L.A. council shoots down 5,553-home Las Lomas development Proposed for Narrow Corridor that Connects East and West L.A. County Wildlife Areas
(also see http://stoplaslomas.org)
Citing concerns about potential traffic and overdevelopment, the Los Angeles City Council ended a bitter years-long battle over the controversial Las Lomas mini-city Wednesday and voted to kill the entire proposed 5,553-home project.
In its 10-5 decision, the council ordered the Planning Department to stop processing Las Lomas' annexation and development applications and return all studies and paperwork to the company.
The decision comes after six years of work and a $20 million investment by developer Dan S. Palmer Jr., who sought to build a 555-acre self-contained community of homes, offices and shops on the last stretch of open space between the city of Los Angeles and Santa Clarita.
But council members said they did not even want to consider expanding Los Angeles' city limits to include such a large project in the already traffic-clogged Newhall Pass.
"This was critically important at this moment in time in the city of L.A. that we just say no. We can't afford overdevelopment and this is overdevelopment," said Councilman Greig Smith, who led the effort to block the project.
"This project would have put 15,000 cars per day in an already impacted area. The people of L.A. said we can't take any more. We're tired of it. We don't have to say yes to make a developer rich."
But several council members and the City Attorney's Office warned that the decision could expose the city to a potentially risky and expensive lawsuit from the developer.
That's because since 2002, the Planning Department had accepted fees from the developer and began processing Las Lomas' application and studies.
"To vote against overdevelopment is the easy decision," said Councilman Richard Alarc n, who urged the council to let Las Lomas finish its studies before deciding whether to reject the project.
"I think we're going to get sued. I think the city has too often put itself in the position to be sued and to lose."
The debate Wednesday centered on whether the city was likely to win or lose a lawsuit if it is brought by Las Lomas - although Palmer would not say whether he intends to file one.
Instead, Palmer would only say that he was disappointed in the council's decision and would look at all options.
"We believe Las Lomas is a fine project," Palmer said after the hearing. "It's environmentally responsible. It works to employ the very policies that the city of Los Angeles has adopted for sustainability, for transit-oriented development, for work-force housing and for all these reasons we remain very firmly committed to the project."
Palmer first proposed Las Lomas nearly a decade ago and he has continued to push the project despite opposition from virtually every politician in the area.
The 555-acre site is in county jurisdiction and zoned for about 250 homes. Palmer sought to annex into the city of Los Angeles for its secure water supply and the chance that leaders would support constructing 20 times more homes than current zoning would allow.
But over the past year, Smith had waged a campaign to oppose and defeat Las Lomas.
With the aid of an attorney he hired with his council office funds, he sought to block the project by requesting that the council order the Planning Department to stop processing the environmental study that is required for annexation.
And Smith found support among colleagues concerned about stretching the city limits to absorb Las Lomas.
"This is urban sprawl at its finest," said Councilman Dennis Zine, who led his own effort to block the 3,050-home Ahmanson Ranch development west of Woodland Hills. "We're going to take every inch of open space and build on it."
Even in 2005 after Palmer and his team revised the project into a smart-growth community of dense homes, open space, jobs, transit, shops, schools and an on-site shuttle, community activists and elected leaders still found the project unacceptable.
Sandra Cattell with the Sierra Club said the hillside site is too steep, too ecologically valuable and too prone to wildlife for Las Lomas.
"This is a one-of-a-kind type of place. There shouldn't be any type of development up there," Cattell said.
"Why doesn't he build this somewhere that wants it? Somewhere that it would be feasible, that it would be an attractive community, not in an isolated mountain where we would have sprawl."