There is a silver lining in the recession of 2008. It will cause the City Council to rethink how it purchases open space, how to stop wasting money and how to pay attention to neglected areas of southern Glendale. To me, Mountain Oaks is another example of greed, waste and neglect.

We are in the middle of a budget deficit, and those residents already accustomed to getting the City Council to purchase open hillside and limit residential construction continue to demand more. That activism plays into the hands of property owners who simply want to flip their recent land acquisition. It also takes away the focus from the investment of open space and developed parkland needs of southern Glendale.

Mountain Oaks’ new owners were going to develop it with the Armenian private high school and condominiums. The location is in a pristine area by the northern hills of Glendale and within 100 yards of the Crescenta Valley Park.

We’ve seen how developers smell opportunities to buy large tracts of land and publicize their intent to over-build or sell to other developers, wait for the public outcry, and then sell them to the city at a substantial profit. We’ve seen the game played by landowners before (Rockhaven Sanitarium, Oakmont V, Flint Canyon and now the Verdugo Hills Golf Course). Why bother going through planning, designing, permitting, construction and selling, when you can simply scare the public into frenzy and have them sell the land for you?

The city councilman comes to the rescue: “It will serve all of Glendale.” But, ask anyone south of the Ventura (134) Freeway and they’ll tell you they couldn’t care less. Have you ever seen hundreds of children near the Maple Park, Wilson Mini Park or Adams Square neighborhoods being bused to walk the trails of Oakmont V or Deukmejian Park? No? I thought so.

Why give the most congested neighborhoods a postage-size mini-park, while telling everyone their city doesn’t have the money? First, the council parts with more than $8 million to purchase the Rockhaven Sanitarium. Now, it’s Mountain Oaks. “I am happy that the developer is out of the picture, and I hope that the property owners will consider working with the city so that the property goes into a public trust,” Councilman Frank Quintero said. I would rather trust my intuition that the owners’ real intent was to buy the property in order to flip it to the city for a hefty profit. Are the new owners of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course into the same game?

If the local citizens really want to keep Mountain Oaks as pristine property, I would suggest Councilman Dave Weaver’s idea for a Special Assessment District. This idea would take the burden from the rest of the taxpayers. Alternatively, those who benefit can pursue their own fundraising. The asking price at last week’s auction was only $4.39 million, and the owners found no takers.

The payoff of this recession may be that southern Glendale won’t be so neglected in the future.

 MIKE MOHILL is a Glendale resident.

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