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The Formation of the Bell Canyon CSD in 1984

Why We Formed The CSD, And Why We Almost Decided Not To 
by Bud Toye, CSD President 1984-1996

The History of its Formation

As Bell Canyon Association president in 1983, I received a phone call from Robert Braitman, the Executive Director of the Venture Local Area Formation Commission. LAFCO is a state created agency which exists in every county in California . The Commission is responsible for working closely with citizens, the county, cities and special districts on a variety of issues concerning jurisdictional responsibility and needed change. Its statutory purpose is to encourage the establishment of orderly governmental boundaries based on local needs and circumstance.

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Mr. Braitman explained that overlapping service responsibilities concerning the City of Simi Valley and Venture County recreation and parks districts raised the question of Bell Canyon ’s stake in any possible change in jurisdiction. Fully 7% of all property tax revenue paid to Venture County was redirected to the Rancho Simi Parks and Recreation District, an agency unable to provide services to Bell Canyon residents.

Mr. Braitman suggested that we secede from that district and form a new one that could receive this misdirected revenue and then spend it to provide services for the residents of Bell Canyon.

This sounded pretty exciting until we realized that there might not be any services that we could provide that would not compromise the community's private status. It was made clear that the use of public money spent for such things as roads, swimming pools, or other improvements must by law, be made available to any citizen from anywhere in the country. It didn't matter that the funds spent for such things was generated by the local residents. Anyone could challenge the blocking of these amenities to the general public and force Bell Canyon to allow access to anyone wishing to use them; even challenge the existence of the entrance gate itself.

Excitement quickly gave way to concern. So we began a search for things on which we could safely spend the money. Curbside rubbish collection headed the list because one needed to be a resident to receive the service. It would be instantly popular because at the time, our private rubbish company was charging each resident separately and in many cases differently. The rubbish company justified its costly services by explaining that our steep roads were tearing up their trucks. When we eventually formed the CSD, we were able to negotiate a contract through competitive bidding, and the result was free trash collection to residents and at a cost to the CSD substantially less than the aggregate of the individual residential billings.

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If memory serves me, another possible use of the funds would be to reduce or stabilize water rates with subsidies from the CSD. We could do likewise for sewage costs. Contracting for Emergency services was another. Because of the powers granted to CSDs at the time, ours could function as a quasi city offering many of the services which incorporated cities are empowered to provide.
Our worst fear however was the dissension this new found money might create within the community. As loyal citizens of Bell Canyon , we needed to do everything possible to avoid conflicts between the Bell Canyon Homeowners Association and CSD boards. Would it all be worth it if these funds proved divisive to our community?
In our infinite wisdom, we decided that having too much money and some lively debate couldn't be as bad as forfeiting this financial windfall. We simply didn't want to deny future generations the chance to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity to get some of our taxes back into Bell Canyon.

So we put it to a vote on the 1984 general election ballot. Also on the ballot were the five candidates for the new CSD board. That was the fun part, because there we were on the same ballot as Ronald Reagan for president. We all won, and the CSD measure garnered a 99% affirmative vote.
The five of us made plans to drive up to the government offices to get sworn into office. When county officials learned of that plan they warned us to take three cars because our trip back home would constitute a violation of the Brown Act. They solved the problem by insisting on coming to Bell Canyon for the ceremony, and it was standing room only. Residents, county officials, our supervisor, LAFCO, and an LA Times reporter whose article covered page 3 of the Times a few days later. We were all very proud.

My hope is that the residents of Bell Canyon will never lose their enthusiasm for this special gift from the county. I hope that the Association and CSD can always work together as one, and involve all the residents of the community with the ongoing process of defining the CSD’s primary mission as it continues to unfold.

CSD revenue must continue to benefit the residents of Bell Canyon in ways that do not compromise the highly valued privacy of this unique place to live. Its an interesting responsibility because the constituents of Bell Canyon ’s two governing entities are different. The CSD answers to the residents of Bell Canyon , and the Bell Canyon Association answers to the property owners. Although both are one-in-the-same in most cases, their differences must be respected. So far so good, and I congratulate all who have worked so hard in the past 32 years to keep our vision alive.