The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to change the zoning of 1,500 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains south of Encino, strengthening a state park agency’s efforts to buy the land and prevent conversion of adjacent canyons into garbage dumps.
The council vote sounded a “death knell to any expectations” of reviving a controversial permit to construct up to 500 houses on the Tucker Land site, said Cindy Miscikowski, chief deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents the area.
Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said the action bolsters the conservancy and Westside environmentalists in their campaign to prevent the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts from establishing landfills in nearby Rustic, Sullivan and Mission canyons.
If the conservancy, a state parkland buying agency, can carry out plans to purchase the land, the sanitation districts will be unable to get access to these canyons, Edmiston said. “They’ll be boxed in,” he said.
The council’s action was hailed by Nita Rosenfeld, a leader of the Mandeville Canyon Assn., the Brentwood-based homeowners group that has sought for more than two decades to block development on the site.
“I’ve been fighting this since 1968, and I’m sort of numb,” she said. “Finally, justice has been done.”
The council vote reduced the zoning of the property and removed a complementary community plan designation that authorized a 500-unit housing project there. The actions taken Friday would permit only about 70 units, Miscikowski estimated.
Even though a tract map permiting 500 houses on the site expired in 1989 and a new map would need to be approved before construction could begin, the zoning and plan designations kept alive a “perceived higher sense of the value” of the property, Miscikowski said.
This, in turn, posed a potential obstacle to the conservancy’s plan to buy the property, Miscikowski and Edmiston said. The conservancy wants to buy the land for $11.5 million from Getty Financial and Tucker Land Co., the creditors of the now bankrupt Eastport Associates, which originally owned it.
Until the conservancy actually closes the deal, the possibility exists that a development interest could offer a larger price for it than the conservancy could, in the hope that a major project still might be built on the site, Edmiston said.
But it would be “extremely daunting” to try to develop an economically viable project following the council’s changes, he said.
Efforts to develop the Tucker project have a long and colorful history that included the owners making large contributions to City Council members.