Castaic high faces hurdles

Castaic high faces hurdles

Education: Romero Canyon residents protest school board’s decision

By Tammy Marashlian
Signal Assistant City Editor
Posted: August 22, 2010 7:33 p.m.

Updated: August 23, 2010 4:55 a.m

Castaic leaders say Romero Canyon residents who don’t want a high school in their neighborhood don’t speak for the entire community, which has been fighting for a high school of its own for a decade.

“It’s relatively a very small number of people who happen to live near the site,” said 23-year Castaic resident and parent Beth Hansen. “99.9 percent of Castaic supports the high school.”

The objections
The reaction comes as about 50 Romero Canyon residents this week objected to the William S. Hart Union High School District’s plans to build the much-needed Castaic high school in their neighborhood.

Among the concerns: fire dangers in the rural, equestrian community and the possibility of landslides on the property, which is undeveloped and extremely hilly. The group is in the process of hiring an attorney to protect its rights.

Residents also say that building the school there would cost up to $30 million more than elsewhere, and the school would not be ready for the district’s projected 2013 opening.

Rather than moving forward with the Romero Canyon property, critics say the district should build the school on a plot of land known as the Hasley/Sloan site, which is owned by the SCV Facilities Foundation.

Hart district board members in July selected Romero Canyon over the Hasley/Sloan property.

Residents living near the Hasley/Sloan property also voiced opposition to the Hart district in building the school near their homes.

A community waiting

Castaic Area Town Council member Renee Sabol has spent the last decade working with the Hart district and the Castaic community to build a Castaic high school.

Sabol said she just wants the high school to get built, whether it’s at Romero Canyon or Hasley/Sloan.

“I would like it if members of my community would please stop, I repeat, stop, looking for reasons why a school shouldn’t be built at either site,” said Sabol, the advisory committee’s land-use chair.

“It’s selfish. It’s self-centered. It’s not in the best interest of our children.”

Sabol said she’s not impressed with any of the concerns brought up by the residents.

“I’m not worried about the landslide issues,” Sabol said. “As far as the wildfires go, should we all go live somewhere else?”

For Hansen, the high school would bring the community together.

“This is a high school for our Castaic kids so they can go to high school in our town of Castaic,” Hansen said.

For the last decade, the Hart district has been trying to build a high school to serve the Castaic community, which is located north of Santa Clarita along Interstate 5.

High school students currently living in Castaic have been shuffled between Valencia and West Ranch high schools, which Castaic families say tears their community apart.

In an effort to get the high school built, local voters in 2008 passed Measure SA, a $300 million construction bond with money earmarked for the school.

The process continues

After months of preliminary studies, the Hart district board in July selected Romero Canyon as the preferred site for a Castaic high school.

Since then, consultants hired by the Hart district have been in the midst of completing studies on the Romero Canyon property.

The studies, expected to be finished in coming weeks, will examine any potential issues, including the likelihood of landslides.

The district has also begun work on the environmental impact report.

The Hart district earlier this week said any speculation before the plans are completed is “premature.”

Rather than arguing about which site is best, Sabol wants the community to move forward with the Hart district.

“This community needs to get behind whatever site the district chooses and then let the district know that we support the site,” Sabol said.

Castaic Union School District board member Laura Pearson said every building site brings concerns that can be worked through.

For instance, Northlake Hills Elementary School is surrounded by dry brush, which is regularly cleared, Pearson said. And after realizing a rattlesnake problem, the school installed extra fencing to keep the unwanted creatures out, she said.

Yet Pearson appreciates the steps that the Hart district has taken so far, given the challenges in constructing the school.

“I think that every building site brings concern,” Pearson said.

It’s a thought Sabol shared, as well.

“I like the progress that’s being made,” Sabol said. “It needs to keep going in that direction.”

To view The-Signal article click here.

As Smokey the Bear says,
“Only You…can prevent forest fires!”


  1. Truckersleo

    Of course Renee Sabol made the statement that she did. I’m sure she does not live back in a canyon nor is she aware of the accidents that have killed many of our children. Neither site is a good one! Where are the majority of the homes? Not back in the canyon.

