Property split plan is denied

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning on Monday unanimously voted down a La Crescenta resident’s plan to divide his property into three single-family residences, elating neighbors who said the proposal was out of place with the area.

The five-member panel agreed that Alex Rogic’s proposal to carve up his nearly 1-acre plot and add two new homes, both of which would be less than 10,000 square feet, would be out of character with the neighborhood and would contravene a set of county regulations known as the Declaration of Conditions and Restrictions.

“It is my finding that this would be inconsistent with zoning, inconsistent with the intent of the [Declaration of Conditions and Restrictions], inconsistent with the neighborhood and the picture of older homes,” Commissioner Pat Modungo said.

The plan will now be sent back to county planning department staff members who are scheduled to return to the commission June 18 with an official list of reasons the county is denying the project.

Most of those reasons were exemplified by the 16 residents who filled the county room in Downtown Los Angeles to oppose the project, largely outnumbering the project’s few supporters.

Most of the opponents present Monday live near Rogic’s Willowhaven Drive home, a tree-lined street nestled high above Glendale in the foothills of the Crescenta Valley.

“We don’t want our hillsides to look like Glendale’s,” resident Peter Taranto said.

The issue at hand involves a plan 22 years in the making.

In 1986, Rogic first attempted to divide his home into three tracts but the planning department denied that request on multiple grounds.

Among its four findings in 1986, the panel ruled that carving out two new homes in the rocky hillside would be not be “physically suitable,” and that the homes would be out of touch with the general neighborhood character.

After retooling his design, including planning for more green and open space, as well as planning to increase the distance between lots, Rogic presented his new plan to the Crescenta Valley Town Council last week and the issue landed on the desk of the county planning board Wednesday, where it was met with almost instant opposition from residents who said little has changed since 1986.

“The reasons for denial by the Regional Planning Department in 1986 are still valid reasons for denial of the current proposed plan,” said Erwin Fellner, who lives behind Rogic’s home.

“This is not personal, but this does not improve the community and would seriously devalue property values.”

But Carolyn Seitz, who represented Rogic at the hearing, told the commission that new housing in a county straining under the weight of a population boon is vitally important.

“The population of Los Angeles County has increased since this was denied in 1986 and is expected to continually grow higher,” she said. “Projects like this can help ease the burden.”

Nina Beyt, a Montrose resident and one of the four people who spoke in favor of the project, told the commission that Rogic’s plans would be a good fit for the neighborhood.

But commission members feared that allowing such subdivision to take place would set an irreversible precedent.

“There is . . . a need for additional housing, but with this, could there be 50 units, 100 units built through this?” Commissioner Esther L. Valadez saked. “That possibility troubles me.”

Rogic denied that claim and bristled at the notion that his plan is out of character with the neighborhood.

“I tried hard to satisfy every county requirement,” he said. “We tried to provide answers and [the residents] didn’t have any real reasons to ask for denial. The truth is there are very few lots as big as mine. This is compatible with the general plan.”

County staff members are set to return to the commission June 18, when the panel is expected to review the reasons the project was denied. It will then be sent for another review in front of the Board of Supervisors, Senior Regional Planning Assistant Jodie Sackett said.

Most residents were pleased by the ruling, including Crescenta Valley Town Councilwoman Danette Erickson, who was surprised the commission ruled in favor of the opposition.

“They listened to the people, I was really impressed,” she said.

“We want to keep our town happy.”


 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.

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