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Suit Seeks to Block 21-Home Project in Chatsworth

Housing: Residents say development threatens their right to keep horses on property. Archdiocese of Los Angeles owns the land.

July 31, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of Chatsworth residents announced Monday they have filed a lawsuit to block a proposed 21-home development in a horse-keeping area, charging that a City Council-approved zone change threatens the neighborhood's equestrian lifestyle.

The development, which would not permit horses, involves small lots next to existing, much-larger, horse-keeping properties. That may encourage others in the area to subdivide their lots, critics contend.

The suit by the Chatsworth Land Preservation Assn. names the city and developer Ted Stein, a Valley attorney who has been nominated to the city Airport Commission, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which owns the 6.7-acre site on the northwest corner of Chatsworth Street and Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

"It is spot zoning and a dangerous precedent," said Jeannie Plumb of Chatsworth, a member of the association, which filed the lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In asking the court to reverse the City Council, the lawsuit argues that the council erroneously concluded that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment of the area.

The suit says the city should be forced to conduct a detailed environmental impact report on the project.

Douglas Carstens, an attorney for the association, voiced concern that the plans don't provide for adequate equestrian trails along the street, and warned of conflict with surrounding properties that keep horses.

"This project is not compatible with the horse-keeping community of Chatsworth," Carstens said. "When people move into these houses and have odors and noise and other things associated with horses, they are going to make complaints."

Despite a city requirement that the new houses be built at least 1,000 feet from horse-keeping areas on adjacent properties, some residents are concerned the development will trigger a law restricting horse-keeping near homes without horses, Carstens said.

Councilman Hal Bernson, whose district includes the site, said the lawsuit is without merit and that the project of single-family homes is preferable to other uses, such as apartments or mini-malls.

Opponents, Bernson said, "are just cranks."

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