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Porter Ranch Foes Plan Last-Ditch Fight : Development: The opponents concede that it’s probably too late to persuade the City Council to reject the $2-billion project.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Neighborhood opponents of the massive Porter Ranch development in Chatsworth gathered Tuesday evening to organize a last-ditch campaign to lobby Los Angeles City Council members to reject the project next week, but conceded that it will probably be in vain.

If a down-to-the-wire campaign of post cards and phone calls cannot defeat the proposal, they will continue the fight in court, leaders of the group said.

About 75 residents--some holding babies in 90-degree temperatures at non-air-conditioned Castlebay Lane Elementary School--agreed that it is probably too late to influence the City Council before its vote Tuesday on Porter Ranch.

Councilman Hal Bernson wields “Napoleonic” control over the council on the Porter Ranch issue, said Don Worsham, a member of PRIDE, a homeowners group opposed to Porter Ranch. Any substantive change would have to come through Bernson, the proposal’s chief political supporter, Worsham said.

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Land set aside for school use is likely to be the only aspect of the plan Bernson will agree to change, Worsham said, and “that issue is being used to divert attention from other important issues like air quality, water and traffic.”

Porter Ranch, if approved, would be a $2-billion project to be built over 20 years in the hills of Chatsworth north of the Simi Valley Freeway.

The development would include 3,395 residences and six million square feet of commercial and retail space.

Shapell Industries, headed by Beverly Hills builder Nathan Shapell, and Liberty Buildings Inc. are equal partners in the Porter Ranch Development Co., the project’s primary developer.

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The South Coast Air Quality Management District strongly objected initially to the 1,300-acre development on the grounds that by creating an estimated 21,000 jobs, it would contribute to poor air quality and possibly exacerbate traffic congestion in the area.

The AQMD relented after the development company trimmed the project, which initially called for 7.7 million square feet of commercial space, and added more condominiums and apartment buildings to better balance the new jobs and housing.

Bernson, whose district encompasses Porter Ranch, has supported the revised plan, increasing the likelihood of its passage by the full council Tuesday. Council members have rarely interfered in land-use issues in other members’ districts.

Julie Korenstein, a West Valley school board member, has repeatedly clashed with Bernson over the school issue, demanding that the developer set aside a seven-acre site for an elementary school and a 15-acre plot for a junior high school. The current plan says the developer needs to save the elementary school site for only 10 years, and could reserve a site for a future junior high school.

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