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Developer to Defy Picus on Ridge Project

Times Staff Writer

A developer who hopes to build a $150-million office complex in Woodland Hills vowed Thursday to pursue his project--despite a Los Angeles councilwoman’s attempt to turn it into a residential development.

Councilwoman Joy Picus announced Thursday that she is opposing the 7-story Warner Ridge office proposal because of heavy opposition from nearby homeowners.

Picus said she will take steps next week to amend the city’s Woodland Hills-area Community Plan to strip the 22-acre site’s commercial designation and replace it with a “single-family home” designation.

But developer Jack Spound pledged to fight that move and any effort by Picus to get other council members to vote against his proposal when it comes before them next year.

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“It’s for her colleagues to decide whether she’s treated us fairly,” said Spound, who is a partner with the Johnson Wax Development Co. in the proposed nine-building project. “We believe the Planning Commission will see her move for what it is--a move to protect herself from attack by rival candidates in the upcoming council election.

“We’re moving forward. We believe there are a lot cooler heads out there who are not running for reelection.”

Picus said her decision to break a 2-year silence on the Warner Ridge issue was based on “months and months of watching this go through the process.” She said it is her policy to side with residents in local disputes.

“It’s become very, very clear to me this project is not acceptable to the community,” Picus told reporters and project opponents at her Reseda office.

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Picus said she “never predicts what my colleagues will do” when voting on projects from her west San Fernando Valley council district. But she stressed that she has never been overruled by other council members on a local matter.

She said the master plan amendment she will introduce next week will clear the way for construction of “large and expensive” homes.

The rezoning plan was hailed by the opponents, who have steadfastly argued for single-family homes instead of office buildings on the site at the northeast corner of De Soto Avenue and Oxnard Street at the edge of Warner Center.

“Thank you . . . for your commitment to the preservation of our quality of life,” said Robert Gross, vice president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization and a leader of the opposition to Spound’s project.

Gross said he hopes to forge a coalition of homeowners and representatives of nearby Pierce College to work with Spound on a residential project. “This will not be an easy task, but if we don’t take this first step, the difficult times and frustrations will continue, unabated, ad infinitum,” he said.

Spound said he was discouraged from attending Picus’ news conference. “They wouldn’t tell us what time it would be,” he said.

“To invite the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization to her press conference leads me to believe there’s more here than meets the eye. Obviously some kind of deal has been struck. I’m outraged,” Spound said.

According to Spound, there is significant support for his project from the Carlton Terrace neighborhood next to his building site and from Pierce College officials.

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He said a residential project at the site would not be a success because the college is opposed to high-density condominiums and buyers would resist expensive single-family homes overlooking an industrial area in Warner Center.

“Plastic smeltering and manufacturing is allowed right across the street from our site,” Spound said.

James R. Gary, a Warner Center real estate company owner who was involved in community talks 10 years ago about condominiums for the Warner Ridge land, agreed.

“I think building estate-sized homes there is ridiculous,” Gary said. “If you were spending up to $1 million for a house, how would you like looking down at 18-wheeler trucks and rooftop air-conditioning ducts?”


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