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Verdugo Ridge : Council Discusses 3 Grading Plans at Closed Meeting

August 18, 1988|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Glendale City Council met in a 90-minute closed-door session Tuesday to consider a series of alternatives to a controversial grading proposal in the Oakmont View housing subdivision.

Council members declined to say what the alternatives are, but indicated they may be close to reaching an agreement with the Gregg Development Co. of Glendale.

Gregg drew strong criticism earlier this year when residents learned that the developer planned to slice off the top of a prominent ridge in the Verdugo Mountains to get dirt to fill a 6-acre hole in the project.

In the wake of the public outcry, the council last month unanimously blocked the grading plan. Gregg threatened to sue the city for stopping a development that it had approved years ago.

In an effort to stave off litigation, the council asked City Manager David H. Ramsay to work with Gregg to develop alternative plans.

A variety of new proposals suggested by the developer and city staff members reportedly were presented to the council Tuesday, but no details have been revealed.

Only the five council members, along with City Atty. Frank Manzano, Planning Director John McKenna, Public Works Director George Miller and Ramsay were allowed at the closed-door session.

Generally, planning issues and all other city business must be conducted in public under provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act. However, the state law permits agencies to meet behind closed doors to discuss personnel issues or pending litigation.

Manzano said Tuesday's closed session was legal because the developer has threatened to sue. "We're trying to negotiate a settlement so we don't have to go to court," Manzano said.

Three Plans Discussed

Mayor Carl W. Raggio said only that the council discussed "three principal plans," each of which had several variations. He said council members commented on the "strengths and weaknesses" of the proposals and asked Ramsay to continue negotiations with developers.

City planners earlier had suggested that alternatives could include trucking dirt into the subdivision from elsewhere. Other grading plans away from the ridge could also be considered, they said. Yet all of the alternatives discussed publicly so far have been opposed either by residents or the developer.

The city's Environmental and Planning Board in February quietly approved Gregg's proposal to remove 25,000 truckloads of dirt from a ridge separating the Oakmont View and Oakmont Woods neighborhoods. The grading would have cut up to 70 feet from the ridgeline and would have been visible from the Crescenta Valley and the Verdugo Canyon, according to city reports.

The developer needs the dirt to fill in a depression and create the last 24 lots--worth an estimated $5 million--in the 197-lot subdivision. The Oakmont View subdivision was approved by the council in 1976, but a shortfall in the amount of dirt needed to complete the project was not discovered until 1986.

City staff members at first balked at the developer's massive grading proposal, then later approved it with a series of mitigating measures.

The council action blocked the project, which was to begin this year.

Raggio said he is optimistic that an alternative to grading the ridge can be found. "There are ways of solving the problem," Raggio said. "But, of course, we're not quite there yet."

Ramsay said homeowner groups will be asked their opinion of the alternative proposals within the next couple of weeks. He said the proposals will not be revealed until then because city officials plan to prepare a presentation.

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