Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus on Wednesday announced what she said are the final boundaries of West Hills after a survey of about 8,500 Canoga Park residents showed that most wanted to join the community.
Picus said she will move the eastern boundary from Platt and Woodlake avenues to Shoup Avenue, which left no single faction in the months-old dispute with everything it wanted.
Picus’ decision to expand West Hills, carved from the western flank of Canoga Park in January, was based on the results of the survey she mailed to residents last month, the councilwoman told neighborhood leaders at her Reseda field office.
The survey was Picus’ attempt to resolve the controversy that spiraled as more residents east of the area sought the new name as well.
“It is clear that the overwhelming majority of people living west of Shoup want their community to be identified as West Hills,” Picus said. “In response to this desire, I will ask the city Department of Transportation to post blue signs in the area.”
The survey results also determined that Canoga Park residents living between Shoup Avenue and Topanga Canyon Boulevard will not be included in West Hills.
After Picus announced the survey results and her decision, the community leaders present for the announcement voiced mixed but conciliatory reactions.
“We’re certainly happy that this distracting and divisive issue is now behind us,” Joel Schiffman, a lawyer and president of the West Hills Property Owners Assn., told the group. But, he added in an interview later: “People are disappointed.”
Schiffman said he will ask the 1,000-member association’s board to call a special election on the question of whether residents of the newly included areas should be allowed to join the association.
Within the association, he said, “There’s a diversity of opinion about it.” Schiffman brought to the councilwoman’s office his association’s own survey, which he said opposes any expansion by a ratio of more than 20 to 1.
Battle lines in the controversy had formed with Schiffman’s group, whose members were not included in Picus’ survey, arguing against expansion. A group in an area called the “Open Zone” sought expansion to Fallbrook Avenue only. And a third group pushed for expansion farther east to Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
Lil Younger, a real estate agent and leader of the Open Zone west of Fallbrook, beamed after having achieved her group’s “main goal” of being included officially in West Hills. Younger, who earlier had said her group hoped to “hold the line” at Fallbrook, said the other new West Hills residents to the east of Fallbrook “worked hard for it, and they’re entitled to it.”
The Shoup boundary splits the homeowner faction east of Fallbrook. Neighborhood leaders Randy Cohen and James Fedalen, who live west of Shoup, had allied with real estate agent Mickey Epstein, who lives east of Shoup, in an attempt to extend the West Hills boundary to Topanga Canyon.
“It’s like waiting outside the operating room with another family and then finding out your family is going to be fine and the other is not,” said Cohen, an administrative assistant with a San Fernando Valley accounting firm.
Epstein and others from his area who voted to join West Hills were left in the cold by the survey. As Picus concluded her remarks Wednesday, Epstein took her to task for retreating from a ballot-counting method outlined earlier by her chief deputy, Sharon Schuster. Leaders east of Fallbrook say the Schuster method, which called for counting votes from one area toward the inclusion of another, would have achieved their goal.
At the close of Picus’ remarks Wednesday, Epstein loudly began to protest that Schuster’s method should have been followed. Picus sternly cut him off.
“I’ve made my decision,” the councilwoman told him. “In that case, my chief deputy was speaking for herself.”
“You’re not to be trusted,” Epstein said as Picus ended the argument by munching on a chocolate doughnut.
Picus said that a 47% survey showing in Epstein’s area meant “it’s obvious that they either prefer their neighborhood to be identified as Canoga Park, or perhaps they are indifferent.”
According to survey results, which were counted by the city clerk, more than 75% of homeowners living between the original West Hills boundary, at Platt and Woodlake avenues, and Fallbrook voted to shed the name of Canoga Park. Farther to the east, about 62% of those living between Fallbrook and Shoup wished to join West Hills. The survey created a third zone, between Shoup and Topanga Canyon, in which only 47% wished to be in West Hills.
Although Picus originally said a two-thirds vote would be required from each zone, problems in mailing the surveys led her to throw out that rule and allow the area between Fallbrook and Shoup in with less than a two-thirds vote.
About 280 surveys intended for the Shoup zone were delivered to the Fallbrook zone instead, a Picus aide said, and more than 1,000 homes in the Fallbrook zone did not receive surveys at first, forcing a second mailing that may have given that area an advantage in the polling.
The boundary change will include commercial areas such as the Fallbrook Square and Platt Village in the fledgling community, which at first was almost entirely residential. Yet some of the businesses want to continue to have Canoga Park addresses, said Susan Pasternak, Picus’ press secretary.
Picus has been dogged by the West Hills issue since the campaign for the name change was launched a year ago. Political observers had said the survey offered no easy way out for the three-term councilwoman, who is up for re-election in 1989. The affected area, however, represents far less than a majority of the voters in her council district.
At the close of her announcement Wednesday, Picus said: “This has been a difficult, divisive time for us all. Let’s close the book now.”
Later, Epstein said in an interview: “That lady is not done with me . . . . There’s no way that I’m going to go away.”