    Everyone should take note at the convenience of Valencia High School. Access on three sides. More than one way to access the school. Unlike West Ranch High School. One way up. And then they put the school at the top and put the poor elementary students at risk with the way the High Schooler’s drive! Not all High Schooler’s are bad driver’s but come on. Where is the comon sense in the safety of the children?

    Obviously there was never any thought to a Master Planned Community. Just keep building homes and then blame the kids of Castaic for overcrowding. Shame on all of you!

  2. kprezioso

    Also, it should be noted that around 100 Romero Canyon residents and Hart School District parents oppose the building of Castaic High School in Romero Canyon because it is unsafe and fiscally unsound. Around 100, and the number is growing as people realize what an extreme site Romero Canyon would be.

    And, Truckersleo, your comments are spot on. The fact that people are ignoring all of the vehicular deaths that have occurred back on our canyon roads is shocking. The fact that they are ignoring the lack of accessibility or the extreme measures and immense cost that will have to take place for road access is irresponsible. The accessibility of Valencia High School was well thought out and logical.

    Romero Canyon is a hazardous site for a high school. Time is being wasted; our children need a safe and sound high school. Our canyon residents deserve to be protected.

    Where IS the common sense in the safety of the children?

  3. VanessaBrookman

    FYI – there was a HUGE difference in the proposed location of the private Monticello school vs. the Romero site…. It would be fantastic if everyone had ALL THEIR FACTS STRAIGHT before making accusations or fanning innuendo. The Monticello school was opposed by the Town Council for many, MANY reasons; one of which was emergency traffic, there is NO OTHER exit, NO option for a gate or a secondary access. They were planning to house 100+ students in a 3 bedroom house!! There were septic issues, there were parking issues, there were zoning questions, and I could go on and on about the WHY’s of this not getting approved….
    The innuendo that your leaders are bought or swayed because a developer makes a few donations is LUDICROUS!! The community doesn’t make a peep when we receive donations from Newhall Land, or when Suncal was throwing money at everyone trying to get NorthLake built. Our Town Council does not let one thing influence the other… we were loudly and consistently opposed to NorthLake because of all the fatal flaws and geological and environmental damage it would cause, it mattered not that they sponsored (with thousands of dollars each year) the Annual Race, the Man and Woman of the Year Dinner, and countless other events. So to say differently now is just self serving on the part of the small population opposed to the Romero site.
    To take snippets of conversations or quotes and use them to attack the very people (your leaders, VOLUNTEERS may I remind you) who put their heart soul and an unspeakable amount of time into making our community the best it can be, is sad and only makes those doing it look desperate.

  4. Hasley661

    Sorry Vanessa, nice try. I applaud you for jumping to the defense of Ms Sabol as I also am against taking “sound bites” and twisting them around, but you have it wrong here. I read the whole article that is referenced at the time and I also attended the Castaic Town Council meeting where this earlier school was discussed. The majority of the Town Council voted against the school and they cited fire, traffic, safety and noise as the main concerns. I hear your point about single vs dual access but trying to claim that evacuating 100 students along 1 road (Hasley Canyon) was too dangerous while now stating that evacuating 2400+ students and faculty along 2 roads (and only 1 if the main road is blocked by fire, etc) is safe just doesn’t make sense. The Town Council had it right the first time, placing a school back in a remote canyon is unsafe. Everyone should take a drive up Romero Canyon Rd from Hasley Canyon Rd, all of the way until the blacktop ends. Then travel about another 1/4 mile on the dirt road and then make your way up the large hill on your left. Look around. Then assume the new main access road they are going to build is blocked by fire and/or emergency vehicles. How is anyone going to get out of that canyon down Romero Canyon Rd with students/faculty leaving, parents coming in, residents with horse trailers leaving…it would be a disaster. This is not a doomsday scenario, we have had 3 fires burn through that area in the last 10 years. Are you telling me this is the BEST location we can find to build a school for our kids? Not a chance!

  5. VanessaBrookman

    Hasley611, I too was there since I was then, and I am now on the Council. My comments here are spoken for myself as an individual, an individual reporting on the facts, past and present.
    When the school is in, Romero will not be as it is now. And no matter what, it is much better to have two routes of entrance and egress for emergency purposes ( I personally would prefer it that way for everyday ), but it’s much better than only one option period…. Which is what Monticello’s option was.
    There seems to be no perfect spot. It’s not as if people, many MANY people, haven’t been looking for many MANY years….. All measures will be taken to make our children safe, the fact that people doubt that amazes me.

