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New Idea for Getting Dirt to Housing Site: Conveyor Belt

September 29, 1988|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

People snickered when a spokesman for Glendale homeowners quipped that the only agreeable way to transport more than a quarter of a million cubic yards of dirt needed to complete a mountaintop subdivision appeared to be by helicopter.

They stopped laughing last week when the same leader, Steve Cameron, president of the Deer Canyon/Oakmont View Homeowners' Assn., posed a more serious suggestion: Bring it in by conveyor belt.

Hauling tons of dirt by conveyor belt up the steep mountainside to fill in a 6-acre hole and complete the Oakmont View housing subdivision "just might be the solution to all of our problems," Cameron said.

Residents have voiced strong opposition to other proposals, such as grading nearby hillsides to obtain the dirt or hauling it in by truck up narrow residential streets.

'Interesting Approach'

"That's an interesting approach," said Mayor Carl Raggio, who asked city officials to pursue the idea.

The conveyor belt idea was among several suggestions offered last week during a public forum held by the Glendale City Council to consider solutions for completing the 197-lot Oakmont View housing subdivision, an area of exclusive view homes above the Oakmont Country Club.

The project was blocked in July when the council unanimously rejected plans by the developer to undertake a massive grading project in order to complete the subdivision.

Gregg Development Co. of Glendale, which began the hillside subdivision in 1976, is unable to complete the project because it lacks about 266,000 cubic yards of dirt needed to fill in a debris basin and create the final 24 lots, worth an estimated $5 million.

Developer John Gregg and his partners had proposed obtaining the dirt by cutting as much as 70 feet off a prominent ridge and grading adjoining property that is owned by the city and the developer. When the City Council rejected that plan after public outcry, Gregg threatened to sue.

In an effort to head off lawsuits, the council ordered city staff members and the developer to propose alternatives. As a result, two basic plans were developed, each coupled with a variety of modifications for hillside grading and hauling in fill dirt from outside the area.

City staff members presented the alternatives to the council during a 90-minute study session in August. But the public was barred from that meeting because of threatened litigation. Generally, planning issues and all other city business must be conducted in public under provisions of state law. However, the law--the Ralph M. Brown Act--permits agencies to conduct sessions in private when personnel issues or pending litigation are discussed.

The city also presented alternative plans during private meetings with representatives of five homeowner groups. But no consensus was reached at any of the meetings. Many homeowners said they object to all of the proposed solutions, according to homeowner representatives and city officials.

The proposals were not publicly disclosed until the forum last Thursday evening and then were given only a cursory review by City Manager David H. Ramsay.

One of the two proposals suggests that a portion of the needed dirt be obtained by grading property adjoining the debris basin and that the rest of the dirt be hauled into the site. Some of the grading would have to be done on city-owned land and would result in cuts into the hillside ranging from 50 feet to 100 feet high, Ramsay said.

A second proposal presented by the city and the developer calls for a complete redesign of the unfinished area. Some city-owned land would have to be acquired by the developer to create the same number of lots approved in the original subdivision plan, Ramsay said. However, the developer would have to file a new subdivision plan, which is costly and time-consuming, he added.

Residents Reject Proposal

Residents have rejected that proposal because it would give Gregg access to a 91-acre parcel he owns north of the Oakmont View project and possibly more unwanted development, they said.

Many residents contend that the city should not be concerned with the developer's dilemma in completing the hillside subdivision. One homeowner suggested that the debris basin should simply be turned into a park. Others suggested that the site could be leveled and houses built on it without hauling in additional dirt.

But those proposals would be costly to the developer because he would lose the value of creating view lots and could lead to legal action against the city, Ramsay said.

"We would like to see if it is possible to resolve this problem," he said. "It has been an ongoing issue, and it is in the interest of the community to try to resolve it" without court action.

Despite the variety of proposals for completing the subdivision, city officials and the developer are at odds over how the problem arose. All of the dirt needed to complete the subdivision originally was to be obtained from within the 65-acre development.

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