In what was called a "delicate compromise agreement," a Calabasas Park homeowners group voted Tuesday to accept a controversial subdivision by a developer who was blamed for torpedoing a failed Calabasas cityhood drive almost two years ago.
In return, the developer, Jim Baldwin, agreed to support a renewed drive by residents to establish a city.
More than 300 members of the Calabasas Park Homeowners Assn. agreed to Baldwin's offer to reduce the density of the proposed 1,487-house tract by nearly two-thirds to a maximum of 550 homes.
However, leaders of the group said the vote was not an endorsement of the project, but merely a device to remove Baldwin's opposition to a new incorporation effort.
"This is the best we can get in terms of making a delicate compromise agreement," said Bob Ronka, a member of the association's board. "We now have a delicate balance, with large portions in our favor." He said the group's decision removed a major obstacle in a new drive for cityhood.
Baldwin's property is in the hilly western half of Calabasas Park.
The builder took legal steps to prevent his property from being included in the proposed city of Calabasas in the first campaign 23 months ago. Along with owners of other undeveloped property in the area, he did not want to be subject to the whims of a city council and laws that had yet to be determined, said Robert Burns, Baldwin's Calabasas project manager.
Baldwin's sister--saying she was acting only as an "interested citizen" safeguarding county funds--sued to block county funding of brush-fire protection within the proposed city limits if incorporation occurred. Because the suit cast doubt on that revenue source for a future city, the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) rejected the cityhood application as financially unfeasible.
After the rejection, angry Calabasas homeowners increased their opposition to a change in the county master plan, sought by Baldwin to allow him to construct 1,487 houses. The master plan called for a maximum of 138 houses on the rugged site.
The opponents negotiated an agreement over several months, and reached a compromise last month, members of both sides said. In exchange for the homeowners' vote and the earlier endorsement of the Calabasas Cityhood Committee, Baldwin has agreed to lobby LAFCO in support of the committee's drive for incorporation.
The vote comes on the heels of a decision by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to purchase almost half of the 1,209 acres Baldwin owns for preservation as wildlife habitat. Calabasas residents had been concerned about preserving open space, and said they wanted a government agency to ensure that open space would not be eliminated from the project.