It seemed like a scene from the 1960s Monday when two dozen demonstrators marched on a Tarzana construction site to fight a new roadway into a Santa Monica Mountains park, chaining themselves to earthmovers.
After a five-hour standoff that ended without arrests or injuries, the developer agreed to temporarily halt his project. And the protesters pledged to negotiate with Los Angeles City officials over the city's requirement that the roadway be built.
Environmentalists are fighting a city requirement that developer Harlan Lee pave an extension of Reseda Boulevard southward into the Santa Monica Mountains as part of the 178-home luxury subdivision he plans to build.
Workers starting construction of the road were blocked at 6:15 a.m. when 10 protesters jumped in front of bulldozers and chained themselves to the equipment. Another 15 protesters chanted and made coyote-like cries from the sidelines--startling two deer grazing on a nearby hillside.
The protest was called off at 11:20 a.m. when Sierra Club leader Jill Swift used a news reporter's car phone to arrange the Thursday meeting with Councilman Marvin Braude, and Lee pledged to shut his project down until then.
Jubilant protesters cheered and hugged one another as they removed their chains and leaped off the earthmoving equipment in rugged Caballero Canyon at the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley.
They said they hope Braude will waive the road requirement, which would link Reseda Boulevard for the first time with an unpaved portion of the mountains' Mulholland Drive. The environmentalists said they fear that the boulevard extension will hasten other development in the mountains--including proposed garbage dumps in Rustic and Sullivan canyons near Pacific Palisades.
'Still Have My Chain'
"We hope we can get a continued moratorium," said Deborah Widel, a Northridge resident who had padlocked herself to the front of a 20-ton earthmover. "I still have my chain. I'm definitely prepared to do what I have to do again."
Hours after the protest ended, Braude held out little hope that the road requirement will be abandoned.
He said the city has long looked to Reseda Boulevard as an important public entryway to mountain wilderness recreation areas of Topanga State Park. If Lee does not build the road, taxpayers will have to pay for its construction later, he said.
Braude dismissed suggestions that the road's extension will hasten development of the mountains and lead to the creation of canyon landfills between the Valley and the ocean.
"The road will be reviewed again," Braude said. But he stressed that he will continue to support the boulevard extension "until I can be shown how you satisfy the needs of the public some other way."
Supported by Homeowners
Braude's position was supported by leaders of the Tarzana Property Owners Assn. Joel Palmer, president of the residents group, said its members prefer that Reseda Boulevard be used for mountain access instead of other residential streets in their community.
Bulldozer operator Trace Greenelsh of Cypress said he quickly shut his machine down when protester Janice Wilson of Simi Valley stood in front of its blade and demonstrator Ben Rosenfeld of Tarzana leaped into his cab and chained himself to it. Both are members of an ecology group called Earth First!
"I was real little in the '60s when things like this used to happen," said Greenelsh, 30. "I never thought I'd see anything like this."