Warner Ridge Developer to Propose Compromise

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The partnership that wants to develop Warner Ridge in Woodland Hills has proposed to settle its long legal dispute with the city of Los Angeles by building a mixed-use project that would include 350 residential units and 540,000 square feet of commercial development, it was learned Tuesday.

If its compromise project is accepted, the developer agreed to drop a lawsuit filed to overturn a City Council action last January that would permit only estate-style residential homes to be built on the 21.5-acre Warner Ridge.

The settlement terms were outlined in a five-page letter obtained by The Times. The document was sent to various city officials, including council members and City Attorney James Hahn.

Councilwoman Joy Picus, a fierce foe of the developer's previous plans to build an 810,000-square-foot office-retail project, could not be reached for comment. But Picus' chief deputy, Michelle Gagan, said her boss needed more time to study the proposal.

"What we see is a larger project than the one that was turned down before," said Gagan, referring to the City Council action to reject the developer's project and to zone the property to permit estate-size homes only.

Robert Gross, president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, quickly damned the project. "It's an outrageous offer," Gross said. "He's asking for more than before."

The settlement offer was signed by Albert Spound, general partner for The Spound Co. and Eugene A. Spindler II, vice president of Johnson Wax Development Co. The firms own a 50-50 interest in the property. Neither Spound nor Spindler could be reached for comment.

"The compromise attempts to accommodate the community's and the city's expressed concerns with the development of this site," the developer's letter said. The new proposal would result in a "substantial reduction in the environmental impacts" associated with the previous project, it said.

The developer said the compromise would reduce commercial use by 38% and cut peak-hour traffic by 20%. "The residential component would provide much needed affordable housing and child-care services. The mixed-use concept would permit residents to live, work and shop in a community setting without adding to area traffic," the letter added.

In its lawsuit, the developer alleged that it was illegally deprived of its right to use its land by the council action.

That lawsuit has met with some success. Superior Court Judge John Zebrowski has already ruled that the city's community plan and zoning for the Warner Ridge site are illegally inconsistent and ordered that the two be made to conform by Dec. 21. The plan calls for office development of the site, while the zoning permits only residential uses.

Picus' strategy is to amend the community plan to permit only residential uses. To do this by the judge's deadline, the City Council, at Picus' request, has agreed to spend up to $250,000 to hire a private firm to prepare an environmental impact report on the proposed amendment. This proposal, however, still lacks Mayor Tom Bradley's approval.

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