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Aug 17

The Reality of Romero

Dear William S. Hart School District Board Members,
I represent over 50 homeowners who live in Romero Canyon.  I am also the parent of three future Castaic High School students.  Romero Canyon residents realize that Castaic High School is a necessity.  However, we are deeply opposed to building Castaic High School in Romero Canyon and are currently taking legal action.  This project is an “extreme” development, one that endangers students and residents.
Timeline
The 18 month timeline was validated for both Hasley Sloan and Romero Canyon.  However, the Romero Canyon site has been shut down due to illegal grading and is facing additional geotechnical studies due to the vast landslide complexes.  There will be a lengthy legal dispute if eminent domain is employed.  There are also easement issues with a number of other Romero Canyon property holders, such as Gene Lombardi and Ion Development.  Romero Canyon’s 18 month timeline is rapidly evaporating.
Safety:  Developer Concerns
This past Thursday the project was stopped to due to illegal grading. LA County placed a hold on the project.  Where else will the developer take short cuts?  If they are casual about safety less than a month in, what happens to quality later?
Safety:  Fire Danger
Longevity should be an important factor when choosing a school location.  Why is this setting even a consideration when in August 2001, October 2003 and October 2007 brush fires ravaged that very property?
On Sunday, August 8, 2010, the Haskell Fire was started by a 14 year-old Saugus boy trying to smoke marijuana.  Over 50 families and homes were endangered.  Our Romero homes will be at greater risk once 2600+ students occupy that site.  Public safety must be considered.
Safety:  Landslide Hazards
As you know, there are numerous and significant geotechnical issues on the Romero property. The plans for the site include a 380 foot nearly vertical cut slope.  Castaic Dam is 300 feet tall.  Do you believe that parents want their children sitting at the base of a manmade slope that size?
LA County officials state they have never seen a slope of that magnitude be placed around a school.  The extreme slope is only one of the many geotechnical issues outlined by the neutral consultant, Fugro West, Inc.
Fugro West, Inc. also reports that “the landslides on the Romero property are more extensive than previously interpreted.  Deep seated landslides have been documented in excess of 100’ and could possibly extend to depths of 150’ or greater.  Additional testing (meaning more time and taxpayer money) needs to characterize and evaluate the landslide properties in order to develop a mitigation plan and grading design.”
Safety:  Primary Access Road
The grade for the proposed primary access road is 10 – 15%.  This is a radical slope.  The northbound I-5 Grapevine has a downward grade of 6%. This means that the primary access into the high school would be two and a half times steeper than the famed Grapevine if put in at the proposed 15%.
Teenaged drivers are not experienced enough to handle a slope this intense.  It is unconscionable to place our students in this extreme situation.  It is also unnecessary, since the Hasley-Sloan site has appropriate access and is already owned by the award-winning Santa Clarita Facilities Foundation.  The Department of State Architects (DSA) has already expressed concern that a primary access into a high school would be this severe.
So much for our children walking or riding their bikes to this school.
The proposed secondary access, Romero Canyon, is a narrow, winding private road complete with S-curves and blind corners. Wildlife darts out.  This is an equestrienne neighborhood with trails winding across the rural road. The road requires alert driving for seasoned drivers, let alone teenaged drivers or harried parents racing to get their children to school on time.  The fire department has expressed apprehension about how emergency personnel will maneuver their way in and how evacuation will take place.
Does this mean that land from over 25 homes along Romero Canyon would be seized to make it usable even though Sloan is already owned by the County and is designated as a limited secondary access?
Romero residents will vigorously oppose any action taken to seize our land.
The ensuing lawsuits from Romero residents will drive the cost of the school up and expand the development timeline indefinitely.  Yes, there is $300 million of taxpayer money sitting there to fight the lawsuits.  Modernize other schools instead of spending money frivolously.
The Department of State Architects has already noted that “the fact that the Hasley-Sloan site had public access from two directions (primary and secondary access) is an important consideration and makes the Hasley-Sloan a superior site in terms of accessibility for DSA.”  The DSA is calling Hasley-Sloan a superior site.
Cost
The Hasley-Sloan site will cost $20 million.  The Romero Canyon site will cost $35 million.  This is irresponsible spending. Do the parents know that those $15 million Measure SA tax-payer dollars could be put to use at other sites for modernization purposes?
Other Hart district children are sitting in portable classrooms. Other facilities are in dire need of renovation.  Think about how far $15-plus million will go for upgrades.  Plus, $35 million to develop at Romero is a conservative number; with all of the highly complex geotechnical issues and liability issues, the costs will soar.  This is literally a “money pit”.
These are only a few of the numerous and momentous issues facing a Romero Canyon development.  Issues which have been validated by two sets of independent consultants demonstrating the superiority of the Hasley-Sloan site.  Environmental issues, infrastructure requirements, flooding and other accessibility issues are also significant, costly concerns.
We can have a safer school at lower cost with more funds left to modernize other school facilities.  Consider public safety and hard-earned taxpayer dollars.  Romero Canyon is an extreme site for Castaic High School.
Romero Canyon residents urge you to reconsider your decision and pursue a site that is safe, fiscally responsible and timely.
Kimberly Prezioso

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