Endangered Gnatcatchers Threatened: Oil Company wants to wreck the Montebello Hills in East Los Angeles
By Amanda Baumfeld, Staff Writer and Thomas Himes, Correspondent
Article Launched: 07/09/2008
MONTEBELLO - Residents who attended a meeting about a possible development in the Montebello Hills expressed opposition to transforming the vast open space into a residential neighborhood. About 80 community members on Tuesday provided input on the Montebello Hills Specific Plan, a project that proposes to build 1,200 residential homes, a series of trails and a public park on 480 acres of open space. "I'm for the hills to be used for recreation, not housing," said Barbra Diaz, 43, a Montebello High School graduate. "This is that last open space we have. I think we need to think about this in great depth."
An Environmental Impact Report on the project is currently being drawn up by P&D Consultants. Tuesday's meeting marked one of many opportunities for community input on the project. Another meeting will take place on Saturday afternoon. Mayor Bill Molinari said much of the community is in favor of the development. "It is the last opportunity we have to develop the remaining hills," Molinari said Tuesday. "It would bring a lot of assets to the city."
Molinari pointed out that there are still a number of issues to be worked out, including the impact on schools and if the hills development would require a fire station.
An application to develop the land was submitted to the city in December by Cook Hill Properties LLC, a development consultant for Plains Exploration & Production Co., which owns the property. The land is also home to the gnatcatcher - an endangered species of bird - which requires two-thirds of the land to be devoted to a habitat for the bird.
"We've worked hard to develop a balanced, comprehensive community plan that respects the land and the needs of the community," said Byron de Arakal, spokesman for Cook Hill Properties.
But Linda Strong, a member of the "Save the Montebello Hills" task force, offered her own take. "It has tremendous ecological and recreational potential for current and future Montebello residents," Strong said. "Residents have no idea what they're sacrificing for profit and for out-of-town business interests."
the developer's website: http://www.montebellohillsreserve.com/
http://saveourcommunity.us/?q=node/812 for debate in the local community about the project