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Glendale, La Canada Tracts : 2 Parkland Purchases in Lawmakers' Hands

May 08, 1986|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

A 746-acre Glendale property at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and 40 acres of wilderness in La Canada Flintridge may become parkland this year if the state Legislature agrees to fund their acquisition.

Glendale has asked the Legislature for $2 million to buy the Inter-Valley Ranch, between Dunsmore and Cooks canyons north of Foothill Boulevard. The city annexed that tract in 1975 and wants to preserve it as open space.

Debate over the Inter-Valley Ranch property has been going on since the early 1960s, when the owners of the property first proposed to develop it. The dispute led to a $102-million lawsuit by the developers and owners against the city in 1982, when the Glendale City Council voted down a proposal to build 283 homes on the property. That suit is still pending.

The owners are negotiating to sell the land to the city and have agreed to drop the suit if the sale goes through, an attorney representing them said this week.

State Funds Sought

La Canada Flintridge is seeking $450,000 in state funds to buy a chaparral-covered natural preserve owned by USC that lies between Descanso Gardens and a 55-acre park site in Cherry Canyon acquired by the city last year. The proposed acquisition is known as Cherry Canyon Phase II.

If both Glendale's and La Canada Flintridge's proposals are approved by both houses and signed by Gov. George Deukmejian, the funds would be allocated in the 1986-87 budget. The final version of the budget is expected to be submitted for the governor's approval in June.

The land would probably be acquired through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that buys parkland for preservation, and would be administered by the cities.

Both proposals are winding their way through Senate and Assembly subcommittees. Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), whose 38th District includes Glendale, has headed that city's request for funds.

The Assembly subcommittee on resources and parks, blaming a lack of funds, failed to provide money for the Inter-Valley Ranch proposal on Monday, but the issue is expected to be heard before a Senate subcommittee today.

Backers say they hope the Senate panel will support funding for the Glendale project by including it on a parks and recreation bond act that will appear on the November ballot.

La Canada Flintridge's proposed Cherry Canyon Phase 2 passed Assembly and Senate subcommittees last week. State Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale), who represents La Canada Flintridge, has asked that revenues from the state environmental license plate fund be used.

"At this point, the signals are very good," said La Canada Flintridge City Manager Don Otterman, who has made several trips to Sacramento to lobby for funds.

La Canada Flintridge wants to maintain both the present and proposed Phase II of Cherry Canyon as open space but add hiking and riding trails, Otterman said. Part of the parcel would be included in the Rim of the Valley Trail Corridor, which conservancy officials hope will one day ring the San Fernando and La Crescenta valleys.

'Serious Competition'

"There's some very serious competition for the funding this year," said Karen French, deputy director of the Senate fiscal committees.

For example, she said, revenues from tidelands oil have shrunk to less than a fourth of what they were last year because of plummeting oil prices.

La Canada Flintridge has already lost one bid this year to buy Cherry Canyon Phase II.

The city had hoped to acquire the $725,000 property with help from a $450,000 conservancy grant, but the plan fell through when Deukmejian rejected the conservancy's entire $5-million parkland acquisition budget in January.

Deukmejian said the money was left out because there was a question as to whether the conservancy should be allocated money from the general fund or rely on gifts and land sales for new acquisitions. He has not indicated how he will handle future requests.

The first Cherry Canyon parcel, bought last year with a $1.3 million conservancy grant and $500,000 from La Canada Flintridge's general fund, was dedicated by Deukmejian last week in a small ceremony during which he declined to say whether he would approve more money this year for the second phase.

Glendale's Problems

Glendale officials have different problems. They have asked for $2 million, more than four times as much as the La Canada Flintridge request, and the source of funding is still unclear. One possibility is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program administered by the states, according to Henry Agonia, Glendale's director of parks and recreation.

The city also has yet to resolve the Inter-Valley Ranch lawsuits or agree on a purchase price with the developers, Uni-Cal Financial Corp. and William W. Bliss, a trustee for the owners.

Jerry Cochran, attorney for the Inter-Valley Ranch owners, said his client has agreed to drop all lawsuits and sell the property for $4.6 million, about $100,000 less than it was appraised at three years ago.

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