Time Running Short to Weigh in on VHGC


It has been nearly a year since the Verdugo Hills Golf Course announced that it was closing. In its wake an intense debate about the future of the surrounding area of Sparr Heights and even the wider Crescenta Valley and Sunland-Tujunga areas was set into motion: meet increasing demands for housing by building new homes and sacrifice the area’s distinctive rural qualities, or retain those rustic aspects at the cost of driving housing costs up. Now people on both sides of the issue have another opportunity to make themselves heard – but only for a few more days.

On Sept. 28, the City of Los Angeles Planning Dept. publicly issued a recirculated portion of the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the proposed plans on the Verdugo Hills Golf Course’s future. Now it’s set to close next Monday, Nov. 13.

The portion in question relates to energy conservation, which had not been included in the DEIR previously made public in 2009. Other sections dealing with traffic, recreation and other matters are not being recirculated.

Snowball West Investments, LP, which owns the property on which the former Verdugo Hills Golf Course sits, has proposed subdividing and developing the 58-acre site into lots ranging from 2,560 to 10,720 sq. ft. Upon those lots Snowball West is proposing to erect a total of 229 homes; 137 would consist of four bedrooms, while the remaining 92 would have five.

Most of the homes, 221 in all, would be erected on the southeast portion of the property. The remaining ones would be built farther north, between the Verdugo Wash right-of-way and Tujunga Canyon Road. The homes would range from 1,800 to 2,700 sq. ft. in total building area. Their maximum height would be 30 ft., enough for two stories.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods opposing the project have been particularly forceful, as was evinced by a raucous meeting of the Sunland-Tujunga Town Council where the matter was discussed earlier this year.

In an interview late last year, Michael Hoberman spoke to the Crescenta Valley Weekly regarding Snowball West’s efforts to placate the concerns of the community. At the time he identified himself as being only an “advisor” to Snowball West. However, a website then active for Snowball West identified Hoberman as a spokesperson. It also stated that the LP was named after the “Hoberman family dog.”

That website has since been pulled offline.

“[Snowball West] has kept Verdugo Hills Golf Course as a courtesy, but it loses money,” he said in an interview with Crescenta Valley Weekly November of last year.

Hoberman had added that Snowball West was amiable to keeping the site open as a golf course or even selling the property, but that no offers had been forthcoming.

“If [concerned local residents] want to save the golf course, the way to do it is to work with the city and the state and other groups, put together a package and figure out a way together to buy it, or buy most of it,” stated a message on Snowball West’s now defunct website.

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael J. Antonovich had pledged $1.7 million towards that end, though it falls short of the approximately $20 million that Snowball West is reportedly asking for the property.

Opponents of the golf course have also teamed up with the local Japanese-American community in an effort to have the site designated as a historical landmark. During the early 1940s, the property was the site of the Tuna Canyon Detention Center where over 2,000 people, mostly Japanese and Japanese-Americans, were held. The DEIR circulated in 2009 stated that the absence of structures on the property made it ineligible for “designation under national or California historical registers.”

Nevertheless, it also recommended that the site be designated a California Historical Landmark. In 2013, the Los Angeles City Council recognized the site as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, a designation that Snowball West fought against in court.

Marc Stirdivant of Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment (VOICE) said that residents have a valuable opportunity at hand to make themselves heard by the City of Los Angeles.

“The [recirculated] section is supposed to address how the project doesn’t waste any energy, but [it] doesn’t accomplish that,” he said this week. “[It] arrives at conclusions without facts and analyses that make any sense. For example, it says that the 229 houses will use less electricity and natural gas than the golf course used. How is that even possible?”

Interested residents are being urged to give their opinion on the energy conservation portion of the DEIR. Comments may be emailed to Erin Strelich of the Los Angeles Dept. of City Planning at erin.strelich@lacity.org or faxed to (213) 978-1351. They may also be submitted in writing to Los Angeles Dept. of City Planning, 200 N. Spring St., Room 750, Los Angeles, CA, 90012. All comments must be received by no later than 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13.