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Laurel Canyon Coalition : Residents Unite to Back Building Ban

April 12, 1987|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Citing problems with fire protection, traffic and parking, four Laurel Canyon homeowner associations have formed a coalition to support a building moratorium that has been proposed for small lots in the canyon.

The Coalition of Laurel Canyon Homeowners Assns. represents about 500 homeowners from Hilltop Associates, Wonderland Park Assn., Lookout Mountain Associates and the Laurel Canyon Area Assn.

Councilman Michael Woo, whose district includes Laurel Canyon, has proposed a one-year building moratorium on small lots--less than 5,000 square feet--to allow the city to develop new development guidelines for the area.

Introduced in the City Council Wednesday, the proposal was referred to the Planning and Environment Committee, which is scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday.

Woo said in a statement that the moratorium is necessary because "full-sized houses" are being built on lots designed primarily for small bungalows. This kind of development, Woo said, would make it difficult to fight fires, control traffic and provide adequate parking.

James A. Nelson, chairman of the new coalition, said that his group supports the moratorium.

"Residents in the area have become increasingly concerned about three-story homes being built on lots meant to house cottages," Nelson said. "This has been going on for the past couple of years.

"We believe a continuation of such a laissez-faire development policy will have a severe impact on the canyon's quality of life and already bad problems with streets, fire protection, sewers and other city services," Nelson said.

Against the Ban

Opposed to the moratorium is the Hillside Property Owners Assn., a group of between 100 and 200 people who own still-undeveloped property in Laurel Canyon.

Berndt Lohr-Schmidt, organizer of the association, said the group sees the moratorium as the first step toward making development of the small lots impossible.

"We see this as a taking of property without just compensation," Lohr-Schmidt said. "We are essentially drawing the line to protect our constitutional rights to own and develop property."

Lohr-Schmidt said that problems with fire protection, inadequate sewers, dense traffic and lack of parking are not caused by new development but by the existence of "illegal rental units" in the canyon.

"People are renting out their garages or have converted single-family homes into three-unit apartments," Lohr-Schmidt said. "But we cannot get the city to do anything about them."

Bill Chandler, a Woo aide, said that residents in the canyon did not appear to be that concerned about illegal units in the canyon.

"The overwhelming number of calls to our office expressed concern with overdevelopment in Laurel Canyon," Chandler said. "We are responding to complaints from residents."

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