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Effort Made to Settle Malibu Housing Issue


The developers of Bob Hope's Jordan Ranch property have taken over the option on his Corral Canyon tract in Malibu and will try to settle litigation over approval of a golf course and luxury housing there.

The company, Potomac Investment Associates, which is attempting to develop the 2,308-acre Jordan Ranch in eastern Ventura County, recently succeeded Sun Pacific Inc. as holder of the option on Hope's Corral Canyon land, Potomac Vice President Fred Maas said this week. Maas said Potomac will soon apply for state Coastal Commission approval to build 50 houses on part of the 339-acre Malibu property.

To clear the way for the housing development, Potomac is hoping to settle three lawsuits challenging the approval in December by Los Angeles County supervisors of a golf course and residential project on the Corral Canyon property. The plaintiffs, including the state attorney general's office, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, contend that the approval violated the county's General Plan and state environmental laws because the project would require massive grading of sensitive stream-side habitat.

The lawsuits were scheduled for trial on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. But Potomac and the plaintiffs agreed Thursday to delay the case pending settlement talks.

The various fates of Hope's mountain properties have been linked since April, when Hope offered part of Corral Canyon and a second tract as parkland if his troubled Jordan Ranch project in eastern Ventura County is allowed to go forward.

Depending on the terms, a Corral Canyon settlement could affect Jordan Ranch by removing one incentive for approving a big golf course and housing project there.

In April, Hope conditionally withdrew the Corral Canyon plan and turned over to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy the 173 acres of the property on which the golf course was to be built. But the move and a related transfer to the conservancy of Hope's Runkle Ranch property in the Santa Susana Mountains had a big string attached.

An access road to serve Jordan Ranch can be built only over National Park Service land, and Hope had offered 1,100 acres of Jordan Ranch to the Park Service in exchange for the 59-acre road site.

The Corral Canyon and Runkle dedications were an effort to apply pressure by sweetening the deal. If the exchange did not go through, Hope retained the right to take back his Corral Canyon and Runkle Ranch properties.

Frank Angel, attorney for the Sierra Club and Corral Canyon Homeowners Assn., plaintiffs in one of the Corral Canyon lawsuits, said his clients have no reason to settle the case without assurances that the 173 acres in Corral Canyon will remain parkland regardless of the outcome of the Jordan Ranch controversy.

Potomac officials said they are willing to discuss that condition. "We want to go ahead and engage in settlement discussions," said Bob Break, an attorney for Potomac. "Obviously, saving Corral Canyon and making that available for public use is the cornerstone of . . .the concern" of those who filed the lawsuits.

The proposal for a PGA golf course and 750 residences on the Jordan Ranch has driven a wedge between environmental activists. Some have opposed the plan because of its impact on the scenic ranch and neighboring Park Service holdings, while others favor it because of the Jordan Ranch, Runkle Ranch and Corral Canyon lands that would come into public ownership.

The proposal is under review by officials in Ventura County, where a majority of county supervisors are believed to be in opposition.

If the Corral Canyon land gained permanent park status through a settlement there, conservationists would have one less incentive to support the Jordan Ranch proposal and the land exchange that is the linchpin of the project.

A settlement, however, would bring Potomac closer to building housing on the part of Corral Canyon not donated to the conservancy.

Maas, the Potomac vice president, said the firm hopes to get Coastal Commission approval for the housing by the end of this year. According to Maas, no further review by the county is needed, since supervisors in December approved the residences along with the golf course.

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