Objections Raised Over Proposed Home Development

By Michael J. ARVIZU

Residents concerned about a proposed 110-acre development in the 12400 block of Big Tujunga Canyon Road in Sunland were able to hear, for the first time Monday, from a representative of the developer of the project, Ben Salisbury.

Salisbury himself did not attend Monday evening’s meeting of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee. Brad M. Rosenheim of Rosenheim & Associates, Inc., a land use entitlements and public policy consulting firm based in Woodland Hills, gave the formal presentation to the LUC on the developer’s behalf.

But Salisbury’s absence did not stop Big Tujunga Canyon Road residents and stakeholders from pointedly voicing their opposition to the project. They feel the build will increase traffic flow, disrupt the natural lifecycles of local wildlife, ruin the aesthetics of the area and endanger horse trails.

“I think [Salisbury] has a fair sense of the concerns the community has,” Rosenheim said. “I think our intent is to work as closely as we possibly can with the community to address concerns they have so that we can, hopefully, mitigate those concerns.”

Salisbury plans to build 260 high-quality single-family homes built on 78 acres, with the remaining acreage reserved for an open space, Rosenheim said. The open space would encompass an area south of Camp Louis Roth, a probation camp; north of the Verdugo Hills Archery Range and Tujunga Little League fields; and east of Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

“They’re nuts if they’re going to build on that property,” said Russell Jones, a La Crescenta resident who previously lived in the canyon for 22 years, and serves as the range captain of Verdugo Hills Archers. “Our concern is [the archery range] would be taken away from us.”

Residents scoffed as Rosenheim gave his presentation and revealed the number of homes to be built. Rosenheim, however, was quick to add that the number of homes might be “slightly fewer than that, but not a lot.”

For Jerry Hart, Verdugo Hills Archers senior board of directors member, losing the archery range to the project is his biggest concern.

“I’ve been in the archery club for over 50 years, and I would hate to see it go,” he said. “The archery range has never been impacted like this before.”

The top half of the archery range could potentially be lost, Hart said. This would cause the range to lose 14 targets.

Big Tujunga Canyon Road residents say flash flooding of the road is common, given its proximity to Big Tujunga wash. A new development in that section of Big Tujunga Canyon Road would endanger the lives of new residents should the road wash out and prevent emergency services from accessing the area.

“If you’ve ever driven down those roads during the time that school is starting and ending, it’s already jam packed,” said Roberta Konrad, LUC member. “Do you have an idea of how to mitigate it, given that you’re going to put over 200 homes there?”

Rosenheim responded, “That will be part of the analysis: traffic and its potential impact. We’ll make note of that.”

“An Environmental Impact Report is going to be prepared and required,” Rosenheim added. “It gets the formal process going, which then takes quite a bit of time to complete. It enables formal dialogue and comments.”

Rosenheim further stated that scoping meetings will be organized, either later this fall or early winter, with the intent of involving the community in the planning process.

“What I want to reinforce is that this is the start of the process,” he said. “The technical work has not been done.”

Public hearings, as well as meetings with the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Commission, Los Angeles City Council and Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, will also be held. The developer will also file for a zoning change.

“It’s a very, very long, long process,” Rosenheim said. “We plan on participating as much as possible with the community as we move forward and through this process … in a collaborative, positive spirit. We want to be transparent. Not everybody’s going to agree with us. We understand that.”