By Michael J. ARVIZU
Revised plans for building a 221-unit development on land that is currently occupied by the Verdugo Hills Golf Course were introduced to residents of the communities of Sunland and Tujunga on Monday evening.
The reduced-size proposal was introduced during the second monthly meeting of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee.
Longtime project architect Janek Dombrowa presented plans that would reduce the square footage of each unit. The biggest unit would total 10,000 square feet and the smallest would measure 2,589 square feet. The average size of a unit would range from 3,000 to 4,500 square feet.
Dombrowa said the incentive for the new plans centered around creating a more organic project rather than a cookie-cutter project.
“As an architect, you make it nice not just for the people who live there, but the people who come to visit,” Dombrowa said.
According to the revised proposed plans, units will be clustered, reducing the amount of grading that would need to be done. The reduction in square footage will also decrease the number of bedrooms each unit has, thus reducing the number of tenants the complex will hold.
“The advantage of that type of development [is] it maintains and retains a lot of open space areas,” said Dean Sherer, chairman of the Land Use Committee. “From that standpoint, it is commendable.”
Sherer believes that, given the area’s rural characteristics, it is going to take something more than simply clustered homes to make it fit in with the existing neighborhood.
Community reaction to the development encouraged project leaders to reduce its size, said Fred Gaines, attorney for the developer, Snowball West Investments.
“The committee as a whole, and generally what was heard from the audience that was here this evening, [many people] share many of the same concerns over this project that were voiced back in 2008 and 2009 with this number of homes that is being proposed,” said Sherer. “I think the question on everyone’s minds is what will be the overall impact of this development once it gets built and goes forward.”
Sherer wondered whether surrounding infrastructure – sewers, roads, drainage – will be capable of working with the project.
“In doing environmental studies, we saw how there could be improvements to traffic and some of the other environmental effects by reducing the size, clustering it on the site,” Gaines said. “And so changes have been made to address some of those issues.”
Still a point of contention is the Japanese memorial that would commemorate the site’s use as a World War II internment camp in the 1940s.
The memorial will comprise one acre of oak grove, Gaines said, that abuts on La Tuna Canyon Road so that it can be open, even if the development is gated.
The project follows regulations set forth by the city of Los Angeles and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Water collected from the site will be reused. A network of cisterns will collect drainage and be used for irrigation on the site, and then sent down to the water table on site.
Still, residents remain opposed to the project.
Since 2008, residents have taken their case and appeals from District 7 of the Los Angeles City Council to City Hall in an attempt to prevent development of the area.
“My worry is – always – water in our area and traffic,” said Arsen Karamians, a member of the Land Use Committee. “[The] streets are small for larger traffic – most of the streets are. Even Foothill Boulevard is not wide enough.”
Residents opposed to the project believe the area should be preserved as is, even if the Verdugo Hills Golf Course fails to remain a viable business.
“What we try to input doesn’t necessarily outcome,” said Chuck McVay, a 50-year resident of Tujunga. “We’re trying to address this because how are we all going to get through this situation unless they are willing to do something right now?”
McVay feels the developers do not have a plan, despite detailed maps and charts showing where different segments of the development will go and what will be placed there.
“They got a lot of things, but nothing concrete,” McVay said.