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Court Upholds Council's Denial of Development

September 12, 1985|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

A state appeal court, upholding a city's right to control development, has ruled that the Glendale City Council acted properly when it rejected a developer's proposal to build 283 homes on the Inter-Valley Ranch at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The three-judge panel of the Los Angeles Appellate District last week reversed a 1984 Superior Court order that the city reconsider its denial of the hillside development.

After years of negotiations between the city, landowners and developers, the City Council in 1982 rejected plans to subdivide the ranch, citing potential problems from earthquakes, fires and floods. The proposal, submitted in 1979, was denied by the council after strong opposition from the Crescenta Valley Homeowners Assn.

Inter-Valley Ranch owners appealed the rejection to Superior Court, which ordered the city to reconsider its denial. Instead, the city appealed the court order.

In a separate action in June, developers filed a $100-million lawsuit against the city, the council and members of the Crescenta Valley Homeowners Assn. charging that the city and residents conspired to block development or sale of the property. That suit has not been heard.

However, the ruling last week found that the city has the right to reject a development if it threatens the safety of neighbors. The court cited a state law that requires the city to deny any development that could cause serious health problems.

City attorneys had argued that the state Supreme Court had upheld the validity of that state law. Glendale City Atty. Frank Manzano said the appellate ruling "takes the fire" out of the damage suit against the city.

Cities frequently modify conditions of a subdivision, such as the number of homes permitted, but Manzano said he did not know of any other city in the state that has been challenged in court by a developer for refusing to approve a subdivision.

The 746-acre Inter-Valley Ranch is the largest undeveloped hillside parcel in the Crescenta Valley.

Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said the plan was rejected because "it was a bad plan."

Attorney Josephine E. Powe of Los Angeles, who represents homeowners, said the appellate ruling gives the city and homeowners "a considerable boost" in fighting the latest suit. That suit is believed to be the first in the state, and possibly the nation, that seeks to hold homeowners liable for anti-development activity. Powe called the suit "outrageously frivolous."

Attorneys representing Inter-Valley Ranch could not be reached for comment.

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