East met West on Sunday, much to the satisfaction of a residents' group that successfully fought to belong to the newly named community of West Hills.
The group, comprised of residents who live east of the original boundary of West Hills, successfully completed its drive last month to get Councilwoman Joy Picus to expand West Hills' eastern boundary.
Ending a months-long controversy that began when a group of homeowners on the western edge of Canoga Park adopted the name of West Hills and opposed the inclusion of residents east of the area, both groups pledged to work together during a picnic in Shadow Ranch Park.
"There are so many people who gave up their nights and spent time on the telephone to make this happen," said Les Volchok, who helped organize the boundary expansion drive. "It's all been worth it, though, hasn't it?"
"I'd like to welcome you to our community," said Joel Schiffman, president of the West Hills Property Owners Assn., which opposed the expansion. "You've obviously worked hard to become part of West Hills . . . let us move forward as one community."
His words were cheered by the group of about 200 picnickers, most of whom live on the east side of West Hills. Schiffman said he did not learn of the picnic until Wednesday, too late to inform the more than 1,000 members of the property owners association about the gathering.
West Hills Community Organization, on the other hand, distributed about 5,000 flyers to residents of the new section of West Hills, said organizer Randy Cohen.
Time to Unite
Picus' Oct. 15 decision to move the eastern boundary from Platt and Woodlake avenues to Shoup Avenue left the community with the two residents' groups. Now that permanent boundaries have been established, it is time to end the opposition and unite for the good of West Hills, Picus said.
Leaders of both groups had sought to distance themselves from Canoga Park, hoping to gain increased real-estate values, lower car insurance rates and a heightened sense of community.
"Now that you're all friends and neighbors, we will move ahead in the best possible direction for the betterment of the community," Picus told the picnickers.
But the question of which group--the West Hills Property Owners Assn. or the West Hills Community Organization--will represent the community is unresolved.
The Property Owners Assn. will vote Nov. 23 to amend its bylaws to include the eastern area of the community, opening up the association to the new residents, Schiffman said.
Many residents said they plan to join the association, but others said they are leery because it is open only to homeowners. West Hills Community Organization includes renters and business owners.
"The feeling is it would be nice to have one organization," said Bob Kurges, treasurer of the West Hills Community Organization. "But we feel we wouldn't get equal representation if we join."
"I think, at least initially, that competition is inevitable," Schiffman said.
Despite the possibility of future conflict, the mood of the picnickers was jubilant.