ROLLING HILLS ESTATES — It will be the largest single residential development this city has ever seen.
It will eliminate an enormous, decades-old eyesore--the Chandler sand and gravel quarry--and it will give the lush Rolling Hills Country Club a brand new golf course and clubhouse.
About 600 homes and town houses will be constructed, most of them oriented toward the golf course and a series of lakes and waterfalls that will be created.
But the project--slated for the northeast corner of the city west of Palos Verdes Drive East--still has many loose ends, and opposition is developing.
While there is an "agreement in principle" among the project's three key players--the Chandler Co., the country club and Cayman Development Co.--no documents have been signed.
It will be two to three months before specific development plans are presented to the city or to neighboring Torrance, where 55 acres of the 300-acre development is located. Cayman, however, has kept both city staffs posted on its progress.
Still a Concept
Don J. Owen, Cayman's vice president, said the project is still a "concept" that could change. "We have been on this since 1979 and it has changed many fold," he said.
Even after the development plan is decided upon, Owen said, it will take two to three years to fill the quarry--a massive earth-moving project in itself--and up to seven years to finish the development. The Chandler Co. will continue to operate the quarry--where the mining of sand and gravel has been dwindling--while the development is under way, producing ready-mix concrete for the project.
So far, the city's only official action relating to the development has been to propose a "planned community zone" to handle the project once Cayman has unveiled a formal plan. The matter is now before the Planning Commission and is not expected to be decided for at least two months.
Stephen Emslie, city planning director, said the zone will permit a "comprehensive approach" to developing the property in harmony with the rest of the community. "The zone establishes permitted land uses and general development standards," Emslie said.
But a large group of residents--primarily horse owners who fear that the development will threaten the rural atmosphere of the community--has already made the proposed community zone the focal point of their opposition to Cayman's plans.
Objections to Changes
At the commission's first public hearing on the community zone, many people objected to any changes in the city's General Plan--which calls for horse-keeping and single-family homes in a rural setting--and demanded that the zone be scrapped.
Ann Lewin, president of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Horsemens Assn., told the commission her organization has collected more than 1,000 signatures in opposition. Lewin said the density of the development and related traffic congestion "threatens our life style" and imperils horse trails within the development area. "Let Cayman build in accordance with our present zoning," she said.
The hearing also drew some residents from Torrance and Lomita, who said they fear that their streets will become access routes for the new development. People from Torrance said they do not want to lose a public park that lies within the boundaries of the Cayman development.
As they listened to the overwhelming opposition, commissioners said that in the past they have been petitioned by people who want the quarry--and its dust, noise and heavy trucks--eliminated. The city has been trying to encourage a residential redevelopment of the property.
Another commission hearing is scheduled for May 20.
Emslie told the audience that the development zone would hold overall density to the city's present standard of one home per half-acre, although there will be some clustering. He also said horse-keeping would be protected through a horse overlay zone that would not change.
Later, Emslie said the community zone is the most advantageous way for the city to handle the development--and to protect the interests of the horse owners--because it provides for city controls and "public input at critical planning stages."
He said there will be "provisions for horse trails" in the specific development plan, although "some could be relocated." He also said it is "logical" that the development would contain some horse-keeping property.
In an interview, Cayman's Owen said the residents' opposition is based on a "fear of the unknown" that should be eliminated when a formal plan has been proposed. "We are trying to appeal to all areas of the community," he said.
Area for Horses
Owen said the housing--350 units in Rolling Hills Estates and 250 in Torrance--will be a combination of single-family homes and town homes in four-unit buildings. There will be horse property in an area next to horse neighborhoods in Rolling Hills Estates, but Owen said the amount has not been determined. "There is no intent to destroy existing trails," he said. He would not speculate on prices of the homes.