A predicted population boom west of the San Fernando Valley has prompted a demand from a Calabasas-based utility for tougher controls on Los Angeles County's growth.
The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has charged that the county is failing to consider the cumulative effect of new housing projects in a rural area between Woodland Hills and Thousand Oaks.
Conflicting county land-use plans and zoning are also allowing development on land that is supposed to be permanent open space, the water agency said.
As a result, "it is very difficult for the district planners to know what density" is being developed and what future water and sewage facilities are needed, said Edward M. McCombs, general manager of the Las Virgenes district.
The charges are contained in a strongly worded letter to county Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Deane Dana.
County officials have disputed the charges.
"The implication is the county has approved massive increases in residential density, . . . but I haven't seen a heck of a lot of that," said John Edwards, head of the county planning department's Community Planning Branch.
The water agency's complaints follow an independent district study that predicts a threefold increase in population west of the Valley in coming years.
Population estimated today to be 69,600 will mushroom to about 189,600 by early in the 21st Century, according to the study. That is about 50,000 more people than predicted by the county.
The survey includes growth projections from private landowners and developers based on the density of projects they hope to build.
Settle on 1 Policy
McCombs suggested in his letter that the county seems willing to change its land-use plans to accommodate developers' requests.
If developments result in "land-use density in excess of the plans, the cumulative impact would overwhelm our best efforts," McCombs wrote. He said the county should settle on one land-use policy for the western county and then stick to that plan.
Housing construction in open space is also occurring, he said. "It is misleading and inappropriate to call areas 'permanent open space' and not have them protected in a manner that precludes future development," McCombs told the supervisors.
Water district officials said their complaint was triggered by the county Regional Planning Commission's approval Nov. 20 of a 204-home subdivision for a hilly, 207-acre site next to Calabasas Park.
The district contends that the county's local land-use plan specified about 30 homes for the land, and the overall county master plan called for about 25. Portions of the project site had previously been designated as open space.
"The bottom line is the county does not have a uniform plan for development in this area," said Harold Helsley, a Las Virgenes district director. "We don't want to be caught short due to a lack of information from county agencies."
The district's stance has delighted Calabasas-area homeowners, who, in the past, have unsuccessfully urged the water district to help curtail growth.
David Brown, president of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation, said he would have thought the district letter a forgery except "Ed McCombs gave a copy of it to me himself."
Edwards, who is drafting a response to the Las Virgenes complaints, said the water district seems "a little hostile," which he said is unwarranted.
Edwards said county planning statistics for the Las Virgenes region show "a net increase of 12 residential units" over the county's master plan since 1981.
"That's not helter-skelter growth," he said. "I think the concerns that are being raised are common to most areas where there's a lot of traffic on the freeways and surface streets."
Edwards said much of the future Las Virgenes-area growth will come from southeast Ventura County, also served by Las Virgenes sewer lines.
A spokesman for Dana, who represents the southern edge of the water district, said the supervisor had not yet seen the letter.
David Vannatta, Antonovich's chief planning deputy, said Las Virgenes officials should look at the county's Las Virgenes-area plan whenever they spot a density conflict between it and the main county master plan. He said the countywide plan purposefully contains "broad generalizations" supplemented by various local plans.
"Maybe regional planning needs to sit down and spend some time talking with them out there," Vannatta said.