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L.A. Council Gets Mixed Reception on the Road

Times Staff Writer

In its first meeting ever in Sunland-Tujunga, the Los Angeles City Council was greeted Wednesday by residents protesting the proposed expansion of a local garbage dump, was serenaded by a singing cowboy, was served barbecue and behaved in an uncharacteristically civil manner.

The meeting, which drew about 200 people to the Sunland-Tujunga Municipal Building, was arranged by Councilman Joel Wachs as a civics lesson of sorts, letting residents see their representatives in action without traveling 15 miles to City Hall. It also provided an opportunity for Wachs to familiarize his colleagues with his district’s problems.

But the meeting became a tribute to Wachs, who dominated the two-hour session by reporting on his efforts on behalf of the community, such as obtaining funds for a new park to be built behind the municipal building and named after the area’s popular late councilman, Howard Finn.

3rd Outreach Meeting

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Wednesday’s was only the third council meeting held away from City Hall. The council met five years ago in Canoga Park and last year in San Pedro.

The meeting also was notable because Sunland-Tujunga residents have long been isolated from the city’s mainstream. Louis Nowell, a councilman who represented the area for 14 years, once boasted that he never opened a district office because his constituents “just wanted to be left alone by City Hall.”

But that attitude has changed as the area’s wide-open spaces have been targeted by developers and previously tranquil neighborhoods have become places where people fear crime.

All of the council’s members except Richard Alatorre, who was ill, attended Wednesday’s meeting.

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They were greeted by about a dozen residents wearing surgical masks to protest odors that could come from the proposed expansion of Lopez Canyon Landfill in Lake View Terrace.

Picket Signs Waved

The protesters carried signs and sang, “All we are saying is close down the dump” to the tune of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”

During a public hearing, many of the protesters also told the council of their opposition to Phoenix House, a drug treatment facility proposed for Lake View Terrace.

Councilwoman Ruth Galanter told the crowd that her Westside district includes a Phoenix House and that she has never received any complaints about it.

But by the end of the meeting, the residents gained at least one more ally: Councilman Nate Holden, a mayoral candidate, who left the meeting wearing buttons reading “Lake View Terrace doesn’t want the Phoenix House” and “Lake View Terrace--Our backyard is full.”

By most accounts, the roadshow was somewhat dull. Onlookers missed the fireworks and personality clashes that often breathe life into the minutiae of city government.

The business of the day was for the most part routine. The city clerk’s office was careful to stack the agenda with Sunland-Tujunga issues and to reschedule matters of importance to residents in other parts of the city.

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Bus Funds Approved

The council approved a request by Wachs to spend $55,000 to reinstate weekend bus service on the Southern California Rapid Transit District’s Line 169, which connects Sunland with the rest of the San Fernando Valley along Sunland Boulevard. Wachs’ staff also passed out copies of his motion introduced Tuesday to limit building of large apartment and condominium complexes in Sunland-Tujunga.

The agenda seemed to be of little importance to people in the audience, several of whom said they came simply to see the faces of people they read about in the newspaper.

“I’ve always wanted to see something like this,” said Gloria Pelayo, student body vice president at Verdugo Hills High School.

However, Leada McKelvey of Sunland said she did not like the way that the council rushed through items without any explanation to the audience. She also complained that council members spent more time listening to themselves than to the people.

After the meeting, council members were served barbecue and serenaded by a singer at a luncheon hosted by the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce at the McGroarty Art Center.


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