  6. kprezioso

    Those pesky facts.

    It was stated that there is a huge difference between the previously proposed Monticello site and a high school in Romero Canyon…true. Romero is much worse. It is in an even more remote canyon than Hasley (the site of Monticello) and the impact to public safety and the environment is more severe.

    The taxpayers paid heavily for the Hart School district’s impartial consultants’ expertise, only to have it ignored. One hundred Romero and Hasley Canyon residents (a growing number) are worried about their safety. WE are the ones interested in the facts…and they very clearly demonstrate the superiority of the Hasley Sloan site in every category.

    The Romero development has been shut down due to illegal grading. This is the same site that has a proposed primary access greater than 10%, an extreme road. The northbound I-5 Grapevine has a downward grade of 6%. The primary road into a high school would be significantly steeper than the famed Grapevine?

    It is unconscionable to place students in this danger. Our canyons have already had multiple traffic fatalities. The Department of State Architects has shown concern that a primary access into a school would be this severe.

    The “Castaic Conclusions of Preliminary Studies” document states: “The proposed grading plan for a high school will include a 380′ cut slope on the NW portion of the site. Slope stability will need to be mitigated to prevent slope failure. It is possible that the slope mitigation could extend offsite onto adjacent property if extensive buttressing is required. Re-activation of landsliding during grading operations could be an issue and is an unknown factor at this time.”

    Do parents really want their children sitting at the base of a 380 foot slope (roughly the size of Castaic Dam?) What about post-construction settling or the next earthquake? This is only one of many geology issues that need to be “mitigated.” There goes the timeline and more of our Measure SA taxpayer money.

    Help us understand what to think when public safety is disregarded as the developer begins to be generous with civic leaders’ pet projects. Has he ALWAYS been this giving towards our community? Help us understand what to think when fire safety is an issue for one small school, and is overlooked for a school with 2600 plus citizens.

    It was said “Romero will not be as it is now.” Even though there is a safer and less costly alternative (according to the facts available on the Hart district website), are our leaders really for seizing the property of hard working citizens to let a developer unload his land? Again, more time and taxpayer money is gone, other Hart facilities aren’t modernized like they could and should be, and Castaic is still without a high school.

    Are we desperate? You bet. Desperate over the safety of our children. Someone has to be.

  7. kprezioso

    Do Hart School district parents realize that money is being taken from their schools so that a developer can sell his land? Can one school site take $15 million or more taxpayer money to build an “extreme” school when other HSD facilities need modernization?

    It is interesting that civic leaders are usually quoted as stating “we just want a school built”. So do Romero Canyon residents. We would simply like one that considers public safety and fiscal responsibility.

    These same leaders have benefited from the developer’s “generosity”. They have been against smaller school developments in the past. Now they support the Rasmussen site which costs almost twice as much as building on land that the Hart School district essentially ALREADY owns.

    Renee Sabol, chairperson of Castaic Days, was quoted in August 2008 regarding the Monticello proposed school with a maximum of 110 in Hasley Canyon: “Councilwoman Renee Sabol was concerned that the school could not possibly be prepared for a fire like the Ranch Fire of 2007 that scorched through Hasley Canyon and forced the evacuation of the entire area and the closure of Hasley Canyon Road.”

    “If there’s a fire, all those parents are going to make a beeline for their kids, and they’re not going to be able to get in,” Sabol said. ( )

    What changed? Are civic leaders no longer concerned about the safety of our children?

    I would urge everyone to read John Zaring’s compelling article, “The Castaic Conundrum”, May 15, 2010. Paragraphs 19 – 21 are included below. This article highlights the contributions the Romero Canyon developer made to various civic leaders. ( )

    “To be fair, I don’t blame Rasmussen for trying to sell his property to the Hart district. With home sales stalled, the residential tract he originally planned for Romero would lie dormant for maybe 10-15 years. Going hard after the only buyer in town is not only smart business but pragmatic.

