Two sides mull golf course

Two people who want to build hundreds of homes on the site of the struggling Verdugo Hills Golf Course met this week with 100 people who want to stop them.

Michael Hoberman, the leader of golf course owner Snowball West Investors, answered questions Tuesday night alongside his attorney at a meeting of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council.

They said that the course has lost money for at least the last five years, and that the property already is zoned for residential use. But they also said they are willing — for a price — to work with residents who want to save the links or preserve the property as open space.

"The ownership is open to financially feasible alternatives," attorney Fred Gaines said.

However, he said that no potential buyer has expressed interest in preserving the course, and that government agencies haven't found the funds to save it.

The course and driving range occupy 25 acres of a 58-acre site between the Foothill (210) Freeway and Foothill Boulevard. The plan calls for 229 four- and five-bedroom homes on what is now the course and driving range, with homes close to Tujunga Canyon and La Tuna Canyon roads.

The other 33 acres would remain as open space under the plan.

More than a dozen speakers asked questions and argued against the development proposal.

"What possessed you to start this project and fight this community?" Tujunga resident Wanda Hulsebus asked.

The environmental report for the project is before the city of Los Angeles Planning Department. Gaines estimated the city will release the final report next month, hearings would start in early 2011 and the Los Angeles City Council would vote in the spring.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents the area, has vowed to preserve the space. In a statement circulated at the meeting, Krekorian said he has asked city officials to find a way to acquire the site.

The course, he said, is "an important and popular oasis of open space and recreational activity in our community."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has said the county would contribute $1.7 million toward the acquisition of the land. But Gaines estimated that the property is worth $15 million. The value would increase substantially if and when the city grants permission to build, he said.

Hoberman earned plaudits from residents and members of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee for appearing before them and promising to respond personally to any inquires about the site. Yet every speaker was against the project, warning of the impact on traffic, schools, oak trees and recreational opportunities.

Tujunga resident Dan McManus suggested the 33-acre portion be dedicated as a park and was among the few who saw an opportunity for a negotiated solution.

"Let's get to the real ideas acceptable to both sides of the fence," he said.

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