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L.A. May Sue Over Ahmanson Subdivision

November 02, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and four City Council members said Friday they are preparing to go to court to challenge the environmental study for the Ahmanson Ranch development as inadequate if it is approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

Councilman Dennis Zine introduced a motion Friday that, if approved by the council next week, would direct the city attorney to "immediately challenge the legal adequacy" of the development's environmental study if it is certified as written. The motion was seconded by council members Tom La Bonge, Wendy Greuel and Jack Weiss.

"We are not going to let the profits of a commercial developer interfere with the enjoyment of life for the people in the west San Fernando Valley," Hahn said. "This is an example of City Hall listening to neighborhoods."

A Ventura County panel on Wednesday sent a revised environmental study to the county Planning Commission, which will consider it this month.

The commission is then expected to send the study to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors for consideration in December.

The $2-billion golf course community immediately west of the Los Angeles city and county border would include 3,050 homes and generate 45,000 vehicle trips daily, Hahn said. The project was first approved in 1992, but construction has been delayed by litigation.

Although the environmental study has been revised, Hahn said the result of a decade of delays is that the study is too old, and a new one should be done. Previous legal challenges by the city have failed, but Hahn said new information, including the possible presence of ground water pollution on the property, warrant new review.

"With Ventura County prepared to vote on this project, the city of Los Angeles has no alternative but to prepare to address this development by legal means," Hahn said.

Zine vowed to camp out to block earthmovers from beginning work on the site, but said the legal option also should be pursued.

He said the Ventura Freeway is already a "parking lot" most days. "There is no way we can add 45,000 cars to that congested roadway," Zine said.

Hahn's announcement Friday was seen by some secession leaders as an attempt to capitalize on the unpopular Ahmanson Ranch project before voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide if the Valley will break away from Los Angeles.

The threat of litigation by Los Angeles officials was welcomed by Tsilah Burman, executive director of the group Rally to Save Ahmanson Ranch and one of a dozen activists who joined Hahn at a news conference Friday in his City Hall office.

"It's something Ventura County will have to take notice of," Burman said. "I think it's important for them to know the city is ready to sue."

John Flynn, chairman of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, said his county is trying to make sure the project is properly studied. "We are doing the best we can," he said.

The supervisor added that he is not concerned about Hahn's threat of litigation, because nothing has been filed. "He has to make up his mind about what he wants to do," Flynn said.

Developer Washington Mutual, in a statement issued Friday, said it is confident it will win any challenge.

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