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Disputed Grading Project Begins on Prominent Ridge


Bulldozers this week began slicing off 250,000 cubic yards of earth from the top of a prominent Glendale ridge in order to fill in a hole and complete a controversial subdivision in the Verdugo Mountains.

Up to 70 feet will be cut from a ridge that separates the Oakmont View and Oakmont Woods subdivisions in the Verdugo Woodlands area. City officials have warned that the grading will leave "a highly visible scar" that will be seen from miles around.

The grading project was approved 3 to 2 by the Glendale City Council in June after city officials said they could see no alternative to save the ridge and still complete a 197-lot subdivision being built by Gregg-Gangi Development Co. of Glendale.

Plans to grade the ridge were disclosed by The Times in 1988 and triggered an outcry among residents who have long fought to protect hillsides. The council last month imposed a moratorium on hillside development to prevent a similar occurrence.

City officials said Gregg-Gangi miscalculated how much dirt was needed to complete the subdivision of exclusive view homes above the Oakmont Country Club. The grading is being permitted to obtain the dirt needed to fill in a six-acre hole to create the final 25 lots, worth more than $5 million, city officials said.

The only other alternative considered feasible was to truck in the needed 25,000 loads of dirt through steep, winding streets--a task that would have disrupted the quiet neighborhood for at least 18 months, according to city officials. A majority of council members said they found the grading proposal more acceptable than trucking in dirt.

Grading will take about three months to complete. Landscaping to camouflage the contoured graded area is to begin within 120 days after grading ends, said Ernest L. Constan, city civil engineer.

In all, 28 conditions were imposed on the grading permit, making the project one of the most stringently controlled in the city's history, Constan said.

Developers are also being required to landscape large cuts that were made earlier in the subdivision, approved in 1976.

Many critics had complained that homes built in the subdivision, usually by private developers who purchased lots, are oversized and ugly.

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