Rather like the Grinch who stole Christmas, Bob Tanabe of La
Canada Flintridge is working hard to spoil the gift that residents of
Glendale and the Crescenta Valley recently received, the deal to
preserve the Oakmont View V property as open space. ("Oakmont: Be
Careful What You Wish For," Community Forum, Dec. 21-22)
Unfortunately, Mr. Tanabe is sadly misinformed about the
situation. Either that, or, like the Grinch, his heart is just a few
sizes too small.
Let's have a look at what he claims to be the case:
* The developers of Oakmont are laughing all the way to the bank.
The developers of Oakmont have for years claimed their property
was worth $46 million. Their own appraisal in September 2000 valued
the land at $41 million. A settlement price of $25 million, with the
city paying a little more than half that amount, is hardly a bad deal
for the residents of Glendale.
Earlier this year, the American Land Conservancy independently
appraised the property at $22.5 million, an amount the developer
rejected. And the city evaluated appraisals and purchases for similar
properties in other hillside communities before reaching a decision.
As City Manager Jim Starbird indicated in his report to the City
Council, "Factoring in even conservative assumptions for costs and
exposure for litigation, it seemed that the proposed purchase price
was a very reasonable alternative to continued litigation."
* The Oakmont property is nothing but tumbleweeds and "fire
Obviously, Mr. Tanabe has never set foot on the Oakmont property.
If he had, he would not have made such a statement. However, the best
evidence available to dispute his assertion is simply a photograph of
the canyon that runs through the center of the property.
* The Oakmont project would bring the city much-needed revenue.
There is absolutely no evidence that Oakmont would be built at a
profit to the city. The increased cost of city services -- police,
fire, schools, parks -- could and probably would offset the tax
revenue generated by the project. Reports from sources as diverse as
the Trust for Public Land and the Bank of America have repeatedly
indicated that residential land is the most expensive for local
government to support because it costs the public more money than it
pays in taxes and charges.
* The city's reserve funds have been "all used up."
Nowhere has it been written, or has it been stated, that the city
of Glendale has depleted its reserve funds in order to make the
Oakmont purchase. If Mr. Tanabe has facts to the contrary, he should
tell us where he obtained them.
The city's general reserve fund currently contains nearly $60
million. The city, even after the Oakmont deal is complete, will have
sizable funds remaining in reserve. As Starbird stated in his report,
"I am comfortable that the city's commitment for the balance of the
payment can be met without impacting operating programs and likely
without impacting other planned park acquisition efforts."
* The city will be unable to maintain the hillside.
Even if the city's reserve funds were gone, Glendale's obligation
for maintenance would be minimal, at best. The cost of brushing, for
example, is estimated to be $3,000 per year, and the city's park
rangers already patrol the Verdugos. When the deal is completed, the
property will become a Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy parkland,
and the cost of maintenance will be shared by the Mountains
Recreation and Conservation Authority and the city of Glendale.
* The preservation of Oakmont will lead to the development of
apartments and condos on what were once single-dwelling lots.
There is no conceivable connection between the elimination of
high-priced hillside homes and the potential increase of condos and
apartments in Montrose and La Crescenta. If there were, then the
building of expensive homes for Oakmont III and IV in the mid-1970s
and '80s would have prevented the proliferation of apartments and
condos in southern Glendale, which mysteriously sprang up at the same
The developers of Oakmont have not suddenly started licking their
chops in anticipation of building condos in northern Glendale. And
other developers might be surprised to find that the people who
banded together to oppose Oakmont will be the same folks who band
together to preserve the charm and character of Montrose and La
In summary, the residents of Glendale, La Crescenta, and even Mr.
Tanabe's hometown of La Canada Flintridge were very careful about
what they wished for this Christmas. They were careful about what
they spent the last 10 years fighting for, as well.
Sorry, Mr. Tanabe, but try as you might -- just like the Grinch --
you're not going to steal Christmas. Not this year, at least.