Park and environmental advocates on Tuesday won a key round in their fight to prevent Reseda Boulevard from being linked to Mulholland Drive, a move they said would set the stage for more development of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The victory came when the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land-Use Management Committee voted 2 to 0 to recommend that developer Harlan Lee & Associates be exempted from a controversial requirement originally intended to ease traffic and improve fire safety.
The requirement directed Harlan Lee to build the 650-foot Reseda-to-Mulholland link if it wanted to build its 178-unit luxury home project on an Encino hillside just north of Topanga State Park.
The proposed extension has been one of the more acrimonious issues to involve hillside residents in the West Valley in recent years, even prompting a fistfight once between Tarzana and Encino residents who differed over the plan.
On another occasion, protesters chained themselves to a bulldozer to prevent construction of the road.
Disappointed supporters of the extension vowed Tuesday to carry their fight to the full City Council, which must approve the committee action.
Planning officials had envisioned the extended roadway beginning at Harlan Lee’s property line and heading south through state parkland.
The opponents say that Reseda Boulevard should terminate in a heavily landscaped turnaround at the southern end of the Harlan Lee project--just 650 feet shy of Mulholland Drive.
The cul-de-sac would create “one of the premiere entrances” to the Santa Monica Mountains park system, Councilman Marvin Braude told the committee on Tuesday.
Supporting Braude at Tuesday’s hearing were a plethora of park and environmental advocates, including representatives of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Homeowners and the office of state Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Brentwood).
Jeff Lee, vice president of Harlan Lee, urged the committee to grant his firm relief from the Catch-22 situation in which it has found itself--one in which the city required the firm to build the extension while state officials ordered it not to build it.
To block the extension, Friedman won approval for legislation two years ago that gave state parks officials authority to veto the extension--a power they quickly exercised.
As he asked the committee to lift the road-building requirement, Jeff Lee testified that the confused situation has made it impossible for his firm to sell the 178 building pads it has already built on its 126-acre property.
Meanwhile, Madeline DeAntonio, leader of the Encino Hillside Traffic Safety Organization, asked the committee to keep the extension requirement intact.
DeAntonio represents homeowners in Encino who say a new roadway connection between the Valley and the rest of the basin is needed to supplement the San Diego Freeway.
A key element in such a link would be the extension of Reseda to Mulholland, she said.
Without such a link, West Valley commuters will continue to use the narrow hillside streets of Encino as shortcuts to get across the mountains, DeAntonio told the committee. The city’s Department of Transportation also has argued for a Reseda-Mulholland link as a way to ease traffic on the Ventura and San Diego freeways.
City fire officials have supported the link as well, saying that more paved roads in the mountains would give them a greater capacity to fight hillside fires.
But after an hour of discussion, Councilman Hal Bernson, chairman of the committee, and Councilman Nate Holden agreed to delete the extension requirement from the Harlan Lee tract map.
Bernson said he did so “very reluctantly” because he does not believe that the state should have the right to preempt local zoning regulations.
Goals of the Master Plan A general plan is the document that guides a city’s growth. It determines what types of uses--residential, commercial or industrial--should be permitted in particular areas and how much development should be allowed. Los Angeles’ existing General Plan was adopted in 1974.
Today’s efforts to revamp the General Plan stem from expansion of the Hyperion sewage treatment plant. Environmental regulators would allow the expansion only if city officials agreed to study the city’s infrastructure as well as efforts to reduce air pollution. That study grew into a complete revision of the General Plan.
Goals of the new master plan:
* Reducing traffic congestion and cleaning up the air by improving public transportation systems and directing them into targeted areas to stimulate growth and economic activity.
* Revitalizing poor communities while preserving existing neighborhoods.
* Encouraging affordable housing.
* Streamlining the approval process for new developments by eliminating the burdensome environmental review process for some projects, but at the same time conserving natural resources.
* Encouraging cooperation between public agencies and individuals.