    I say go for it, and while I’m cheerleading, we should thank Mr. Rasmussen for investing $5,000 a few weeks ago into the Town Council-sponsored Road Race, for underwriting Castaic Days (reportedly he’s in for $10,000) and for the $500 he gave the Boys & Girls Club for passing out his pro-Romero fliers.

    This avalanche of generosity might not pass everyone’s smell test — for example, Castaic’s Boy Scouts refused the cash-for-fliers offer….”

    It isn’t selfish to oppose a site that ignores public safety. Leaders should be rallying behind us for a safe and fiscally responsible site. It is irresponsible to send our children to a school that has so many public safety issues and endangers hundreds of canyon residents.

    This isn’t a site where “clearing the dry brush” will make it safe.

    Again, do other Hart School District parents realize that money is being taken from their schools so that a developer can sell his land?

  8. Hasley661

    “Romero will not be as it is now.” Show me where, in any plans that have been proposed, Romero Canyon Rd will be significantly widened with sidewalks and street lights? Kids are supposed to share the shoulder with teen drivers and rushing parents? Walking home in the dark at night after practices, club meetings, etc? I implore everyone to drive out to the site and keep these things in mind. This is absolutely not the best that Castaic has to offer.

  9. resident

    Sabol said she’s not impressed with any of the concerns brought up by the residents.

    From kprezioso comment:
    Renee Sabol, chairperson of Castaic Days, was quoted in August 2008 regarding the Monticello proposed school with a maximum of 110 in Hasley Canyon: “Councilwoman Renee Sabol was concerned that the school could not possibly be prepared for a fire like the Ranch Fire of 2007 that scorched through Hasley Canyon and forced the evacuation of the entire area and the closure of Hasley Canyon Road.”

    “If there’s a fire, all those parents are going to make a beeline for their kids, and they’re not going to be able to get in,” Sabol said. ( )


    Or does her opinion change when Castaic Days is being sponsored by the developer, RASMUSSEN – ROMERO CANYON LLC. – or


  10. VanessaBrookman

    LET ME BE CLEAR…. AT THE BEGINING & THE END OF THE DAY, THE SAFETY OF ALL CHILDREN IS THE ONLY THING THAT’S IMPORTANT. I am not, nor is the Castaic Area Town Council an expert on all matters (or more likely ANY matters) that went into developing the reports for the HART DISTRICT. The key words there are THE HART DISTRICT, they are the body who makes the decisions here, and they have very publically said so. Not long ago, (May 29, 2010) the Signal quoted Jaime Castellanos as saying:
    “Personally, Hart Superintendent Jaime Castellanos said, the endorsements don’t carry much weight with him.
    He’d rather rely on the reports that are currently under way.
    “Politics aside, it has to be decided on what the facts are,” Castellanos said.

    The Castaic Council’s endorsement, which was only one of many, (you had the Val Verde Civic Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the West Ranch Town Council too) mattered not to the Hart District. We had no power when it came to this.
    So to answer your first question USA2010, I cannot tell you, you would have to ask the deciding body. (The Hart Board)
    Question #2 – again, I am not an expert, I know from personal experience year after year, Hasley/DelValle requires closing (no “Pineapple Express” required)
    Question #3 – If there is a big earthquake are you REALLY trying to tell me and ALL people with common sense, who have lived in CA for any length of time that one spot is going to be better than the other? THAT is for California to decide, not us, not even the Hart District.

  11. USA2010

    OK Vanessa, since you’re a council member, tell me why the Romero site was chosen, when the Hasley/Sloan site was the far superior site in regards to cost effectiveness and safety, according to the consultant’s reports that we taxpayers paid for?
    How do you suppose the Romero site will hold up if we get another 4 day “pineapple express” downpour like we did in Jan 2005? What about the latest report/article in on Aug. 21 regarding the San Andreas Fault? They
    are anticipating a major quake much sooner than later. They are warning of a
    7 to possible 9 point quake, which lasts 1 to 3 minutes. I don’t think Mr.
    Rasmussen can grade/fill a landslide site that would survive either one of
    these “natural” disasters. So tell me, why not Hasley/Sloan? It’s more
    economic and safer. I’d love to hear your response to this……..

