2 Candidates for Council Assail Porter Ranch Development

Times Staff Writer

Saying that the northwest San Fernando Valley should not be turned into “a new Century City,” two Los Angeles City Council candidates Wednesday blasted a $2-billion development plan for Porter Ranch and criticized campaign donations from the proponents to council members.

Jack McGrath of North Hollywood, facing long odds as a write-in candidate opposing Zev Yaroslavsky, said at a news conference that Tampa Avenue “will be a Van Nuys Boulevard” if the council approves Porter Ranch Development Co.'s project. The company plans to build 3,000 residences and 7.5 million square feet of office and commercial space--including a shopping mall the size of the Northridge Fashion Center--in the hills above Chatsworth.

Nearby residents have criticized the project, which would be among the largest in city history.

Bennett Kayser, who is challenging Councilman Michael Woo in the April 11 election, said citizens should not be asked to make sacrifices to accommodate such projects.


“When we’re asked to share our car with strangers . . . and to go to the bathroom twice just to flush once to conserve resources for overdevelopment purposes, that’s too much,” said Kayser, former president of the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns.

The news conference, held at Tampa Avenue and Sesnon Boulevard in view of the 1,300-acre site, came in response to a report in The Times on Sunday that current and former council members and the mayor have received $410,000 in campaign funds since 1982 from companies and individuals involved in the project. The total included donations from Shapell Industries and Liberty Building Co.--partners in Porter Ranch Development--affiliated companies, project consultants, company officials and family members.

Councilman Hal Bernson, whose district includes the proposed development, received $50,380, far more than any other council member.

Bernson says he is neutral on the proposal. A citizens committee he appointed has endorsed it.


Bernson said people should look at his record rather than “make innuendoes” that he “can’t be objective” because of campaign donations.

Richard C. Mahan, a vice president of Shapell Industries, headed by politically prominent Beverly Hills developer Nathan Shapell, said campaign giving “doesn’t get you anything other than access . . . so you can present your story.”

“You’re one out of many,” Mahan said. “And there are so many influences today on any decision that an elected official makes.”

But Robert Birch, a project opponent who spoke at the news conference, said Bernson should return the money. And McGrath called on Yaroslavsky to “just say no . . . to his colleague, Mr. Bernson,” when the project comes before the council. Traditionally, council members defer to colleagues on developments in their districts.