Lesley Devine, 63; Calabasas Civic Icon, Activist

Times Staff Writer

Lesley Devine, a founding Calabasas City Council member and a longtime environmental activist, has died. She was 63.

Devine died of cancer Thursday at Tarzana Hospital, her family said.

One of the organizers for Calabasas cityhood, Devine served as a member of the City Council from its incorporation in 1991 until 2005, including two stints as mayor from 1997 to 1998 and from 2002 to 2003.

"This is a deep loss for the city," Calabasas Councilman James Bozajian said Friday. "Leslie was there from the beginning, and she cared very much for the issues that made Calabasas unique."

Bozajian said Devine "for many, many years was one of the council's leading experts on environmental issues and open-space issues."

Devine was one of the early crusaders against the 3,050-home Ahmanson Ranch project, a proposed $2-billion community with office and retail space to be built in the Santa Monica Mountains adjacent to Calabasas' northern border.

In 2003, after more than a decade of legal and political wrangling, the state acquired the nearly 3,000-acre property for parkland, with $135 million from Proposition 50 accounting for most of the $150 million purchase.

"It's people like Lesley Devine who breathed life into the Save Ahmanson Movement," Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said Friday.

As a Calabasas City Council member, he said, "she was the most aggressive in fighting Ahmanson. She got the City Council to put money up to fight the project legally, and she took no prisoners when it came to fighting to preserve the Santa Monica Mountains."

Yaroslavsky said Devine also fought for the 2005 purchase of Soka University property -- "It's the preeminent piece of property in the Santa Monica Mountains" -- by a consortium of local, state and federal agencies to become part of the state and national park system.

"She showed a great deal of personal courage in dealing with her illness while continuing to serve the people," Yaroslavsky said. "She will definitely be missed."

Devine had previously served on an advisory board for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and on the executive board of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. She also was an elected director of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Denver-born Devine, a graduate of Arizona State University, was a founder of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus and the Sherman Oaks Democratic Club, and was a longtime Democratic Party activist.

Devine is survived by her children, Beth Chambers-Saphier and Michael Chambers; and her longtime companion, Michael Brockman.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. today at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, Tanach Chapel, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.

Instead of flowers, it is suggested that donations be made to Calabasas Creekside Klubhouse Preschool Parent Participation Group.

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