Developer plays chicken with community over golf course

Posted by on Jun 10th, 2010 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Last week I wrote about the Indian village of Wikangna, and how its assumed location was the current site of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course. That got me musing on the bad situation currently at the golf course.
The developers that now own the golf course have been forced into a game of chicken with members of the community that want to preserve the property as the family-friendly neighborhood golf course that it has been for 50-some years.
Let me explain.
The developers initially proposed a mega-development on the site, either a WalMart-sized retail center or a 300-plus unit condo village. Encountering stiff opposition right from the start, they morphed their plans down to a “smaller” housing development of 229 detached homes. More importantly they recognized the community’s strong resistance to large development, and, smelling a profit, they went on record as being a willing seller. If they could double their money on the property, while not having to dirty their hands with an unpopular project, all the better. They could make a fat profit, and we could keep our golf course. Public agencies began to move toward pulling together funding for a buy-out, most significantly Supervisor Mike Antonovich who wanted in right away with $1.7 million in public park funding. And it seemed others would follow suit.
Then came the wrecking ball of the financial meltdown and most sources of significant funding from other municipalities faded. Our golf course developers were forced to follow through with development plans, even though they were cash-strapped.
I suspect at this point they just wanted out, but with no buyer for the golf course, and not wanting to be a golf course manager themselves, they had little choice but to move forward with their building plans.
Last summer they submitted    the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), which was answered by an all-guns broadside from VOICE (the same group that stopped the Oakmont V development in the Verdugos), the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance, and from hundreds of community members and organizations. The DEIR outlined the developers’ plans and the benefits of the development, and the obviously understated problems it might create. In reply, letters from VOICE and the community were quick to point out the huge impact in traffic, water, and schools, not to mention the loss of an important recreational feature of our Valley. The developers’ team of consultants has had a year to chew on the objections made by VOICE and the community, and any day now the final Environmental Impact Report will be submitted. That’s when the real fireworks will begin.
At this point, with housing prices tanked and their profit margin shrinking, I don’t think the developers really want to do this project. Their obstacles are huge, including the fact that the property isn’t even zoned for this kind of development. But they’re stuck. They gambled, bought the property when it was high priced, and can’t get back their investment with just a simple land sale.
It’s possible that they’re flirting with a concept community activists have dubbed “green-mail,” where developers attempt to blackmail communities into paying top dollar for properties they threaten with objectionable development.
And so the game of chicken is on! Their only hope is to aim this mega-development squarely at the community and floor it. They’re gambling that we will swerve at the last minute, and either put together a package to buy them out, or we’ll roll over and not fight them. The latter is unlikely. Either they’ll take a loss, lower their price and get the buy-out, or we’ll crash head-on in an epic fight.
So stay tuned for a very interesting year or two. Via this column in the next few weeks I’ll fill you in on the fascinating history of this piece of property. Its current purgatory status makes it probably the most dynamic property in the valley, but its history shows us that it always has been the most dynamic and interesting place in CV.

Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at

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1 Response for “Developer plays chicken with community over golf course”

  1. Elaine Brown says:

    Thanks for this great article, Mike. This is wonderful and much needed coverage.

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