An environmental impact report now being circulated by the city of Los Angeles finds that a proposed housing development proposed for the land occupied by the Verdugo Hills Golf Course would have a “substantial adverse impact on scenic vistas” in the area.
The draft report, prepared by Christopher A. Joseph and Associates, will be circulated for 60 days, with comments due by July 20. The report can be viewed at the Sunland Tujunga Branch Library, 7771 Foothill Blvd., or online at http://cityplanning.lacity.org/ then click on the Environmental/Draft EIR toolbar.
The project applicant is Snowball West Investments, a limited partnership, and MWH Development. The proposal is to construct 229 homes on the 58 acre site at 6433 La Tuna Canyon Road.
The report assesses the impact of the main project and three alternatives, along with the standard no project alternative. The others call for 336 townhomes with retention of the existing golf course, and mixed use residential and retail, with 334 units, and residential/retail/office, both with a community open space park.
According to the EIR, “The project site’s open space is a major scenic resource which would be substantially damaged.” The report lists three other projects which would combine for a visual quality impact; 25 units planned for the east side of Tujunga Canyon Road, the proposed Canyon Hills development with 221 units, and a related 10 unit development.
Also listed as a significant impact is the proposed removal or encroachment on of as many as 117 coast live oaks, 11 western sycamores and 106 ornamental trees. A long term planting program would deal with some of the impact, according to the report.
The EIR also found a deficiency in parks and recreation space which would need to be addressed. The open space the developer is offering to donate is “steep and not suitable for recreation purposes.” The developer could be required to pay fees to upgrade recreational facilities or acquire more. However, according to the report, “the loss of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course would remain unmitigated and the cumulative impact would remain significant.”
The developer will also have to deal with traffic impacts at two major intersections. At Pennsylvania Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, lanes would be restriped to provide one left turn lane eastbound, two through lanes and one right-turn only. At Lowell and Honolulu, the restriping would provide one right-turn only lane for Honolulu plus a combination through and right turn lane.
Additionally, the report would require that an archaeologist monitor the possible presence of Native American remains and artifacts on the site and a plaque be installed to mark the presence of a Japanese-American relocation site.
Plans would also need to be made to avoid reptile species, nesting birds and bats, according to the report.
The project has drawn strong criticism in Sunland, Tujunga and La Crescenta as an unacceptably dense development and for the loss of a longtime recreational resource.
Local activist Sharon Hales, who is involved with the Save the Verdugo Hills Golf Course efforts, said the DEIR falls short in acknowledging the major impact such a development would have in the area. She cites traffic issues as just one of the many concerns the development would pose.
“While [the developer] offers mitigating steps to address the impact on traffic, it does nothing to acknowledge [the primary] traffic problems,” Hales said. “What about Tujunga Canyon? It is the main thoroughfare and is currently unsafe with bottleneck conditions. People living in the area attest to that.”
A final EIR will be prepared after all comments are received. The future of the project could depend on the new council member for the district who will replace Wendy Gruel. Gruel was elected city controller, and her successor may not be elected until December.
Hales urges community members to make use of the remaining time for public comment to learn how and to whom letters should be written in order to save the golf course.
“The content of the EIR will depend on the issues raised against the DEIR,” she said. “The community needs to weigh in to get a comprehensive EIR. Letters and comments need to be based on facts, not emotion.”
She also reminded the community that information can be found at savethegolfcourse.org.