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Hearing on Glendale Project Is Packed

LOS ANGELES

Land use: The developer defends plans to build luxury homes, but foes call for preservation of open space.

August 30, 2001|CAROL CHAMBERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of residents of Glendale and neighboring communities turned out Wednesday evening to weigh in on the Oakmont development, a proposed hillside subdivision of up to 572 upscale homes in the Verdugo Mountains.

The hearing at Glendale Civic Auditorium was held as part of the public review process for a revised environmental impact report on the project. The revision, by Jones & Stokes of Irvine, was ordered after the Glendale City Council deemed the initial report incomplete.

"There is a legitimate housing need, and this is a legitimate use of the property," said John Gregg, president of Gregg Artistic Homes, the developer. "It is impossible to take land and put people on it without environmental impact."

He was the first speaker in what city officials expected to be about six hours of comment. Most of the 1,000 seats in the auditorium were filled--predominantly with project opponents, it appeared.

For nearly a decade, "Oakmont" has been a rallying cry for residents and environmental groups determined to protect the 238 acres of foothill woodlands. The harshest critics of the proposed fifth phase of development point to the third and fourth phases of Oakmont--where row after row of three-story mansions jam the hillside, often only 10 feet apart--as an example of bad building run wild.

Max Hobbs, vice president of Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment--which opposes the development--spoke in favor of recreational use.

"Every city official in this room knows the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has obtained $5 million in state funds and another $3 million [in Proposition 13 water bond money] to buy Oakmont," Hobbs said. "There are now 8 million reasons" the site should be reserved as recreational open space, he said.

The environmental review period ends Sept. 17, after which Glendale planning staff will decide whether to recommend approval, conditional approval or denial of the project.

Planning commissioners are expected to vote on the project in December before it goes before the City Council for consideration early next year.

As a result of a lawsuit by Gregg Artistic Homes charging that the city was stalling, the Glendale council is under court order to complete and certify the report by March.

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