"Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal Multimedia Editor Leon Worden. The 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 Paul Brotzman, director of community development (panning and economic development) for the city of Santa Clarita. Questions are paraphrased and some answers may be abbreviated for length.
Signal: If "planning director" isn't the title for your job anymore, what is?
Brotzman: It's actually "community development director." Recently we've added some additional functions to the department including housing, so with the expanded function, the decision was made to change the title of the department to Community Development Department.
Signal: You started with the city on April 1, and it seems like a lot of different departments are suddenly coming together under you including building and safety?
Brotzman: No, building and safety actually is staying in what will be the Public Works Department. We actually lost I shouldn't say "lost"; one of our department directors moved on to another city, and in evaluating the organizational structure, the management team, and (City Manager) Ken Pulskamp in particular, felt that we could realign some of the functions better within the city and combine some of those functions within existing departments, which is what we are in the process of doing right now. That has actually reduced by one the number of department director positions in the city. So we have all picked up a little bit more work.
Signal: So you're one of how many people at your senior management level?
Brotzman: Good question we have four other directors within the city.
Signal: So Rick Gould, the parks director
Brotzman: Yes, Rick Gould, and Darren Hernandez, handles the treasurer and finance operations; we have Robert Newman, who is responsible for now what will be Public Works; and of course we have Ken Striplin, who is the assistant city manager but also handles a number of department functions at the moment.
Signal: Tell us about Paul Brotzman. You've been a city manager; you've had experience running the city of West Hollywood.
Brotzman: I have. Actually I have a career of 30 years in the public sector. I've worked for four different cities, starting way back in the late å60s in Pennsylvania where I actually entered the planning field at the beginning of my career. I moved from Pennsylvania to the city of Claremont in Southern California, spent about five years there and then moved up to northern California where I was city manager in the city of Martinez, and then back to Southern California in the mid-å80s; when the city of West Hollywood incorporated I was the first manager for the city of West Hollywood. I was there until 1996, and then bought an interest in a company that I still own, actually, although we've expanded a lot and have a management team that's now running the company and I've stepped back into the public sector, which I really enjoy.
Signal: What is the company you own?
Brotzman: We're in of all things the media distribution business. We have a company that specializes in the distribution of media products to visitor and tourism destinations national parks, museums, aquariums; we provide all the IMAX videos to the IMAX movie theaters and gift shops; the National Geographic videos to the King Tut exhibit, for example.
So that's the other side. But I'm not very much involved in that. We have a team that we brought in to run the company, and they're doing a great job.
Signal: You do a couple of other things on the side; you're on a board of an agency that deals with the homeless.
Brotzman: That's correct. Actually there are a couple of organizations that I serve on the board of; they are both nonprofit entities. It's some of my, I guess, "give back to the community" time I'm on the board of Union Station, which is a nonprofit homeless organization that provides both shelter and also meals programs and kind of transitional services for the homeless in the west San Gabriel Valley area. The real focus is to provide services and programs that help transition people who may be homeless now, back into productive roles in society.
And then on the other side, I'm also on a board of a corporation that helps develop affordable housing for low-income residents. Again it's a nonprofit board; that's a volunteer use of time.
Signal: Let's translate those things to Santa Clarita. Does Santa Clarita have a homeless problem, and is it being effectively addressed?
Brotzman: I think probably almost every community has some level of homeless problems; many more than less. The problem in Santa Clarita It exists; I am not sure how large it is. But it's a program that actually the city and county are working together to try and resolve, and I think we've come up with a strategy for addressing the problem, at least on a stopgap level, at least to provide the emergency shelter during the winter months.
Signal: Will you and your department be involved in figuring out what to do for the homeless, this coming winter?
Brotzman: We will be working with the county on that, yes. It will be a cooperative effort between the city and the county. I think we will be able to come up with some solutions that work for everybody. But it is a big issue, nationally. It's a big problem nationally. Many of the urban cities have to deal with it.
Signal: Do you anticipate that the county will once again operate a shelter here?
Brotzman: Well, the arrangement that we're working with the county on is one where as you know, the shelter facilities are portable shelter facilities during the cold weather, and our objective will be, one year the county will accommodate the facilities, and the next year the city will accommodate the facilities. So we will kind of share the burden. It's an issue that exists and serves the Santa Clarita Valley as a whole, so we're working with the county to address it on a mutually supportive basis.
Signal: With respect to affordable housing, the housing element in our General Plan identifies a certain number of low-income homes that need to be built, but that number has never been met. With our climbing home prices, it's hard for low-wage earners to live here. What's your answer to provide affordable housing?
Brotzman: You're letting me get away with easy questions, are you? That's a huge challenge, and actually the city will have some very serious obligations in that regard as we move forward with the redevelopment of downtown Newhall and the Redevelopment Agency begins to approve housing projects within the city.
The way the state law works is that 15 percent of any housing project built within a redevelopment agency project area has to be available for low- and moderate-income residents. So in reality, as soon as a house is built within any geographic area that is covered by the redevelopment boundaries of the city, the agency picks up a 15-percent obligation to provide for housing.
