Article on Tujunga Wash Proposal
After being a Times affectionado for 20 years, and having great appreciation for the fair and balanced manner you have for reporting news, I was unsettled to see the one-sided report (May 3) about the proposed Tujunga Valley Business Park and Homes development. This issue is critical to our area and required skill and sensitivity, neither of which was displayed by your writer.
Sunland/Tujunga is 38% open/public space, much more than other urban Los Angeles areas. We enjoy lush, uncrowded and prime land, yet we are only 20 minutes from downtown or Encino via nearly empty freeways. We also have less smog and a unique meeting of coastal and mountain terrain to form unequaled scenery. What we do not have in this area is some essentials--adequate housing, career opportunities and flood protection, though we are well know for flood problems.
We are, according to SCAG reports, an unbalanced community, and unable to support our population. In areas where there is a balance of jobs and homes, one sees shiny new cars and newly painted homes with a general sense of well-being. Not so in areas where there is no labor market and there is less money to spend. We see older cars, run-down homes, a high school with no lights to play sports games at night and worn-out, mismatched uniforms. There aren’t part-time jobs for the students, and with that comes a depressed business community to contend with. The disadvantage of a modest, 200-acre development (with 325 acres donated back to permanent open space) offers much more to this community than it takes away. The benefits exceed any small loss.
Engineers who are known around the world for their expertise in flood and flow studies recently completed an exhaustive study of the Tujunga Wash. They are unanimous in the opinion that flood protection is essential for this area. One hundred and sixty-five homes are directly in an area designated as an “inundation” area if a major storm hits. Our major access road and main sewer line are in an area where the erosion is visible and where past storms have wiped out 29 acres of land, eight homes and the back end of the property housing our major employer. Floodwaters, according to the study, can be expected to wash over our minimal levee system, yet the City of Los Angeles simply does not have the funds to provide adequate flood protection. A sand deposit in the wash adds to the danger, yet the removal of this sand is also not in the city budget.
The engineers selected to do the study are those referred by the county. Since the area is unique, the technology to do the study was state of the art. Existing county flood formulas were enhanced many times over to provide the most sophisticated flood control strategy available today. Private sector funds would pay for the levee. The maintenance would be paid for with a special assessment to the new homes and businesses, a common practice. I express my confidence in the City Planning and Public Works departments and other officials that, when the building permits are issued, all the details and issues of this development will have been addressed and solved.
The article alluded to widespread opposition to the project. In fact all the major clubs and organizations in Sunland/Tujunga have endorsed it. There are signature cards in file in City Hall, and the YES Coalition was formed to liaison this project on behalf of the community. The Shadow Hills opposition team is famous for its vocal opposition to any improvement in the area, including the freeway system. They claim to be acting in the best interest of the community, yet we seldom see them at community events, fund-raisers or volunteer projects. In fact, you seldom see them in local business establishments.
At long last, the wash will be saved with private sector funds, and this 325 acres will close the last link of land between Hansen Dam and the Angeles Forest--forever preserving the wildlife and horse trails. This development will give us major roads, an $85 million payroll and career opportunities. I think the YES Coalition expresses the sentiment of the larger mainstream community that a reasonable development in our area will actually help preserve the rural ambiance, give us some critical help and make Sunland/Tujunga a viable, flourishing and balanced place to live.