A Los Angeles planning official, citing strong community opposition, has rejected a developer's request to allow 205 homes on 42 bluff-top acres in Westchester.
Gary Morris of the Planning Department's deputy advisory agency Wednesday rejected the proposal submitted by Howard Hughes Realty to subdivide two tracts in northeastern Westchester. His decision came after a lengthy public hearing attended by more than 100 people.
"I'm thrilled," said Adelle Wexler, whose Community Advisory Group led the opposition to the project. "When we started many said we did not have a chance."
Area residents and Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, whose district includes Westchester, had objected to the real estate firm's plans to grade the top and face of the bluffs and fill in ravines to provide additional lots. Opponents said the project would have destroyed a wildlife habitat and the stability of the bluffs, and would have created too much additional traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Wexler's group supports an alternative plan to divide the land into 120 lots, none of which would be on the bluff face or in two large ravines that cut into the Hughes property.
Hughes can appeal the decision to the Planning Commission or submit a revised plan that takes into account the community's objections, Morris said.
Morris said his decision was based on the community's opposition and deficiencies in the plans submitted by Hughes.
"The points (opponents) made were valid points," he said. "I think the Planning Commission would see my position as a valid position."
A Hughes official said the company has not decided which course to take. Under the Hughes proposal, the larger of the two parcels, located between Kentwood Avenue and the bluff edge, would have had 120 homes on 24.4 acres. The smaller parcel, between Dunbarton Avenue and the bluffs, would have had 85 homes on 17.3 acres.
Galanter said it is very unusual for the advisory agency to turn down a proposed subdivision.
"We should view that as a recognition of very serious problems with this subdivision," she said. "I hope this will lead to the recognition that it is inappropriate to make proposals with very serious problems. I hope that message goes out all over the city."
Stephenie Miller, vice president of Hughes, said: "We knew going into the hearing that we (and area residents) were polarized on certain issues. We'll just have to look at those issues and see if we see a solution."
Miller has defended the Hughes proposal, saying it would bring much needed new housing to the area.
"I still believe the plan we submitted is an equitable plan," Miller said.
If Hughes chooses to appeal, the company must file with the Planning Commission within 10 days of Morris' decision. If the appeal were rejected, the company could appeal to the full City Council.
Galanter said Hughes should work to "come up with another plan that does not have the problems of this one."