By Jason KUROSU
One month remains for the public to officially comment on proposed development projects for Tujunga’s Verdugo Hills Golf Course, which faces the potential construction of a 221-unit housing development that residents worry will flood local streets with additional drivers.
A recirculated draft of the Environmental Impact Report originally released in 2009 includes two new alternatives: the 221-unit project and an 86-unit equestrian estates project. The EIR also includes revisions to the transportation/traffic and historic/cultural impacts sections. A new section studies the project’s greenhouse gas emissions emitted during construction and through normal operation of the site.
Local residents, including members of Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment (V.O.I.C.E.) have pushed for retaining the golf course as is amidst housing proposals, in particular a 229-unit project submitted by Snowball West Investments, LP in 2008.
The new “preferred project” has been downgraded to 221 units and would contribute to less traffic congestion, emissions, impacts to protected trees, and land use than the original project, according to the latest EIR.
However, concerns abound regarding potential traffic increases to Tujunga Canyon Boulevard and La Tuna Canyon Road that would be brought on by an influx of new residents.
Karen Zimmerman, a member of V.O.I.C.E. and the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, said that the recirculated EIR doesn’t offer many differences or improvements from the original proposal.
According to the EIR, the housing development would bring 577 residents to the property. Each of the homes would have a two-car garage and the site would feature 111 guest parking spaces. However, the report concludes that traffic and population effects would be negligible, stating that the project represents “approximately 8% of the forecasted population growth and approximately 8½% of the forecasted housing growth in the Community Plan area.”
Further, it states that “increases in population and housing resulting from this alternative are not expected to directly induce substantial population growth because the projected population associated with this alternative would be consistent with area-wide population and housing forecasts.”
Zimmerman said she felt the report’s traffic conclusions were written “as if they never drove these streets” noting the narrow roads surrounding the property.
Outside of no development at all, Zimmerman said, “I don’t think that there’s anything that can be done to mitigate the traffic problems.”
Mitigation measures that carry over from the original EIR include installation of a traffic signal and left-turn pockets at the intersection of Tujunga Canyon Boulevard and Pali Avenue, identified in the traffic study as the busiest area during peak weekday traffic. A lack of street parking would be offset by “adequate storage space provided within the Project Site.”
Other community concerns include whether the public can access the La Tuna Canyon Detention Center historic-cultural monument and a lack of adequate recreational space for the additional residents.
Recreational impacts to surrounding parks in Glendale were also brought up in a 2009 letter to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, stating that the then 229-unit project would impact nearby Dunsmore, New York and Deukmejian parks.
The EIR states that recreational needs would be addressed through on-site facilities, which include 28.4 acres of undeveloped open space and 18.71 acres for private use that include trails, a dog park, a children’s play area, swimming pool and more for the residents.
However, that is of little comfort to those still hoping to secure the historic golf course, which would be completely removed no matter which alternative was selected.
The public comment period ends Feb. 3.
Comments should be sent to Erin Strelich, City Planner Associate at: L.A. Dept. of City Planning, 200 N. Spring St. Room 750, Los Angeles, CA 90012 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.