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L.A. Suit on Ahmanson Study Is Put Off

City Council will wait until Ventura County board votes on the development's environmental report before taking action.

November 09, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council put off mounting a legal challenge to the environmental impact study for Ahmanson Ranch after some members said it is unclear whether the document is flawed.

West San Fernando Valley Councilman Dennis Zine, who had sought the lawsuit, agreed to send the matter to five council committees for review. He was responding to colleagues who said that the 3,050-home development could help solve the housing crisis and that objections to the environmental study need to be fleshed out.

"You don't have the facts," said Councilman Nate Holden, warning it could cost the city if it filed a "frivolous lawsuit."

Zine and Deputy City Atty. Keith Pritsker said they can support a lawsuit claiming that the environmental study on the 2,080-acre development does not adequately address such issues as traffic and water quality. Zine requested the motion return to the council Dec. 11, the day after the Ventura County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the study.

The land is in Ventura County, just west of the Los Angeles city limits.

Traffic and water quality are among the issues behind opposition to the project voiced at Friday's council meeting by representatives of the city of Calabasas, Heal the Bay, the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization and the group Rally to Save Ahmanson Ranch.

The project has also drawn the opposition of celebrities, including Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen and Erin Brockovich, as well as former Vice President Al Gore.

Councilwoman Ruth Galanter took a jab at celebrity opponents and said approving a lawsuit was premature. She asked for more proof that problems outweigh the development's large addition to the housing stock and its donation of 10,000 acres of open space for preservation.

"I think 10,000 acres of open space, which is roughly three times the size of LAX, ought to be enough for everybody, including movie stars," said Galanter, who represents the northeast Valley. "The housing shortage is not going to get solved if we say no to every big project."

Steve Weston, an attorney for developer Washington Mutual, and Victor Franco Jr. of the Central City Assn., also argued for delay in any challenge to the environmental impact report, which has been revised and updated since it was first issued in the early 1990s.

"The political process in Ventura County has yet to begin. There have been no hearings before the Planning Commission," Weston said.

"This motion is premature. I would urge you to recognize that Washington Mutual supports this project because it is a good, environmentally sensitive, smart-growth project."

Zine said the property should be preserved as parkland and that the development will worsen traffic congestion on the Ventura Freeway. "This is simply a matter of corporate greed," he said. "Washington Mutual has the land. They want to destroy the environment. They want to tell the San Fernando Valley, 'You don't count.' They want to have nothing but more money in their pockets."

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