The state law also is beginning to become the best way to say it is, more demanding. The state recognizes that there is a serious housing problem in the state, and the legislation that's being passed at the state level is really pushing cities to be more aggressive in addressing the issue of affordable housing.
The city is looking at several different strategies. We will be, this year, looking at the potential of including an inclusionary housing element for all new development. Whether that happens or not, that's obviously an issue that the (City) Council is going to have to address at the policy level, but they have asked us to undertake the study to evaluate the feasibility of establishing the inclusionary requirements. Often times, inclusionary requirements are met with in-lieu fees; those fees can then be used to build or provide for affordable housing units, or the developer can build them on-site.
So that's an area that the city is already moving forward in. Another area is the mixed-use development ordinance that we're looking at, because we do hope, as we move forward with the mixed-development plans, to be able to include some inclusionary units within those particular development proposals. So the city is taking a serious look at it and really trying to identify ways it can meet its responsibility and obligations under the law.
Signal: You've had experience with a start-up city, West Hollywood. Santa Clarita was a start-up in 1987. As former Mayor Carl Boyer likes to say, it was the biggest city ever formed; on the day it was born it had a population of 117,000, give or take. Now, all this growth is happening right outside the city, and we're still operating under a general plan written in 1991. So many things are different; is it almost like the city is operating without a general plan today?
Brotzman: To a very limited extent. We still have a general plan, and it still is in effect, and a number of the elements and provisions in the General Plan are valid. But it does need to be updated, and we are required to update it.
One of the things that we're working on right now is, we're in the planning process, doing a joint project called "One Valley, One Vision." That's an effort of both the city and county to come up with a common general plan and common development standards for the entirety of the Santa Clarita Valley. It will provide for a new general plan for the city, and will provide new provisions that the county can incorporate in their general plan for the unincorporated areas.
Signal: What has taken so long? It was supposed to be done four or five years ago. Isn't there a state law that says it needs to be done every 10 years, which would have been 2001?
Brotzman: You know, it's frustrating, to say the least. It's a very difficult process. It's a huge planning area that we're looking at over 200 square miles. And when you think of 200 square miles, that's a planning area that's approaching the size of the entire city of Los Angeles. So we're looking at a huge area.
And it's a matter of two agencies working together, the city and the county. We've had some frustrations in working with the county in getting current, accurate, up-to-date information, and that has delayed the process for us a little bit. We're still struggling with that. But that's part of the process, I guess, of trying to blend the efforts of two organizations, one of which is a huge bureaucracy, as you can imagine, at the county level
Signal: Oh, you mean the county, not the city?
Brotzman: (Laughter) No, the city is very lean and mean.
Signal: Annexation. We've got all these border squabbles going on. You've been in a lot of cities and you've probably seen a lot of counties that are happy to have cities take over unincorporated areas. When it comes to places like Stevenson Ranch and Castaic, why do you think Supervisor Antonovich is so obstinate about wanting to keep them?
Brotzman: Honestly, the issue comes down to one of money and financial resources for the county. And if I were in the supervisor's position, I would understand that completely. I mean, the reality is that these areas generate, for the county, more revenue than they need to spend to service the areas. So in fact what you have is a situation where the areas help subsidize and provide for services county-wide. So I completely understand the county's position on that issue.
On the flip side of it, if I were a resident in the area, I would be arguing that if we're generating the money locally, it should be spent locally. So there are two sides to that issue, but I frankly think it's one of money. I think that the county really has historically been tight on resources, and needs the resources, and would be reluctant to give up those resources.
Signal: If the issue is money, is there a solution? When you have to plan for something right outside the city's border that's approved by the county and is going to impact the city's roads and schools what is the answer? How do you get past that? And is the city taking a new tack on annexation?
Brotzman: There are two parts to that answer. First of all, I think the city was very wise in its effort to try and undertake the One Valley, One Vision plan. The more the county agrees to impose development standards and conditions of approval that are of a level similar to the city's, the less future problem the city will have, if and when the residents in the area choose to annex to the city.
Our biggest concern is that development is approved, it comes about, it's developed at a standard below that which the city wants to see developed; it then is annexed or the residents petition for annexation and when we look at it and decide to proceed if the city decides to proceed the city then has the issue of, how do we bring the new neighborhoods up to the same level of standards that exist within the city limits?
I can give you a quick example of some of the differences. On park dedication fees, sometimes called Quimby funds: The city and the county are both regulated by state law; however, when the city calculates the value of land because the fees are based in part on the value of land that's provided the city utilizes the value of the land in the immediate area of the development. Whereas the county, when they calculate the fees, calculate the fees based on a broader area. And as a result the land values are lower. So a developer developing a project in the city will pay almost three times as much in the way of Quimby fees as a developer developing a parcel right next door across the boundary in the county. What that means is, the city literally has three times as much money to spend on building out the park, enhancing the park, and providing a better facility for the community. Or providing an aquatics center, which we find that, in our studies, it looks like almost 49 percent of the users of our recreation programs are now coming from the unincorporated area even though they represent a smaller percentage of the population in the valley. And that's because there are facilities that are lacking in their neighborhoods, so they're coming in to take advantage, or utilize, the city's facilities.
