By. Josh Premako
Thursday January 26, 2006
Santa Clarita City Council meetings typically open with reports and updates from each member on pet projects, community events attended and other run-of-the-mill items.
Tuesday’s session took an in-depth turn when Councilman Cameron Smyth said the city needs to start cracking down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.
“We don’t go a week … without concerns (being raised) about day laborers,” he said.
Smyth asked for the city to look into requiring any companies with which it contracts to provide proof they do not hire illegal immigrants.
“We don’t contract with vendors that do other things that are illegal,” he said, and added that the practice hurts employees as well, with reports of undocumented workers going unpaid by unscrupulous contractors.
The city also fields a number of complaints and concerns from businesses and residents about day laborers who spend the day loitering curbside in the hopes of getting picked up for a job.
With that in mind, Smyth said he wants trespassing and loitering laws enforced, “so they are as effective as possible.”
In Costa Mesa, Smyth said the police department has begun working in concert with the U.S. Customs Department and Immigration and Naturalization Services, so that when an arrest is made the person’s citizenship status is verified.
Smyth suggested that the city ought to look into the possibility of initializing a similar program.
“I would be appalled to find out the city is employing (undocumented immigrants),” Councilman Bob Kellar said. “We’ve got a lot of issues we’ve got to deal with.”
City Attorney Carl Newton told the council he will look into potential courses of action for the city to take.
During the business portion of the meeting, Canyon Country residents turned out and squared off over the proposed closure of a residential street to through traffic.
A consent calendar item proposed traffic restrictions for Benz Lane, west of the intersection of Copper Hill Drive and Bouquet Canyon Road.
The street serves as a throughway for nearly 3,300 vehicles per day, said city Traffic Engineer Andrew Yi.
“We’re trying to reduce it to 2,000 (vehicles) per day,” he said.
On behalf of several other residents, Benz resident Tony Natoli said they are tired of having their neighborhood clogged with fast-traveling through traffic.
Benz was connected to Copper Hill in 2003, and Natoli said it is time to move forward in correcting that “mistake.”
The proposal called for several things: no left turns from Bouquet Canyon Road onto Benz and Sue Drive during morning peak hours, and no right turns from Copper Hill to Benz and Buckhorn Lane during evening peak hours.
If after four months those restrictions prove ineffective, the city can move to full-time restriction at the intersection of Copper Hill at Benz and Buckhorn, allowing only outbound, right turns.
“There’s no easy solution,” Yi said. “This is the only compromise we can come up with.”
Seven residents of nearby streets, including Ray Court, stepped up to the microphone to address concerns about having Benz closed, which would add a several-mile detour to their daily trips.
After much discussion among the council, Yi agreed to go back to the drawing board, with the council unanimously continuing the item to one of next month’s sessions.
“We need to try something and see what happens,” said Councilman Frank Ferry, who – to the approval of both groups of residents – suggested traffic restrictions that would reduce commuter traffic on Benz while still allowing surrounding residents access.
“This is something,” he said, “where they could live next to each other and not be mad.”