Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus probably will delay deciding how to count the ballots in her survey of Canoga Park neighborhoods vying to be part of West Hills until after she receives them all this month, a Picus spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Earlier last month, Picus aides outlined a method that West Hills leaders complained would allow other neighborhoods a piece of the new community name without two-thirds approval by residents of those areas.
But Picus stepped back from that method of counting the questionnaires Tuesday night at a meeting with board members of the West Hills Property Owners Assn., who were pleased.
Representatives from Canoga Park neighborhoods east of Fallbrook Avenue, however, were upset that Picus would "change the rules" after residents' campaigning has begun.
The controversy began after West Hills was carved from a western flank of Canoga Park in January by residents who wished to discard an image of deterioration they associated with the name Canoga Park. Since then, residents of other neighborhoods to the east have sought to have Picus include their areas, but West Hills leaders have urged her to hold the line.
In an attempt to settle the matter, Picus in August said she would abide by a survey that would divide Canoga Park neighborhoods between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and the current eastern West Hills boundary into three zones. A two-thirds vote of residents would be required to allow inclusion into West Hills, she said.
But Picus aides later explained that votes to include one zone from households in another could count toward the number needed to form a two-thirds majority. Thus, argued West Hills leaders, a zone without the two-thirds majority could be included in West Hills if it could muster enough votes from other zones.
Picus, at the meeting Tuesday, agreed with the West Hills property owners. "No matter how you look at it, it's not two thirds" of those living in a zone if the votes of residents outside that zone are added, she said. But she would not commit herself to any other method of counting the surveys, adding, "I'll face that when I come to it."
"She really preferred not to commit," Susan Pasternak, a Picus aide, said Wednesday.
Picus also told the group Tuesday that she believed including West Hills in the survey, as the association asked her to do, would serve no useful purpose.
Nonetheless, association president Joel Schiffman said he was pleased that Picus reached some middle ground with his group, which picketed her office a week ago.
Lester Volchok, a spokesman for the "Open Zone" between West Hills and Fallbrook Avenue, said Picus "is on the right track" by reasserting that a two-thirds vote will be required from each zone. Open Zone leaders contend Picus already included them in West Hills, and they oppose inclusion of more neighborhoods.
But representatives of Canoga Park residents living east of Fallbrook Avenue and wishing to join West Hills were taken aback by Picus' statements at the meeting.
James C. Fedalen and Randy Cohen said their group's strategy has been to pool votes from two of Picus' survey zones to obtain the necessary majority to extend the West Hills boundary to Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
"It's a little late in the game to change the rules on us," Fedalen said.