Twenty years of controversy over one of the largest private developments in the Santa Monica Mountains north of Beverly Hills has ended.
Two environmental groups, two city governments, a state agency, a federal agency and several homeowner groups have withdrawn their basic opposition to the completion of Beverly Park Estates, 80 plush homes on 350 acres with spectacular views of the Westside.
Sixteen homes, one of them owned by singer Kenny Rogers, already have been built on the property south of Mulholland Drive between Coldwater Canyon Boulevard and San Ysidro Drive. The development lies a mile north of Beverly Hills.
Construction on the remaining 64 estates that range in price from $4 million to $6 million is scheduled to start in July, according to Elliot A. Gottfurcht, a partner in Beverly Park Inc., the developer.
$400,000 in Escrow
The developer has deposited more than $400,000 in an escrow account to be distributed to environmental and government groups, which have agreed to drop their opposition to the project. The money will be spent on wilderness protection and education, park expansion, coyote control and road improvements.
Beneficiaries of the money to be distributed next month are the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom, $100,000; the Tree People, $100,000; state Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, $100,000; Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, $75,000, and the U.S. National Park Service, $50,000.
Also there is a $9,600 donation to the city of Los Angeles for the control of predatory animals, a payment to Beverly Hills for library services of $400 for each house in the development and donation of 16 acres to the conservancy for the creation of a park site north of Mulholland Drive.
Homeowner and environmental groups have opposed past plans for development of the property as too dense for the mountain areas. They have expressed guarded optimism on the latest agreement with the developer.
"Because of our past disappointments, we have become cynics," said Patricia L. Rosenfeld, vice president of the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Citizens Advisory Committee.
"Most of us will not believe we have succeeded until the money actually has been distributed. But this would appear to end a long and terrible fight between us and the developer of the property," she said.
Rosenfeld referred specifically to an agreement in 1982 between environmental and homeowner groups and Gottfurcht that placed a limit of 80 homes on the property. As part of that agreement, Gottfurcht said he would donate to the environmental and governmental groups in the area.
Three years later Gottfurcht proposed selling 135 acres to UCLA for the development of 250 homes and condominiums for faculty housing. After a firestorm of protest, the proposal was dropped.
A year ago with 16 homes built, Gottfurcht considered dividing the remaining acreage into four large parcels for development of ranches, including a polo field and private race tracks. If he did that, rather than develop the 64 units, Gottfurcht maintained that he would not have to make good on the financial donations. That sent environmental and homeowner groups into a frenzy of agitation.
The site was no stranger to controversy before Gottfurcht acquired it in the 1970s when it was known as the Teamsters Tract. Three men, including a former Los Angeles building and safety commissioner, were indicted and in 1968 pleaded guilty to or were convicted of bribery and kickback charges involving proposed development.
"We are looking to turn the page on this property," said Barbara S. Blinderman, a member of the board of the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom.
The only remaining possible issue on developing the property will be city plans for the widening of Mulholland Drive near the entrance to the last phase of the Beverly Park development.