  12. sjr

    Vanessa, the Castaic area town Council’s endorsement of the Romero site means nothing. Any one who was present at the May town council meeting knows it was completely IRRESPONSIBLE for them to take that vote (as representatives of the “whole” town of Castaic), prior to the July 14th consultants report. I commend the four town council members who voted against the Romero site (4 against, 5 in favor) due to a lack of information. Thank you for looking out for our community. Those board members who voted in favor of the Romero site, shame on you. Typical politics, the cart before the horse. I to want to know why the Romero site was picked over the hasley Sloan site. After reading the consultants report, this was a no brainer. To the Hart District, I beg to differ with you on the issue of fatal flaws. The Romero site has one that you apparently over looked, fiscal responsibility. Since when do we have an extra 15 million plus to spend on a new school site, when it can be spread around the hart district for much needed facilities modernization. Shame on you as well for disrespecting our hard earned tax dollars. Santa Clarita, WAKE UP!

  13. resident

    @Vanessa – We appreciate your due diligence regarding the Castaic High School and hope that you understand that we do not have to agree.
    It is important to consider the safety of our children as #1 and this is not been addressed by the Hart Board so far…

  14. kprezioso

    Please understand that Romero Canyon residents are appreciative of the time, energy and efforts our leaders make. We know the school board and local councils pour countless and often unappreciated hours into our community. Many Romero Canyon residents have had the pleasure of speaking with a few folks who hold the opposite point of view; and we have always been able to discuss the issue reasonably.

    However, evidence that was expensive to obtain is being ignored, millions of taxpayer money is being disregarded and public safety is being shoved aside. That is not acceptable.

    Building a high school in Romero Canyon puts students and faculty at unnecessary risk. It would destroy the safety of our neighborhood. It would do unforgivable damage to the environment. We know it, the CATC knows it, the Hart School district board knows it. There is clear and subsantial evidence to demonstrate that Romero Canyon is the more problematic and costly site.

    Romero Canyon residents are being asked to pay the price for a decade of indecision.

    The price of putting a school in a remote canyon is the safety of our children and our neighborhood. The safe setting we sought out by moving to a rural community would be shattered. We feel like we are being slapped in the face, because we all know there is an alternative that is much cheaper and less problematic. We know this is process is being done to satisfy one developer at the price of our security.

    If the board wishes to work with this developer in building a school, then hire him to develop it on a reasonable, less costly, safer piece of land …one that doesn’t require seizing hardworking taxpayers’ property or wasting millions of Measure SA bond dollars that could go to modernize other HSD facilities.

  15. awesome

    It doesn’t seem logical to place a high school way up in that canyon, or any canyon. Isn’t the point to place it in an accessible location to benefit future growth? Isn’t there going to be a huge development on the other side of the 126, making the Romero site a rediculous choice? This isn’t a remote resort or prison- it’s a high school! Make it accessible! Try driving around Golden Valley HS in the morning or afternoon. No wonder Romero residents don’t want to be invaded with that!

    It’s pretty obvious that Renee and Vanessa are benefiting from Rasmussen’s “generosity” whether under the table or indirectly through “Castaic Days.” Perhaps if the Romero residents footed the same “generosity” they might have a level playing field.

    The Hart district already owns one that is ready to go.

  16. Truckersle

    I agree, we do need a High School. But safety first, not back in any canyon! Where are the majority of the homes? We should concentrate on this first and foremost. The Sloan Cyn. site is not any more cost effective than the Romero site. Hello, what about the wash? Do you have any idea what that is going to entail for a safe crossing? Have you ever tried to cross it during heavy rains? Again neither site is a good or smart choice. Why are certain sites being shoved down our throats? This is what has me baffled.

  17. USA2010

    Vanessa, thank you so much for responding to my comment. Clearly, you take no responsibility for choice of site. Although, I’m sure you were campaigning hard for the site that was chosen. Gosh, no one reads reports anymore.
    Now for #2, you seem to have missed the point. I was making reference to the fill/landslide site, not the closure at Hasley/Del Valle. There is an extreme level of liability building over the “Top” of Romero Canyon residents.
    (Looking at it from an engineering point of view)
    As for #3, again, you missed the point. I won’t waste my time trying to explain this one.
    (again, you’d have to look at it from an engineering point of view)
    Thanks for your participation Vanessa, and good luck.

