Karen S. Kim
It was exactly 10 years ago this month that Glendale was
introduced to the Oakmont View V hillside development project, which
few at the time could have guessed would spawn controversy and
community division for a decade.
As it turned out, Oakmont was not unlike disputes other cities all
over the country dealt with: Developers wanted to build on a parcel
that homeowners hoped to preserve as open space.
The initial dispute ballooned into a full-fledged crusade by
homeowners, and finally ended on the City Council dais last week,
when Glendale agreed to purchase 238 acres of hillside land to
protect it from development. Glendale, along with the Santa Monica
Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation
Authority will, pay Gregg's Artistic Homes $25.25 million for the
By Tuesday afternoon, city officials were still finalizing the
Meanwhile, homeowners were breathing long-held sighs of relief.
"I think we will all look back on the 5 1/2 years and all the work
we did and be able to say -- when someone asks 'What did you ever do
to make a difference?' -- that we saved this beautiful hillside,"
said Marc Stirdivant, president of the Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers
Organized in Conserving the Environment (VOICE).
The road to a resolution for Oakmont was a long and rocky one,
pockmarked by expensive legal battles, community petitions and
extensive discussions by several different City Councils.
Problems first began when John Gregg and Salvatore Gangi,
developers who built the first four phases of Oakmont (about 311
homes), submitted plans for Oakmont V to the city Dec. 4, 1992. The
proposal was to build 572 single-family homes, or 623 single-family
homes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, on 238 acres of the
"We've always thought that this project would be good for
Glendale," Lee Gregg said Tuesday. "There's a terrible shortage of
owner-occupied homes in Glendale. Glendale's completely stopped the
development of them."
But the project was poorly received by the public. Residents and
council members said Oakmont View V would be too big and too dense,
and would compromise Glendale's hillsides.
"It was the most environmentally insensitive project ever proposed
for Glendale," Stirdivant said, adding the project would have
destroyed 2,300 trees and hillside ridgelines and negatively affected
air quality, traffic and schools in the area.
At the time Oakmont View V's plans were submitted to the city,
Glendale was not a friendly place for hillside development anyway.
Based on community opposition to overbuilding on the hillsides, the
council in March 1990 instituted a two-year moratorium on hillside
After the moratorium was lifted in April 1992, the city passed a
hillside ordinance that imposed stringent regulations on developers.
The Greggs sued the city over the ordinance, contending Oakmont
View V was in the works before it was passed. The new regulations
would have allowed the Greggs to build fewer than 100 homes on the property.
A court ruled that the Gregg's project was exempt from the new
Fifteen residents banded together in 1997 to form VOICE, an
organization whose sole purpose initially was to fight Oakmont. As
awareness about the Oakmont project grew throughout the city, so did
the group: Today, there are about 5,000 supporters of VOICE and its
mission of protecting urban wilderness in Glendale and the Crescenta
Those who joined the crusade were not shy about letting the City
Council know what they thought. More than 700 residents showed up to
a hearing in March 2000 to protest the project. A petition of about
4,000 opponents of Oakmont View V -- a document that, end to end, was
about one-and-a-half football fields long -- was presented to the
Finally, in March 2002, about 450 residents filed into the
Glendale Civic Auditorium, where the City Council was to decide
whether to approve or deny the project. The 11-hour meeting ended
with the council voting to reject the 572-home project. The Greggs
responded with a lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit was one of
three filed against Glendale in the past two years, with the Greggs
suing the city in August 2000 and again in November 2001.
Both sides agreed to mediation over the litigation, and months of
negotiations ended when a deal was struck Dec. 6.
The Greggs will get to break about even on the costs they incurred
over the past 10 years, and the city will get another parcel of land
that can't be developed.
"It's such a relief," Councilman Dave Weaver said. "To just be
able to forget about that. It's preserved now. It could have gone on
for years ... so just to see that all end, it gives us the chance to
focus on different issues."