By Nestor CASTIGLIONE
The members of the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council presided over a meeting on Wednesday night where the mood was spirited unto raucous.
Over 75 people packed into the council chambers that night, all of them eager to give voice to their concerns over the future of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course.
Last month, the owners of the property, Snowball West Investments, LP, announced the closure of the facility effective as of Dec. 31. The course has been in operation since June 1960. In its place, Snowball has plans to convert the course into a mixed-use property that would include residences, businesses and office spaces.
Janek Dombrowa, who represented Snowball at the STNC meeting, said that the owners of the site have kept the course open as a courtesy to the community – adding that they did so even as the facility lost money.
“I don’t know whether that is true or not true,” said Marc Stirdivant, chairman of Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment (VOICE) who took the meeting podium. “But if it is, then why not continue that magnanimous gesture?”
Dombrowa acknowledged that many of the planned redevelopment’s critics are worried about the increased traffic that the project could bring into the immediate area as well as the vicinity in general. He added that in his role he felt personally obligated to create something that would be beneficial to both the community and to Snowball.
“We need to do something,” he said. “We can’t just keep putting our heads in the sand. I see this project as a very unique opportunity of something good that could set an example. [Snowball] is willing to talk.”
Nonetheless, many speakers balked at Snowball’s plans to erect structures that are meant to house three to four people per unit.
“That could add a thousand cars to our streets,” worried STNC president Krystee Clark.
Other speakers criticized the lack of advertising for the VHGC as a deliberate act on the part of Snowball to ensure slow business and an excuse for the site’s closure.
“It’s not fair to do this,” said one speaker who was quick to also note that Dombrowa in his role has tried to be flexible with the community on the issue. “[Snowball] shouldn’t be doing this.”
Among the ideas voiced by speakers were to keep the golf course open as is, turn it into a park, or to turn it into a preserve that would serve as a home for the local wildlife. Dombrowa said that aspects of those ideas could be incorporated into the project should the community be willing to work with the VHGC’s owners.
Others suggested enlisting the help of local celebrities who reside in the area, including Jimmy Kimmel. “We need people to see this,” said one speaker. “We need people to know this is happening and that they can do something about it.”
Dombrowa was conciliatory regarding the concerns of the speakers. He expressed the hope that eventually a solution could be found that would please them as well as the owners of the VHGC property.
“I have a chance to work with the owners and work with the community on this project,” he said. “I don’t have the power to stop it. But there are still ways for you to do that. There is a way to accomplish a lot if we work together.”