Water could change Verdugo's course

Verdugo Hills Golf Course, threatened for years by residential development, could be saved if funds from a Los Angeles clean-water bond are used to construct a stormwater treatment facility on the site, officials said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who is proposing the idea, told a group of about 60 people during a meeting of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council’s land-use committee earlier this week that if signed off on by his colleagues, about $20 million in Proposition O funds would be allocated to the project.

It was the most promising possibility yet that a government agency could hobble together the millions needed to buy the golf course from a firm that has pushed to build more than 200 homes on the site — a plan that a coalition of community stakeholders has staunchly opposed. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has also committed $1.7 million to help buy the golf course.

Tomi Lyn Bowling, chairwoman of the land-use committee, said the golf course and surrounding area are a huge resource for underground water. “I think the golf course and Prop. O are a marriage made in heaven,” she said. “They’re made for each other.”

Krekorian said the 25-acre golf course — located near Glendale and Burbank at 6433 La Tuna Canyon Road — and surrounding 33 acres of open space should be preserved, pointing out that the experience of golfing there has been passed down through the generations.

“It’s a cultural treasure,” he said.

MWH Development/Snowball West Investment purchased the 58-acre site in 2004 and has, so far, heeded the community’s wishes to not move forward with plans to build 229 homes on the property, which would have to be rezoned.

Opponents to the plan argue the development would erase open green space and increase traffic, putting added pressure on local streets, such as La Tuna Canyon and Tujunga Canyon Blvd. .

Under Krekorian’s proposal, about $20 million from Proposition O — approved about seven years ago by Los Angeles voters to improve local water quality — would be allocated to the project.

But because there are surplus Proposition O funds, Krekorian acknowledged that other L.A. City Council members will be vying to have money directed to their own projects.

Under the proposed plan, a system would be constructed to capture rain water runoff from the golf course and Blanchard Canyon Flood Control Channel, which runs through the course, said Richard Toyon, president of Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment.

The water would be cleansed and re-circulated into the course either through its irrigation system or a bio-filter area, where water would percolate back into the groundwater system. If there is too much water in storage, it would be returned to the channel, Toyon said.

The request will go before the Prop. O Citizens Advisory Committee around the end of the year, said Jeremy Oberstein, communications director for Krekorian. The Los Angeles City Council would make the final decision.

Michael Hoberman, a spokesman for MWH Development/Snowball West Investment, said the company is willing to sell the property, but several variables are involved.

If the company sells the golf course only, gets the surrounding property zoned for residential use and can donate the hillside to a conservancy agency, the price would be around $15 million. However, the price would go up if any part of that scenario doesn’t materialize, Hoberman said.

The firm has been losing money on the course for years, primarily because the fees are so low, Hoberman said. A round of 18 holes costs only $10 — even on weekends.

The other project contending for Proposition O funds is the nine-hole Weddington Golf and Tennis facility in Studio City, which is also in Krekorian’s district. Plans call for its demolition to make way for a senior center.

Krekorian is seeking $20 million to $25 million to preserve the recreational center and build a stormwater treatment system around it.
 
 

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