History could save Verdugo Hills Golf Course

L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon is moving to save the Verdugo Hills Golf Course from residential development by adding it to the city's list of historic and cultural monuments. It's the latest in a series of moves — including rezoning and outright purchase — aimed at keeping the land from being developed.

Nearby residents contend the massive development project will bring a cascade of vehicle traffic to the urban-rural area and erase from the landscape a long standing community recreational resource.

After failed attempts at cobbling together grants and government funding to buy the land, or rezone it to prevent residential development, Alarcon is now trying to designate it as a historical cultural resource, citing its history as a detention center for Japanese-Americans in the early 1940s following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A community meeting to discuss the motion will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the North Valley Neighborhood City Hall, 7747 Foothill Blvd., Sunland.

Supporters of Alarcon's motion contend that residential development would degrade the site's historic value and eliminate an opportunity to commemorate a significant historic site.

“There is a rich and important history in the northeast San Fernando Valley that must be protected so kids today and generations in the future can learn from our past,” Alarcon said in a statement. “I strongly believe that a housing development would be inconsistent with our goal to preserve the legacy of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station site.”

A recent release of records at the National Archives and Records Center at Laguna Niguel showed for the first time that there were two detention centers located in the Los Angeles area following the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to Alarcon's office.

At the outset of World War II, the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service took over the former Civilian Conservation Corps camp — where the golf course is now located — and converted it into the Tuna Canyon Detention Station.

It was a barbed-wire enclosure with lights and armed troops to receive individuals considered “enemy aliens” who had been taken into custody by the FBI on Dec. 16, 1941, a little more than a week after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Snowball West Investments, which owns the golf course, still plans to move forward with the residential development, but is willing to work with historic preservation supporters, said company spokesman Michael Hoberman.

“As far as we know, there is nothing at the property anymore that was from the camp,” Hoberman said.

He added, though, that if a building used at the camp is found, Snowball West officials would be open to discussions on how to preserve it.

“I'm a supporter of preserving history,” Hoberman said.

The company would also be willing to install a plaque within the development commemorating the site as a former detention center.

Other past efforts to save the Verdugo Hills Golf Course include a proposal to build a storm water treatment facility on the golf course site using funds from Proposition O, approved about eight years ago by Los Angeles voters to improve local water quality.

Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam.

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