In the Victoria Knolls neighborhood of Torrance, residents are circulating petitions opposing a housing development that they fear will destroy a cherished park and inundate them with traffic.
In Rolling Hills Estates, the city intends to look at new zoning for scores of empty acres that are targeted for the same development, anticipating the day--perhaps many years away--when they sprout luxurious homes.
But despite this bustle of activity in the two cities, the developer of the proposed 300-acre project has yet to file official plans with either one.
The unofficial scenario, however, calls for filling the gaping Chandler gravel quarry and converting it into the focal point for a 600-unit complex of homes and town homes in both cities. Many of the homes would be located so as to have views of the Rolling Hills Country Club golf course, which would be relocated and reconstructed in the process.
"Personally, I feel we have a tremendous reclamation project that can really be something very attractive for the community," said Dave Eadie, vice president of Cayman Development Co., whose preliminary plans were disclosed last spring. Cayman, the country club and the Chandler Co. are jointly involved in the project.
Most of the proposed project falls within Rolling Hills Estates, but 55 acres--which would contain 250 of the homes--are in Victoria Knolls.
Shortly after the plans became public, the Rolling Hills Estates Planning Commission began looking at a set of general guidelines to apply to the development. But that commission has since decided to consider specific residential zoning controls for the property.
Stephen A. Emslie, Rolling Hills Estates planning director, said zoning controls are needed so that "the developer will respond to the city, and not the city to the developer." The commission already has rejected town homes within the Rolling Hills Estates portion of the development.
Last week, the commission also decided that it wants to determine how long it would take to fill the 300-foot-deep quarry through current dumping operations. After half a century as a stone and gravel mine, the quarry is finishing its days as a commercial landfill for solid materials, primarily large chunks of concrete and asphalt. Users pay Chandler $3 a ton to dump material.
The Rolling Hills Estates decision to look at zoning for the property has put it at odds with neighboring Torrance, where planners favor a broad-based environmental impact study before any specific plan or zoning is considered.
David Ferren, the Torrance planning director, said a study should be done on the impact that any future development, regardless of its dimensions, would have on property in Rolling Hills Estates and Torrance. He said his greatest concern is access to relatively isolated Victoria Knolls.
In that neighborhood, a petition drive is under way in opposition to Cayman's concept, which includes a proposal to take dirt from beneath the city's hilltop Alta Loma Park to fill the quarry. In the process, the park would be lowered about 40 feet.
Want to Preserve Park
"Alta Loma was developed as our neighborhood community park, but many people use it," said Linda Dryer of the Hillside Homeowner Assn., a group that had been inactive until last year when it came back to life in the face of the Cayman proposal. "It is a very popular park, one of the most beautiful in the city of Torrance, and we want to preserve our park as it is."
The association also opposes the building of 250 town homes on vacant hillsides and fears that Crest Road, which provides the only access to the neighborhood, would become a through street to the development.
"The area is a giant cul de sac," Dryer said. "Many bought up here feeling they are off the beaten track and secure. People have to have a reason to come up here."
Eadie said changes have been made in the development concept since it became public last spring, but he said that the the issues that are riling Torrance residents--use of dirt from beneath the park and construction of higher density town homes within the city--have not changed substantially.
"No one talks about the benefits of lowering the park," Eadie said. "It would open up views for home sites that don't have a view. We feel the park is laid out rather poorly. We would reconfigure it and improve it."
Responded Dryer, "We don't want our park put down in a hole." She lives on Delos Drive, which would become a bluff top in the Cayman plan.
Torrance City Councilwoman Katy Geissert termed the park proposal "a rather arrogant concept" and said Crest Road already carries a lot of traffic.
Eadie said his company was ready to prepare a specific development plan last fall but is now waiting for zoning direction from Rolling Hills Estates, where the largest chunk of the project would be located.