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Ballona Developer Wins Case

August 27, 2003|From Times Staff and Wires

A judge Tuesday rejected a request from neighbors and environmentalists to order a developer planning a 114-home project on the Ballona West Bluff to keep the area open to the public.

In May, San Francisco-based Catellus Residential Group Inc. started clearing property on the 44-acre site in the Westchester bluffs in preparation for luxury single-family homes.

But longtime residents of the Westchester/Playa del Rey area sued the developer last month. They alleged that Catellus ignored a public easement and "fenced [the West Bluff] off, posted guards and ... began digging up Indian burial areas in preparation for the development."

Edgar Saenz, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that a lawsuit seeking to stop the development is pending in court and is scheduled to be heard at trial next year.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday August 29, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 67 words Type of Material: Correction
Ballona development -- A headline in some editions of Wednesday's California section incorrectly implied that the developer of a project on the Ballona West Bluff had won its fight against a lawsuit aimed at stopping the development. A judge in the case Tuesday rejected a request from neighbors and environmentalists to keep the area open to the public. The lawsuit against Catellus Residential Group is still pending.

But the attorney for Catellus, Robert D. Crockett, said of Tuesday's ruling: "Effectively, this settles the case, because it means the project can go through full speed ahead." By the time that case is heard, he said, the project will be well along.

Plaintiffs said the bluffs have been used by the public for decades, and development will deprive them of that public use.

"The public has always been free to do what they wished here," Saenz said. "Since the '50s people have been going out there to fly kites, walk dogs, jog, fly model rockets.... Now, they've got this substantial project there."

But Crockett cited other easement cases in which evidence of "thousands of people" using an area was required to prove an easement's viability.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe agreed, saying that he had little concrete evidence about the "legal boundaries" of the easement, and that the plaintiffs had failed to show "widespread use of the area."

The bluffs development property runs along 80th Street between Berger Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard. West Bluffs sits about 100 feet above the Ballona Wetlands, where Lincoln Boulevard climbs up into Westchester.

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