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Transit Panel to Seek Land Adjacent to 2 Rail Routes

Times Staff Writer

A sharply divided Los Angeles County Transportation Commission on Wednesday voted to begin buying land along a San Fernando Valley rail line that is one of two routes under consideration for a light-rail transit system.

But in an effort to mollify homeowners fighting against selection of the Chandler-Victory route for a high-speed rail line, the commission took a step toward buying land along the Ventura Freeway, the other route under consideration.

The commission vote was 6 to 5 and followed 90 minutes of what one commissioner called “strong debate” in closed session.

Most of the dissenting commissioners feared that buying land now would convince critics that they had already chosen a route, even though a $2.1-million study of the two routes won’t be completed until fall.

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Commissioners had before them a staff recommendation calling for approval to begin negotiations for the purchase of three parcels along the Chandler-Victory alignment. That route follows the Southern Pacific railroad freight line along Chandler and Victory boulevards and Oxnard and Topham streets from North Hollywood to Warner Center.

Sites Worth $26 Million

Staff members said the three parcels--in Van Nuys, Tarzana and Canoga Park--are worth about $26 million and are about to be purchased by developers.

Should the commission ultimately decide to build along the Chandler-Victory route, the parcels, two of which could make station sites and the other a rail yard, would be more expensive in the future, staff members said.

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If the Chandler-Victory route is not chosen, the land could be sold, probably at a profit, the staff said.

Commissioner Richard Callahan, a stand-in for Supervisor Ed Edelman, said he proposed including the possibility of buying land along the Ventura Freeway to “make clear that we are treating both lines equitably.”

The staff was directed to search for “any parcels along the freeway that might be similarly threatened” as the three along Chandler-Victory.

Callahan stressed that no land on either route could actually be purchased by the staff without returning to the commission for a final vote.

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But Julie Fine of Reseda, a leading Chandler-Victory opponent, said she was not reassured by Callahan’s amendments.

“They just added the freeway because we called them on it,” she said. “And the freeway people are not going to like it one bit.”

Both the Chandler-Victory and the freeway routes have led to the formation of well-organized homeowner groups who contend their single-family neighborhoods will be harmed by noise and ground vibrations from trains traveling as frequently as every three minutes.

The freeway line would be built on pillars on the south shoulder from Universal City to Warner Center.

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None of the three parcels along the proposed Chandler-Victory route is in the right of way. However, the staff has recommended that an appraiser be hired if the commission elects to buy the 15-mile-long right of way.


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