my water." It has to be water that you can point to and say, "I'm going to get that for my development."
Signal: How will the school districts pay for new schools if the NCWD board won't hook up the homes that pay for the schools?
Schultz: Again, here's the same problem. Everybody's worried about getting the next school built so that they can have it even more crowded than the last one. The same problem. As these schools are being built, and you get all the build-up that comes along with them, when you're done, you have even more crowding than you had before.
All this stuff about getting new schools to catch up with the previous, is just one long cycle of cumulative impact. And it gets worse and worse. What you have in the end is, you're going to have schools that I know about this, because my wife teaches at Canyon High School, and she was at Valencia High you can just count the numbers. They are way beyond what they were designed for.
Signal: There are about 210,000 people in the SCV and about 170,000 inside city limits. How much more growth would you, as a City Council member, approve?
Schultz: I would approve by project. You'd have to see: Is the project a reasonable project or not? If it's a reasonable development project, something like the Golden Valley Ranch project where there's amenities and infrastructure for all and it looks like it's going to have a net positive effect on the community, then I would vote for something like that.
If it didn't I'll give you an example of what happens. On the General Plan for the city, there's a requirement that for new development, that five acres of parkland per 1,000 people be given by the developer. Not once have I ever seen that enforced. What happens is the state requirement of three acres per 1,000. It's worse than that, because then they can give mitigating money.
For instance, in the Circle J Ranch park, the developer gave one-quarter of one acre for a park. The other land that's there is Department of Water and Power land, which you can't use for anything except grass, because that's going to be ripped up at the discretion of (DWP). This is what the developers are getting away with. Where's our five acres for that? Where are the trails they promised for that project? Go look for them if you can find them.
Signal: Kellar and Smyth's campaigns are pretty well funded. How are you going to beat them?
Schultz: Grass-roots support. We are out there, going to be passing out literature, people are going to be on the phones. We have a lot of ways of making connections in the community. I've already spoken to the Valley Industrial Association, I'll be talking to other community groups, and just have to get my name out there.
I know that I'm going to have a chance here, because I'm the only alternative you have. If you don't like Kellar and Smyth and there's a lot of people that don't you get to vote for me. And not only that, if you bullet vote for me, that means you can cast two votes, but if you only cast one and for me then you're going to make sure that one of those guys gets bounced.
Signal: Even if you win, you'll be there with either Kellar or Smyth. Which one do you want?
Schultz: I have no preference.
See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.