  18. shambek

    You correctly state that representatives on the Castaic Town Council do NOT serve as experts in land development. This causes me to question, “Why did you call for a vote choosing a site before the experts completed their studies and provided sufficient information to allow you to provide an educated, informed decision”?
    You state that you and the rest of the members serve the community as volunteers. While I commend your charity, I question the integrity. As you boldly stated, none of you are expert. So what was the reason behind the rushed vote?
    We do want a high school in Castaic. If the Town Council really listened, you would recognize that our concerns are valid. We are concerned about the extreme road grade required to access this site, evacuation conditions during a fire or flood, and the safety of our children just to name a few.
    I noticed that although you have commented on a couple of the statements, you have failed to address our concerns. I am not attaching you personally; I just would like some honest answers!

  19. Castaic

    And I quote, “It’s relatively a very small number of people who happen to live near the site,” said 23-year Castaic resident and parent Beth Hansen. “99.9 percent of Castaic supports the high school.”

    Hasley Canyon is not condensed housing tracks, most residents off of Hasley, Sloan, and Romero live on 5 to 10 acres…

    This is why we live here, this is why we choose to live here, we knew that part of the risk was fire and floods and we still live here!

    Meaning 99.9% of the Castaic residents don’t live up here…so how do you expect them to be able to walk or ride to school? THINK GREEN!

  20. VanessaBrookman

    The LAST comment I will make in this thread is; HOW DARE YOU question MY integrity.

  21. sjr

    Vanessa, under stand one thing. As a sitting board member, when you cast a vote for or against a motion, you must take responsibility for that decision. People have a right to question your position that undoubtably will affect their lives. You may not be a governing board, but the decisions you make DO INFLUENCE the decisions of others, whether you believe that or not. If you can not answer simple questions to those who you represent, or must take offense to the questions we are asking you, maybe you should consider resigning your voluntary position. You are doing no one any good if you can not defend your own integrity. WE have the right to question it, and you have the responsibility to answer to it. Nobody forced you to become a board member. I am sure it was a voluntary action and decision you made on your own, and a commendable one as well. Some times you got to take a little heat. So how about answering a few simple questions?

  22. VanessaBrookman

    I would be HAPPY to asnwer all your questions, as I am able. I will give you a two options… reveal your identies (I dont hide mine) and I will answer your questions OR come to a Council Meeting ask your questions in person.
    Review the vote history, you will see I voted with plenty of integrity.

    SJR – I would be happy to answer all of your questions to the best of my ability once you either, reveal your identity (I dont hide mine) or come to a Council meeting, and ask me your questions in person.
    Review the voting record, I voted with integrity, as I believe all my fellow Council members did. If I had ANY doubt of that, I would be the FIRST one to do something about it!

  23. sjr

    Vanessa, what does identifying ones identity have to do with answering my question. You elected to put your self in the public spot light by replying to this thread, as well as sitting on the Castaic town council. Not all of us want to have our identity open to the public, yet, as voters we have the right to ask “our representatives” simple questions. Just answer the question, why did you join the other 4 board members on a yes vote on the Romero site PRIOR TO THE HART DISTRICTS CONSULTANTS REPORT? That was irresponsible to say the least. I will say it again, typical politics, the cart before the horse. The consultants report clearly identifies which site is best, yet that site was not chosen. In my opinion nether site is the optimal common since location, but that is beside the point. You owe the community an answer, or please do us a favor and resign, because it is obvious you take opposition to those who are just asking simple questions. And no Vanessa, I am not questioning your integrity.

    VanessaBrookman: Posted: September 3, 2010 7:10 p.m.

    sjr, Once again YOU are fanning the flames of MISINFORMATION – I did NOT vote yes, mine was a NO vote. But since you are SUCH a concerned citizen, Im sure you were in attendance of the meeting (since our agendas are posted to the public and state clearly all items that may receive action) and you have just “mixed up” your FACTS here in this thread.
    You call for MY resignation? really? And Yes, YOU did question my integrity in your comment above.

  24. sjr

    Vanessa, my sincere apology. I am sorry you are taking the heat for the position of the other board members. I did not realize you were one of the no votes. Did not mean to fan the flames here. Then you must understand the question being asked here? We will take it to the other 5 board members. Also, sorry for the resignation comment.