Thu, Oct

Saying Goodbye to the Leader of the Valley Secessionist Movement

MY THOUGHTS - In 2002 I voted for the San Fernando Valley to secede from the City of Los Angeles.  The gentleman who really sparked the movement, passed away Tuesday.

Richard Close was one of those men, whose name I never remembered, but whose work was recognized, influential and well known in business and political circles. 

He was the 40- year head of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association (no term limits here) When first joining the HOA he discovered the San Fernando Valley had no real political power, even though it was as large as the City of Chicago and some 220 sq miles. 

Sherman Oaks HOA developed from a rather mundane Association to one of the most important voices in the SFV.  Close had seen the potential and capitalized on the vacuum.  He was the very definition of a “Disrupter” who practiced Real Estate law while running the HOA and forming a  strong…non-partisan politically  wide network called Vote USA.  

He and his volunteers managed to garner support from the Business and Commercial community, as well as residents, who were tired of paying their taxes to LA and getting mostly nothing in return. 

VOTE USA managed to get Proposition F on the ballot in 2002, which would have basically allowed the Valley to become its own City.  Up to that point, even though the SVF was strong economically and enjoyed wide suburban population growth, its needs and opinions were basically ignored or ridiculed.  Who remembers “Valley girl” as the adjective describing teenage girls in both TV, movies and cartoons? 

The SVF turned out to vote for the measure BUT the City of Los Angeles was shocked at these upstarts; realized their tax base would be significantly lower; gathered its larger resources and defeated the measure.   If Measure F had passed, with an estimated 1.34 million people, the San Fernando Valley city would have been the sixth-largest city in the United States. Los Angeles would drop to third. 

I always thought the 60’s  405 freeway was THE impetus to the Valley growth.   Now, I sometimes wonder if the 405 was a blessing or a curse.  Richard Close was not one to give up.   He continued to wage battle and advocate for and against those issues affecting the SFV. After the secession defeat, the “Valley” gradually increased in importance and today is hardly recognizable from those early 2000’s 

The various published obituaries and media contained comments by politicians and other leaders discussing his outstanding leadership and accomplishments.  He is a great example of what I discussed in my article on Monday.  He wasn’t a wealthy tycoon or a generous patron of the Arts.  He didn’t come from a prominent family where he could buy influence.  He was an ordinary man accomplishing extraordinary things.   Today he would probably be described as the old guard.  He didn’t want his beloved Valley to become urbanized with dense housing, more traffic and more people.  But times change and the SFV is no longer that “place over the hill “.  It is indeed a thriving metropolis and, in some ways, a City unto itself. 

I have faith that there are more Richard Close ‘s out there who can also do extraordinary things.  

People who give up and say “there is nothing I can do about the horrible state of our country, “are so wrong.  Each one of us can do something.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist and a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])