A subdivision on the northern cusp of the Verdugo Mountains that has been envisioned for nearly a decade was tentatively approved Monday by the Los Angeles City Council's Planning Committee.
The controversy over the proposed gated development north of the 210 Freeway and west of La Crescenta is familiar: Some nearby residents say it would ruin the rural character of the area; others say it is responsible development and the housing is needed.
The three-member council committee -- Tony Cardenas, Ed Reyes and Jack Weiss -- unanimously approved the deal on the condition that landowner Rick Percell reduce the number of homes built from 230 to 221 and that he donate a 395-acre parcel on the freeway's south side to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Percell and Councilwoman Wendy Greuel -- whose district includes the land in question -- have been trying to broker a deal for the last year that would allow him to build the Canyon Hills project while also maintaining most of his land as open space.
Percell told the committee that the development would not pencil out financially unless 230 homes were built, but then returned to the microphone a few minutes later to say 221 was acceptable. The subdivision would consist of luxury homes on lots averaging 17,000 square feet.
Many residents -- some wearing shirts labeled "Canyon Hills: It's just wrong" -- were not placated. They complained that the number of homes Percell got the OK to build was wrongly determined by a faulty city "slope-density" formula that governs hillside development.
Julianne Maurseth, a Tujunga activist, said she would have preferred that Percell build just 45 homes on lots of 40,000 square feet. She said the current deal would "destroy the character" of the land.
Another activist, William E. Eick of Shadow Hills, said he would consider suing the city over the slope-density formula.
It remains unclear if such a suit would affect the Canyon Hills subdivision, which is scheduled to go to the full City Council for approval Oct. 12.