Simi Council OKs Hopetown Plan With Fewer Homes, Oaks Spared

Times Staff Writer

The Simi Valley City Council on Tuesday set down final conditions for development of 40 acres of the 212-acre Hopetown property.

The council's approval of the project permits development of 217 single-family homes out of a proposed 234 and requires the developer, Griffin Homes of Calabasas, to eliminate 12 proposed lots, which will be added to a common area. About 10 oaks on those lots will be saved, officials said.

"I think it was a decision that provided everyone with a good compromise," said Elaine Freeman, spokeswoman for Griffin Homes.

The City Council is expected to give final approval to the plan in two weeks.

Under the conditions, Griffin Homes must preserve mature oaks in a common area within the development, close off Tetlow Avenue while providing access to emergency vehicles only and adjust lot sizes on the project's northern edge to blend with an adjoining tract.

The City Council dropped an earlier city Planning Commission recommendation that Griffin Homes establish a greenbelt to preserve a row of eucalyptus.

The City Council's decision after a public hearing, which began Monday night and adjourned about 1:30 Tuesday morning, ended several years of wrangling between the developer and neighboring residents. Griffin Homes originally proposed building an industrial park on 17 acres of the site and later a 300-unit condominium project. Residents fought to keep the area as a natural preserve.

Formerly Corriganville

The property, which has been closed to the public since 1962, was once called Corriganville after actor Raymond (Crash) Corrigan. The land formed a backdrop for more than 3,500 Western films and television series in the early 1950s, including "Gunsmoke" and the "The Lone Ranger."

When comedian Bob Hope purchased the property from the late Western movie actor in 1965, it was renamed Hopetown. The movie set was destroyed by fire in the 1970s.

Freeman said Griffin Homes has had an option to buy the 212 acres since 1983, contingent upon approval of a project. The purchase is expected to be completed by March 31, she said.

Griffin Homes has agreed to sell 172 acres of the property to the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. The state-funded Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has already set aside $1 million to purchase the rugged terrain, which would become public open space.

Several local residents at the public hearing opposed the development, which will be in the southeast corner of the city below the Simi Valley Freeway along Kuehner Drive. Angry residents objected to the project's size and said the city was forfeiting the area's landscape.

But Councilwoman Vicky Howard said "the trade-off, to give up 40 acres for 172 that was inaccessible to the general public," is a good deal for Simi Valley. "Let's take this 40 acres, and get the very best we can for them."

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