Reacting to a proposal to build five "canyon condo" units in Laurel Canyon, several homeowner associations have demanded a building moratorium until strict controls are placed on canyon development.
Canyon condos are clusters of homes that the associations say would be built so close together that they would dramatically increase density and worsen severe traffic and parking problems. No clusters have been built so far.
According to city planner Lynell Washington, developer Roger Temple has proposed building five homes on a combination of six irregularly shaped lots at 8730-40 Wonderland Ave. The homes would be no more than six feet apart.
"If this trend continues," said James A. Nelson, a member of Lookout Mountain Associates, "the rustic, country atmosphere of Laurel Canyon would be irretrievably lost. We have enough problems now with flooding, slope slippage, fire and traffic problems without jamming more homes into the area."
Seeking Woo's Support
Other groups protesting development in the canyon are the Hillside Federation, Wonderland Park Assn. and Hilltop Assn. During a recent meeting with the developer and Councilman Michael Woo, they asked Woo to support a moratorium.
Woo, who became the area's representative under the recent City Council redistricting, will probably make a decision on their request in January, said Eric Shockman, a senior Woo deputy.
"Obviously, people living in the canyons have very unique problems that need to be addressed," Shockman said. "The larger issue has to do with the fate of the hills and just how much more development the canyons can take without destroying the quality of life there."
In addition to weighing the merits of a moratorium, Woo's office is investigating the specific development proposal that touched off the outcry of the homeowner groups.
Exempt From Current Zoning
Washington said Temple's proposal exceeds existing zoning limits of one to three units an acre. The Wonderland Avenue property is approximately a third of an acre. But Washington said existing zoning regulations do not apply to the property because of a grandfather clause exempting it from zoning limits adopted after 1962. Zoning before 1962 allowed one dwelling unit per lot, and that applies to the Temple property.
Even though Temple proposed putting two parking spaces per unit on the site, residents on neighboring streets where parking is allowed contend that there would be an increase in demand for on-street parking.
"There is obvious concern about the proposal because there is hardly any room between the houses," Washington said. "And there is no parking on the street, which is narrow and barely has room for a lane of traffic in each direction.
"What may be even more troubling to nearby residents is that there are a lot of properties in the area that could be developed in the same way. Housing density is the big issue."
'Sense of Urgency'
Washington said the developer has yet to receive approval from the city to begin work on the homes. "In that sense," he said, "the homeowner groups may be premature in their complaints."
Nelson of the Lookout Mountain group said residents believe there is a "sense of urgency" in pressing demands now for a density reduction in Laurel Canyon.
"Laurel Canyon is like the Central Park (in New York City) of Los Angeles," he said. "So much of the green space of Los Angeles is located here. There may not be a big rush to develop homes in the canyon, but we do not like recent proposals."
About a mile north of Hollywood, the area contains a mix of mansions and bungalows, many built in the 1920s and '30s. Among the residents are motion picture personalities Jack Nicholson and Leslie Nielsen. Marlon Brando is a canyon property owner, and former Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. is a resident.