Have we changed the focus? Interestingly, in some respects, we've said to the folks who are west of Highway 5, if you come in if 60 percent of the residents in the area wish to annex and sign the petition, we'll consider it, but we're not out there pushing it, and I think if you've heard the mayor's comments at the last meetings, they were clearly: It's your decision, it's your choice. We're not out there actively pushing it.
On the other hand we are going to I think look very seriously at areas in our northern sphere of influence where there is a lot of development that can and may occur in the future. The reason for the difference? Newhall Land does a pretty good job in terms of their land-use planning, in terms of the development and the infrastructure they put in; we've seen much more mixed results on the part of smaller developers within our northern sphere of influence.
So I think we'll probably take a lot closer look at the northern sphere of influence, and on the western side, it really will be up to the residents. Ultimately, my suspicion is that people will want to annex to the city. How often do you have the opportunity to increase your service level and reduce your tax level? You know?
Signal: You mention Newhall Land, and how well it handles planning. And yet, some people wonder: If the city is fighting the Cemex mining project outside the city's boundaries, why doesn't the city oppose the planned community of 70,000 new people at Newhall Ranch?
Brotzman: I am not sure I have been here long enough to know the answer to that question. My suspicion is that there are probably two parts to the answer to that. I'm doing a lot of two-part answers tonight. One part of it is that they are the property owner, and they are entitled to a reasonable use of their land. There will be development that will occur, and they have done a reasonably good job of the land-use planning. Newhall Ranch, the development west of Highway 5, there is a huge amount of that property that is being set aside and dedicated to open space. So they are taking some major steps to reflect some good planning principles. And they've been in it for the long haul. They really look at the fact that they own and will probably hold title to a lot of property here and businesses that develop, and they're concerned about the quality of the development that they bring forward.
So I would say in part it's because they are utilizing good planning principles. The other part of it is that if you look at the natural flow of traffic, and the natural flow of water and drainage and so on, it's the areas east and north of the city that flow into the city. Cemex will be sending a huge amount of traffic through the city of Santa Clarita, as it exists today, whereas the areas west of Highway 5 will not have those same type of environmental impacts on the city. When you're talking about Cemex and, as I've heard it discussed, one truck per minute coming out of that mine, that's a huge traffic and transportation impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. And it all flows down through the city of Santa Clarita.
Signal: Our population is supposed to more than double in that 200-square-mile planning area you're talking about; we'll have 500,000 people here by 2025 or so.
Brotzman: Actually the planning numbers that the city and the county agreed to work with were the regional transportation planning numbers that (the Southern California Association of Governments) adopted four or five years ago. Those planning numbers project a development level in this area of about 425,000 residents (from a current estimate of 250,000 in the SCV), so that's really the planning that we've been undertaking to plan for the accommodation of development and growth that will fall within those limits.
Signal: Santa Clarita is still, to a great degree, still a bedroom community. Something like half of our workers travel outside of the valley to a job. If we're going to have all this growth in the next 20 years and we've already got traffic problems and crowded schools, what is the city doing to bring in the kinds of businesses that will improve our jobs-housing balance?
Brotzman: That's a very good question, and it's a critical effort the city needs to address and we are. We have, in fact, looked at specific areas in the city that are set aside for employment centers within the city. Just up the street from where we sit (at the Channel 20 studio in Newhall) is the Gate-King (Industrial Park) that will provide for 4.2 million square feet of new light industrial or office development. We are right now in the process of identifying the types of business activities that we would like to see in that area, and identifying a process to begin to recruit, to attract them in, to develop within that project.
Signal: Is the city actually taking a hands-on role in bringing in specific businesses that it wants, instead of just leaving it to the developer?
Brotzman: Absolutely. And I think it is our responsibility. The other part of what we're doing
Signal: That's kind of a new thing for this city, isn't it?
Brotzman: I think it is, a little bit. But there are two other major efforts underway, one of which is to evaluate the business clusters that exist in the city. And we know we have several. The entertainment industry is a major business cluster that exists within the city. Aerospace. We have some high-tech clusters that exist within the city.
What we're looking at is, how we build on that? How do we expand those clusters, work with them, support them? We are specifically looking at the business database that exists, that we have we've just recently acquired to see what exists here, and to evaluate where we think we should be going in terms of developing and promoting growth, in terms of the employment sector.
We're also undertaking a labor-base analysis. We're looking at who lives here; what type of knowledge and skill and training and background they have; where are they currently working? How far are they commuting? And what's the opportunity to attract industries in the community that match the labor base that exists within the community?
So yes, we're actually very actively looking at the potential and opportunity to bring more jobs to the city and match those jobs with the people who are living here in the community.
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.