Bernson Assails Simi Valley Vote to Sue Over Porter Ranch Project

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

City Councilman Hal Bernson lashed out at the Simi Valley City Council on Tuesday for voting to sue Los Angeles over the Porter Ranch development, saying the council acted rashly and probably will fail in its quest to block the colossal project.

Bernson said Simi Valley officials should welcome Porter Ranch for the jobs it will provide, rather than file an expensive lawsuit.

"I'm just surprised that they didn't do a little more homework," said Bernson, whose district includes Porter Ranch in the western San Fernando Valley. "I think the City Council acted very rashly. I think they have been duped by the political opponents of Porter Ranch."

But Simi Valley officials defended the action they took Monday.

"Not to take action because you are too timid or because you're afraid of losing is not the way to go," said Councilman Glen McAdoo. "When you have right on your side, you have an obligation to go forward."

The council voted in closed session to sue Los Angeles to halt the Porter Ranch development. The project, which would include 3,395 residences and 6 million square feet of commercial space, would be built in Chatsworth, about five miles east of Simi Valley.

The directors of PRIDE, the homeowners group opposed to Porter Ranch, said they planned to meet privately Tuesday night with San Francisco attorney Mark Weinberger to discuss legal strategy, which may involve filing an independent lawsuit, spokesman Don Worsham said.

Worsham said he was heartened by the council's action. "We applaud and respect them for doing what is necessary to protect their community."

Simi Valley officials said the project, which would rank with Century City as one of the largest developments in Los Angeles history, would create tremendous amounts of smog in the region and turn the Simi Valley Freeway into a parking lot.

They said that their concerns about these issues were not adequately addressed in the environmental impact report and, therefore, that they have no choice but to take legal action.

According to the environmental impact report approved by the Los Angeles City Council, the development would generate an additional 150,602 vehicle trips per day in the surrounding area.

Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton said the report does not adequately answer questions about how and when Los Angeles and the developer would compensate for the added traffic congestion and smog. Simi Valley officials want the project to be built in phases, with approval of each phase contingent on actual construction of additional freeway lanes.

Bernson blamed Simi Valley for many of the traffic tie-ups on the freeway.

"A great deal of the traffic on the Simi Valley Freeway is generated by Simi Valley residents who work in Los Angeles," he said. "They've allowed hundreds of thousands of homes to be built without jobs and other amenities that the community needs."

Bernson also suggested that, in the future, Los Angeles may impose an employment tax against non-city residents.

Simi Valley officials said they do not know how much it will cost to fight the planned development in court, but they believe it will be considerably less than the $500,000 some suggested it would cost.

Times staff writer John Schwada contributed to this story.

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