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Hillside Growth Plan Sparks Hot Debate

Times Staff Writer

Homeowners, developers and business owners on Monday angrily debated the effects of a proposed ordinance which would restrict development on Sunland-Tujunga hillsides.

More than 800 people crowded into the Verdugo Hills High School auditorium for a public hearing called by the city of Los Angeles on the proposed ordinance, which would reduce the density of future residential construction on hillsides.

Many speakers told Charles Rausch, a hearing examiner for the Department of City Planning, that the ordinance was essential to preserve the hillsides.

“When I moved here 15 years ago, we had clean air and there was no traffic,” said Rob Rosen, a broker. “But then the freeway came in and developers pounced on this area like vultures. Now the streets are choked and the infrastructure can’t take it anymore.”

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But many others said the ordinance would unfairly prevent them from improving their properties. “This law has the effect of denying landowners the right to build their dream house,” said Robert Gordon, who owns 11 lots in the area. “This would effectively make our property worthless.”

Robert Loye, of the Coalition to Preserve the Foothills, complained that “the city is arbitrarily trying to enforce something that will not allow anything to be built here.”

At issue is an amendment to a community district plan for the Sunland-Tujunga-Lake View Terrace-Shadow Hills area, establishing new building standards for hillside land. The plan was adopted by the Los Angeles City Council in 1980.

Arline De Sanctis, chief deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs, sponsor of the ordinance, said several hillsides in the Sunland-Tujunga area were erroneously zoned for low or very low density. Low density zoning requires from 5,000 to 9,000 square feet for each residential lot, and very low density requires 11,000 to 20,000 square feet.

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De Sanctis said the area should have been zoned for minimum density, which would allow one residence per one to five acres. An acre is 43,560 square feet. In extremely mountainous areas, only one lot per 20 acres would be allowed, depending on the slope, she said.

The first hearing on the amendment three weeks ago was cut short when the audience overflowed the Sunland-Tujunga Municipal Building and Fire Department officials declared the building too crowded.

Rausch will present a report to the Planning Commission, which will conduct a public hearing and submit recommendations to the City Council, which will make the final vote.


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