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Public Interest Bypassed in Ahmanson Land Deal

November 13, 1994

Susan Genelin's analysis of the proposed Ahmanson development in upper Las Virgenes Valley on the Ventura side of the Los Angeles County line (Valley Commentary, Oct. 2) was one of the few lucid accounts we have yet had of this murky transaction.

Yet even it did not penetrate all the blue smoke and mirrors. Two more points should be clarified.

One concerns 2,600 Ahmanson acres the public has been allowed to think of as free parkland the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will get in exchange for allowing Ahmanson's massive urbanization of its remaining land.

That land may not be free at all. If I understand the operative document, Ahmanson need only "dedicate" it, not donate it. That means the company may merely set it aside until the conservancy--that is, we the public--comes up with the money to buy it, at Ahmanson's price.

Pretty good for land unsuitable for development in the first place. Of course the company could donate the property, but signs of such voluntary altruism have so far been scarce.

In another dubious twist of the proposal, the 4,400-acre Runkle Ranch, north of the Simi Valley Freeway at Santa Susana Pass, is expected to become public parkland when the Ahmanson transaction goes through. Its merit as a park aside, it is mainly being touted as a vital part of a wildlife corridor from the Santa Susanas through the Simi Hills and the Santa Monicas to the sea.

Splendid, except that a vast Ahmanson City would block that corridor as surely as Hoover Dam halts the Colorado River.

I fear the more that comes to light about the Ahmanson proposal, the more insane it seems. Who's looking out for the public interest here?

WALTER HOUK

Woodland Hills

* Regarding the Ventura County Board of Supervisors' vote to delay the private-for-public purchase of parkland ("Supervisors Favor 3-Year Extension For Ahmanson," Oct. 25), I have two questions:

Was it in the public interest to extend the purchase of the parkland? Certainly not.

Is the Board of Supervisors representing the best interest of the public, or the Ahmanson Land Co.?

MARY ALTMANN

Agoura Hills

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