Wasting no time, newly elected Calabasas City Council members have helped scrap a controversial plan to extend a sewer line into Old Topanga Canyon.
The sewer construction plan had prompted a city crackdown on 40 homes with septic tanks, including raids at several houses. While checking septic systems, inspectors cited homeowners for other alleged building code violations.
"I think the very dark cloud that is hanging over this city will be lifted," Councilwoman Mary Sue Maurer said Wednesday night as the panel voted unanimously to halt the sewer planning. "I don't want the city to ever go through this again."
The vote followed pleas from a parade of rural Calabasas residents who said sewers were not wanted or needed in the area. They warned that installation of a sewer line would jeopardize oak trees that shade the twisty, two-lane canyon road and would be too expensive for the city and for residents.
Among those testifying was Shelly Palmer, whose 87-year-old canyon home was raided by city inspectors March 23 hours before Calabasas' hard-line mayor stepped down and new council members were sworn into office.
"What's going on with the sewers is more than meets the eye — it's a land grab," Palmer said. "There's a wealthy billionaire developer who wants to put some mansions on top of the hill and needs sewers to do it."
New Mayor James Bozajian, who placed the sewer pipe question on the agenda, said he believed that sewers would promote development and change the character of Old Topanga Canyon.
Newly seated Councilman Fred Gaines made the motion to halt the sewer planning.
"I don't think we have to add to the arguments we've already heard," he said.
It was unclear what effect the change in direction will have with legal action the city has already launched against rural residents over purported septic system violations.
City Manager Tony Coroalles said only eight rural homeowners had not had their septic tanks inspected. Others with systems where problems were found are having repairs made; low-interest loans for repair work are being provided to low-income residents who need them, he said Thursday.
Many in Calabasas welcomed what they perceived as a change in the city's atmosphere.
"A fresh breeze blew into City Hall last night," said Calabasas resident Kim Lamorie, president of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation.