Board OKs Ranch Plan's Fast Review

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to pursue a speedy review of a proposal to combine the massive Ahmanson and Jordan Ranch housing projects, and the project's chief opponent said she believes that her concerns can be resolved.

The board voted 4 to 1 to form a committee that will develop a plan to quicken the review of the project, planned for the Ahmanson Ranch near Simi Valley.

Board members said it is essential to speed up the review to avoid losing the opportunity to gain more than 10,000 acres of mountain property as public parkland, a key element of the complex land deal.

The dissenting vote was cast by Supervisor Susan K. Lacey, who said developers should not be given special treatment.

Under the development proposal, 750 houses and a PGA golf course initially planned for the Jordan Ranch would be constructed on the Ahmanson Ranch in the rugged hills just west of the Los Angeles County line. The Ahmanson Land Co. would build another 1,850 houses, a second golf course and 400,000 square feet of offices and stores.

In return, entertainer Bob Hope, who had planned to develop his Jordan Ranch with Potomac Investment Associates, has agreed to sell 7,636 acres of mountain property in Los Angeles and Ventura counties to park agencies for $29.5 million. Ahmanson Land Co. has agreed to give another 3,025 acres of its 5,477-acre ranch to the National Park Service.

Supervisors Maria VanderKolk and John K. Flynn initiated the proposal to put the review of the project on a fast track. They said they feared that state and federal money earmarked for the purchase of the proposed parkland could dry up if the board failed to act quickly.

"This is an extraordinary situation and I think therefore we have to act accordingly," said VanderKolk, who proposed the joint venture involving Ahmanson and Potomac. "I don't want to sit and watch this opportunity evaporate before our very eyes because we insist on rigidity."

Flynn proposed a resolution to form the committee that would recommend how best to speed up the review. The committee will include Supervisors Vicky Howard and VanderKolk, city planning staff members and representatives of Ahmanson and Potomac.

The board directed the committee to report back on Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, the project's chief opponent, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus, said she is confident that the developers can come up with ways to reduce the effects of increased traffic in her west San Fernando Valley district.

Picus said she met with VanderKolk Monday to discuss the traffic that the development would cause on Victory Boulevard, one of the development's access roads.

"My concern has always been to keep Victory Boulevard from becoming a freeway alternative," she said. "I think Maria and I have very similar goals. I think a compromise can be found."

She said that one possible compromise would be to gate the housing development, which Ahmanson Land Co. said it would consider.

Picus said she had no problem with the board speeding up the review of the proposal as long as the public has an opportunity to comment.

However, about half of the 32 speakers at the board meeting opposed a quick review.

Calabasas Councilwoman Lesley Devine said she is afraid that traffic from the two developments would be dumped in her city.

Members of the Agoura Hills-based environmental group Save Open Space said they also believed that Ahmanson Land Co. should not get any special treatment.

"Whatever time it takes, let's do the public process right," said Mary Wiesbrock, director of the group.

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