Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Valley Perspective

The Big Tujunga Open

Golf course has its merits, but the wash is the wrong place

May 25, 1997

Good news and bad news for Big Tujunga Wash. First, the good news: The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy last week made an offer to buy 350 acres from a developer who wants to build a golf course in the ecologically sensitive wash near Sunland. Now, the bad news: It probably won't make much difference.

Conservancy officials met with representatives of Foothill Golf Development Group, which plans to build the course and a wildflower preserve on 350 acres, and offered an undisclosed amount for the property. Neither side was able to estimate how much the property is worth, but in 1987 owner Cosmo World Corp. paid $2 million and swapped some other land it owned for the site. Grand plans that at one time included a $50-million championship golf complex have been scaled down to a more modest $12-million public course that includes a preserve for the endangered slender-horned spineflower.

Odds of a sale are small. Foothill Golf says it's not interested in selling and plans to proceed with its permit application now pending before the Los Angeles City Council. It should reconsider. Although many Sunland residents want the course and the economic benefits it promises to bring, the wash is the wrong place for the project. As one of the last undeveloped canyons in Southern California, Big Tujunga Wash--although neglected and strewn with litter--is a resource that should not be lost lightly.

In many ways, the hands of the council are tied. It can reject the golf course plans, but then would be obligated to allow construction of homes on the property--a course the council would be loath to follow because the wash is prone to flooding and the city could face legal liability. The council cannot just order the land to remain undeveloped. See, the law prevents government from depriving property owners of all economically viable use of their land. What about the conservancy's offer? Isn't that an economically viable alternative to development? That's a gray area in land-use law because courts have held that one government agency cannot bar a property owner from development simply because another government agency makes a purchase offer.

So unless Foothill Golf decides to deal with the conservancy, the decision will land before the council sometime this summer. Critical to the decision is Councilman Joel Wachs, who represents the area, because his colleagues are likely to defer to his wishes. We urge Wachs to step in and work with the conservancy and the developer to find some common ground. That may include a reasonable price for the land and possibly even another site for the course.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|