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Growth Foes, Developers Hail New Tool : Settlement of Lawsuit May Ease Monitoring of Data on Community Services

January 22, 1987|LYNN O'SHAUGHNESSY | Times Staff Writer

It is rare that homeowner groups and developers in the Santa Clarita Valley see eye to eye on any issue involving growth.

But both sides said Wednesday that they support a court-approved settlement that could restrict growth in the Santa Clarita Valley and three other areas in Los Angeles County that are experiencing intensive development. The settlement also covers the Antelope Valley, the East San Gabriel Valley and Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Norman L. Epstein on Tuesday approved a settlement that would require the gathering of more information--with the help of a computer--about the effect of a proposed development on a community. Under the settlement, county supervisors in most cases would be required to deny approval for a proposal development in any of the four areas if the project would overtax existing community services.

Still to Go Before Board

The settlement still must come before the county Board of Supervisors, but its approval is is expected.

The settlement was prompted by a lawsuit filed against the county by a coalition of environmental and civic groups alarmed at urban sprawl.

Homeowner groups in the Santa Clarita Valley applauded the settlement, saying they hope it will discourage the county from giving developers what they consider to be carte blanche to overdevelop.

Two major Santa Clarita Valley developers interviewed Wednesday said they approve of the new policy because they believe it will encourage better monitoring of development. With improved monitoring, developers say, they will have another tool to know whether a proposed development would overtax an area's water, sewer, schools and roads.

A major feature of the settlement is that the county will be required to use a new county computer system, already in place, to gather statistics under court-approved criteria. The computer will determine the capacity of the area's schools, water supply, sewers and roads.

James A. Kushner, a Southwestern University law professor who was the court-appointed referee in the lawsuit, said all parties in the valley should benefit because more information about the effect of projects will be available to everyone.

Public Perception

"There is a perception, particularly out there, that development is approved by the county in a subjective manner without regard to the availability of schools or water," Kushner said of the valley. "This is a policy that the residents should be able to rely upon. It's going to ensure new development won't come in, in the absence of facilities."

Jan Heidt, a spokesman for the Santa Clarita Homeowners Coalition, said her group is happy that access to information about development projects will be improved.

"That's the sort of thing that our coalition was looking for," she said.

Bob Sims, vice president of Engineering Service Corp., which is doing the engineering for about 50% of the housing being built in the valley, called the proposed monitoring system "excellent."

"Essentially, what it does is tell developers, environmentalists, anybody, everybody . . . what is the status of an infrastructure if we want to add more houses," Sims said.

May Dampen Opposition

Gloria Casvin, vice president of planning for the Valencia Co., a large home builder in the Santa Clarita Valley, said she hopes that increased information on development will dampen opposition to projects.

"What really results in a lot of public opposition is when there is misinformation," Casvin said.

Casvin and Sims doubted that the settlement would affect any of their companies' projects, which, they asserted, will not overtax county services.

Allan Cameron, a community activist, said he hopes that the added statistics will be put to good use. "How the new information will be used is the next big question mark," he said. "I hope it is used to ensure good growth."

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