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Housing Plan Sparks Battle for Open Space in Westchester

February 19, 1987|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

She said the property has long been zoned for single-family housing and its eventual development should not come as a surprise.

"We've always had the right to develop it," Miller said.

Russell, whose district includes Westchester, said she has not seen Honea's letter and does not know whether she will ask the city attorney to consider Honea's claim.

Russell said she lived near the vacant field years ago and her children flew kites there. Long before she ran for City Council, she said, she remembers walking in the neighborhood and thinking, "I sure hope the city does the right thing" when the time comes to develop the vacant property.

Russell said she meant that the city should keep condominiums and apartments from being built and maintain the area for single-family homes.

Russell said she has not endorsed the proposed subdivisions but supports construction of single-family homes in harmony with the neighborhood.

Size of Lots

Although residents have complained that the lots are too small, Miller said the proposed lots are similar in size to others in the area. She said the smallest lot would be 5,000 square feet, but most would range from 6,500 square feet to 7,800.

Other complaints have focused on the project's impact on traffic.

Mim Gaspari, who has lived in the area for 24 years, said cars are already backed up on 77th Street at Sepulveda Boulevard during the morning rush hour. Traffic from the subdivisions would flow onto 77th Street.

Miller said the Sepulveda Boulevard-77th Street intersection is scheduled for improvement by the city. Traffic studies undertaken for the draft environmental impact report showed that "the project will result in minimal traffic impact on neighborhood streets and intersections."

Kentwood Home Guardians has distributed flyers to residents urging them to write the Planning Department to complain that an increase in population would burden fire, police, park and library services, which the environmental report acknowledges are inadequate.

Howard Towner, a Loyola Marymount University biology professor who lives near the proposed subdivisions, said he is concerned about the area's wildlife. Hawks and other birds feed there, he said, and would be forced out unless some of the bluff and its natural vegetation are preserved.

The consultants who prepard the environmental study reported sighting a burrowing owl, which is on the state's list of "bird species of special concern." The state Department of Fish and Game has recommended that the developer be required to help relocate the owls before homes are built.

Miller said she knows nothing about burrowing owls, but added that her company will cooperate in relocating them if the city imposes that condition. Other problems, such as a complaint by the Fire Department about inadequate access to the subdivisions, also can be resolved, she said.

More difficult to address, she said, are objections raised by neighbors whose views would be blocked by the homes. She said some homeowners have lived there for 40 years and it is understandable that they resent the intrusion.

But, she said, "it's physically impossible to build without blocking some views."

All of the complaints raised by residents and others in response to the environmental impact report will be reviewed by the city planning staff. Julia K. Witz, project coordinator, said once the environmental impact report is completed, the developer must still obtain approval from the City Council before construction can begin.

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