TORRANCE — A newly formed homeowners group has mounted an effort to force the city to redesign its planned extension of Toledo Street through a portion of the the Park del Amo development project that crosses Madrona Marsh.
The Del Amo Cooperative Homeowners Assn., representing about 340 homeowners in four cooperative complexes along Monterey Street, Merrill Drive and Madrona Avenue, contends that the present design will create noise, odors and air pollution, resulting in a loss in property values.
Under the present plan, what is now Toledo Street will be renamed 223rd Street and will curve sharply northward to merge with Monterey Street just east of its intersection with Madrona Avenue. The homeowners association contends that the plan will bring the street and its traffic too close to existing homes.
In conceptual plans approved in 1983 by the City Council, 223rd Street was to intersect with Madrona Avenue south of Monterey Street. However, when specific plans were submitted in 1984 for city approval, 223rd Street was to merge with Monterey.
Mike Schubach, a spokesman for the group, said homeowners were not properly notified when the City Council in 1984 approved the merger of the two streets.
Schubach alleges that the decision was made in private discussions with the Friends of Madrona Marsh, a local environmental group that had been fighting developers to preserve the marsh, without concern for the effect it would have on the homeowners.
But Assistant City Atty. Bill Quale said proper public notices were published for every major decision on the Park del Amo project. Work has already begun on the street, he said, and the city is not likely to back down on its plan.
"It's safe to say that the alignment of 223rd is not going to change," Quale said. "That would impinge on essential land for the marsh."
The marsh, one of the last remaining stops in the South Bay for migrating birds and other small wildlife, was the focus of a long battle between environmentalists and developers of Park del Amo.
Developers of the 182-acre site--bounded by Sepulveda Boulevard, Madrona Avenue, Monterey Street and Crenshaw Boulevard--eventually reached an agreement with environmentalists and the city to preserve nearly 43 acres of the marsh in exchange for being allowed to build 1,482 residential units and 850,000 square feet of commercial space.
Under the original plan for extending 223rd Street, 34.4 acres of the marsh was to lie south of the street, with 8.5 acres to the north. Under the present plan, 40 acres will lie south of the street.
Georgean Griswold, president of the Friends of Madrona Marsh, said the group from the very beginning had made public its preference that 223rd Street be merged with Monterey.
"It was always the desire of the Friends to keep the street away from the most sensitive part of the marsh," she said. "The Friends' board meetings are public and anyone interested could have attended."
Schubach, a former Friends board member, disputes the group's contention that the realignment protects a vital part of the marsh.
"What they are doing is creating a marsh, not saving one," he said. "There is no fauna or flowers on that portion. It is just a vacant field. Even if it was part of the marsh, birds will fly across the street."
Members of the homeowners group planned to meet with attorneys this weekend to decide whether to file a lawsuit charging that the city's plan will result in lowered property values.
Because the city is still involved in a dispute with the developers over ownership of the marsh, Quale said, there is a question about who would pay for any changes that might result from a lawsuit seeking realignment.
On Feb. 7, the city obtained temporary possession of the marsh in a hearing before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. The city has filed a lawsuit asking for permanent possession of the marsh, but that case is not expected to be heard for at least two years, according to City Atty. Stanley Remelmeyer.
Meanwhile, Schubach, who was involved in the early fights to save the marsh, said he thinks that the environmentalists got carried away by their mission.
"It's human nature, I guess, for them to want more of the marsh," he said. "But I think it would be poetic justice now if the marsh dried up. They talk about wanting to add water to preserve the marsh. The next thing they'll want to do is to import birds for the marsh, too."