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City to Appeal Development Ruling

September 14, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to appeal a court ruling that handed Chatsworth residents a victory in their battle to block a housing project by Airport Commission President Ted Stein.

"It was a bad court decision," said Councilman Hal Bernson, who was been criticized by some residents for pushing the 21-home development for Stein, a close friend.

After a half-hour closed session, the council voted unanimously to appeal the May decision. It also directed the city to begin addressing problems cited in the ruling by Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs, who found flaws in the environmental review of the project.

Neighbors say the development would ruin the equestrian lifestyle of the area by placing mansions on smaller lots next to horse stable properties. In their lawsuit, the neighbors contend the city erred when it changed zoning to allow Stein's project. They also challenged the environmental review.

Janavs issued a writ invalidating a general plan amendment that allowed the 6.7-acre development.

Anger over the project has helped fuel secession sentiments in the Chatsworth area. One of the key project opponents, Jerry England, is running for a City Council seat in the proposed San Fernando Valley municipality. He is a founder of Chatsworth Land Preservation, formed to fight the development.

"It stinks," England said of Friday's council action. "This is all about politically powerful people getting their way. That's what secession is a reaction to."

Last week Stein held a fund-raiser at his Encino home that collected nearly $500,000 for Mayor James K. Hahn's anti-secession campaign. Hahn appointed Stein's wife to the city Public Works Board, and Stein's daughter is the mayor's field representative for the south Valley.

Stein, who has also appealed the ruling, said there was no connection between the council's vote and his ties to Hahn and the anti-secession effort. "We disagreed with the court's decision," he said.

Before Friday's vote, Ann Marie Wise of the Chatsworth preservation group urged the council to "follow the wishes of your constituents in the San Fernando Valley" and not file the appeal.

Bernson said the project will protect horse-keeping by preventing commercial development on the acreage, at Chatsworth Street and Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

"This at least involves quarter-acre lots," Bernson said after the vote.

Stein bought the land from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Since then, other properties in the area have been subdivided into lots smaller than a half acre.

Horse owners say they fear people moving into the homes on the smaller lots will complain about the smell of the nearby stables, and eventually drive the horses out.

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