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Residents Charge Courthouse Report Ignores Their Fears : Chatsworth: About 50 people attend first hearing on the project’s environmental effects. Many express concerns about crime.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chatsworth residents, who have worked for nearly two years to keep a municipal courthouse out of their neighborhood, lashed out at Los Angeles County officials Tuesday during the first public hearing on the project’s environmental impact report.

“You have no regard for the homeowners whatsoever,” said Harry Godley, chairman of the Chatsworth Homeowners Committee. “It’s not fair.”

About 50 people attended the hearing.

Opponents of the three-story courthouse proposed for the southeast corner of Plummer Street and Winnetka Avenue repeated their longstanding charges that the county ignored their pleas to look seriously at other sites for the building and then trivialized the project’s effects on nearby residential neighborhoods.

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Resistance to the project has come mostly from residents of neighborhoods directly north of Plummer, who fear the courthouse will attract criminals and increase traffic on their quiet streets.

San Fernando resident Roberta Philpy complained that the courthouse in her city causes most of the same problems Chatsworth residents dread.

“Trouble is all we’ve ever had,” she said. “Please, please don’t create another problem like ours. No courthouse should be near a residential neighborhood.”

County officials have steadfastly maintained that the 9.6-acre site is more desirable than two alternate sites proposed by homeowners because of its access to major streets and because its configuration allows more flexibility in designing the building.

The project’s two-volume environmental impact report concludes that the courthouse’s effects on the residential neighborhoods will be negligible because the building will be set back from Plummer and access will be restricted to one entrance on Penfield Avenue, on the south side of the site.

“The project is designed to be a non-pretentious neighbor,” architect Greg Nook said.

Addressing residents’ fears of roving criminals, Los Angeles Municipal Court Presiding Judge Karl Jaeger told the crowd: “There just aren’t going to be all these felons walking in and out of the courthouse as some have imagined. We are not building a jail. We are building a courthouse.”

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Jaeger said 57% of the courthouse’s cases would be traffic-related and an additional 34% would be civil litigation or small claims.

“Ninety-one percent of all cases will be the friends and neighbors of people who reside close to that courthouse,” he said.

Reseda resident Ann Kinzle urged those at the meeting to reconsider their opposition to the courthouse because it would create new jobs.

“You would be foolish to fight this thing,” she said.

Concerns raised at Tuesday’s meeting will be addressed in the final environmental impact report before it is submitted to the Board of Supervisors for certification.

The report must be certified before the county can proceed with the project.

BACKGROUND

Tuesday’s meeting on the environmental impact report on the proposed Chatsworth courthouse was the first of three meetings scheduled to hear public comments on the document. The second hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Santa Clarita Room of the Student Union at Cal State Northridge. The third hearing will be held that night at Superior Street Elementary School, 9756 Oso Ave., Chatsworth. The time for the final meeting has not been set.

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