Glendale could purchase property near Crescenta Valley Park

A plot of ground that in 2006 was the proposed site of an Armenian high school and condominium project has caught the interest of the City Council. In a closed-door meeting this week, council members discussed purchasing the land, which is near Crescenta Valley Park.

Since the high school / condo plan fell through, the area, which is part of a larger 40-acre site known as Mountain Oaks, has sat vacant and previous city plans to snap up the land to preserve open space have lingered.

City officials would not comment on their discussions about the site. While the founder of the Newport Beach investment firm that now owns the land also didn't share details about the meeting, she said she was eager to unload the land.

"I want to get done with it," said Rita Carp, owner of Surfside Funding Corp. "If it's not going to be the city, it's going to be somebody else."

But it's been more than five years, and Surfside hasn't been able to sell the property. Surfside took it over to recoup a failed loan it had made to the developer behind the aborted high school project.

In addition to expansive views of Crescenta Valley, the site offers access to Verdugo Mountain trails. Between the 1930s and 1960s, Mountain Oaks was home to a picnic and recreation site.

Despite the attractive location, the property was illegally subdivided and many of its lots are not up to city code. And it's been fiercely protected from development by a group of residents who have long lobbied to preserve it as open space.

Though council members tried to buy the land about five years ago, the plan fizzled due to tight finances. Glendale's financial situation subsequently worsened and it was only this year that the city finally unburdened itself of multi-million dollar budget gaps.

According to the Los Angeles County Assessor's Office, the portion of the land the city is interested in is valued at roughly $1.2 million.

Meanwhile, a consortium of state and local park agencies known as the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority has expressed interest in buying the separate hillside portion of Mountain Oaks.

But discussions so far, including an appraisal of the hillside portion, are just the beginning of a potentially lengthy acquisition process, said the agency's chief counsel, Jeff Maloney. Even after the hillside property is analyzed for title, access and other issues, the agency would have to apply for governmental grants to pay for the property and the owners would have to be open to selling to a public agency, which may not fork over as much as a private developer.

"As a public agency we're bound to acquire at the assessed value," Maloney said, adding that the most recent appraisal was confidential.

Rick Percell, who is a liaison for the pension fund that owns the mountainous portion, said he's put a lot of effort into working with the public agency.

"The opportunity [to sell to the agency to the conservation authority] came up. It made sense," Percell said.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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