Canyon Hills is a proposed housing development containing 280 single-family homes on 194 acres within an 887-acre site, which is currently open land in the Verdugo Mountains in Sunland, Tujunga and La Tuna Canyon in the city of Los Angeles. It's bounded by Verdugo Crestline Drive on the north and La Tuna Canyon Road on the south. The Foothill Freeway (the I-210 Scenic Corridor) bisects the project site. Visit our Project Appearance page to see what the project would look like.
We at the Friends of the Verdugos are opposed to this project. Other organizations that have gone on record opposing this project:
It's All History Now
Our campaign achieved significant improvements in the Canyon Hills project, though we would have preferred to stop it altogether and retain the property as open space in the Verdugos. This material relating to the campaign is left online to serve as a historical record.
L.A. City Council Approved Canyon Hills
Today (Oct. 19, 2005) the full Los Angeles City Council enacted a General Plan Amendment and zoning change to allow construction of a 221-home version of the Canyon Hills project in the Verdugo Mountains. The developer and the Council Office state that 607 acres out of the 887-acre site will be preserved as public open space. This includes all of the Whitebird land south of the I-210 freeway and the land on the north side that's to the west of the development project.
During the last week, community leaders met with Rick Percell, Whitebird's principal, and with Wendy Greuel, our City Councilmember, to try to negotiate on some of the issues that the community has been raising for the last two years. We will need to see the text of the ordinance, as passed by the City Council with two amendments, to determine which, if any, of these issues have been addressed in an enforceable manner.
FALCON is deciding whether to sue the City of Los Angeles over ths project. If you have strong opinions one way or the other, please contact a member of the FALCON steering committee (see the Contact List).
Slope Density Ordinance in Trouble
A central part of Whitebird's argument for approving the 221-home project was that they could build, by right, with no changes to the existing laws, a 169-home project, with 5-acre ranchettes filling the entire 887-acre property. They based this on an interpretation of the City's Slope Density Ordinance (SDO) that:
These are both very questionable interpretations of the ordinance, but have been supported by the L.A. City Planning Department and the City Attorney. The result is that the developer has claimed he is allowed to build 169 houses on the 887-site, while we believe that the correct number, based on a proper interpretation of the ordinance is 45.
Wendy Greuel has recently introduced a motion to pass an Interim Control Ordinance that would require the use of the City Engineer's map, with at most 25-foot contour intervals, when calculating slope density, and would request that the City Planning Dept. draft a revised SDO that would remove the supposed ambiguities concerning the grid system. The first part of this is good, and closes a potential loophole, though it's a tacit admission that Whitebird snuck one through. But having the City Planning Commission, which has always been against the SDO, draft the new version, is virtually guaranteed to result in an ordinance that's much weaker than the current one, since it will decree that the grid system can be used to calculate density, which would allow the developer to effectively exclude the steeper parts of the project from the calculations, clearly against the legislative intent of the City Council that passed the ordinance in 1986.
Update: as of July, 2007, changes to the Slope Density Ordinance that will plug the loopholes mentioned above are moving their way through the approval process. The updates to the ordinance were just referred back to the Council by the City Attorney.
Canyon Hills Project Approved at PLUM Hearing
The three members of the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of the L.A. City Council voted unanimously on Monday, Oct. 3 to approve a 221-home version of the project. The developer has offered the following concessions during the hearing process to-date:
Wendy Greuel, the Los Angeles City Councilmember whose district includes the proposed project site, testified at the hearing and was instrumental in arranging these concessions. They are significant, but many of us in the community feel that she should have held out for a much better deal. If she had urged the PLUM Committee to vote against the General Plan amendment and zoning changes required to build this version of the project it, they would have followed her lead, and we could have pressured the developer to come back with a more acceptable version of the project, with fewer houses, larger lots, and less visibility of the project from the freeway.
Brief Project History
The Canyon Hills project was approved (with 230 houses instead of 280) at the Feb. 24 meeting of the City Planning Commission. Wendy Greuel has stated that she does not support this version of the project. Thanks, Wendy! We know that she can get us a better deal.
For the inside scoop on Whitebird's attempts to circumvent the Slope Density Ordinance see the Sierra Club's Press Release and Bill Eick's letter to the LA City Planning Department.
The LA City Planning Dept. held a hearing on Canyon Hills on Dec. 9 at the Municipal Building in Tujunga. There was an overflow crowd, showing that the community is very passionate about this issue. In spite of Whitebird's attempt to pack the hearing with its supporters, the great majority in the audience were against the project. The resulting rulings, which were published in early January (copies are available on the Documents page) were that the developer is entitled to develop the entire 887-acre property with 175 5-acre ranchettes "by right," with no zoning changes or General Plan amendments. FALCON, SHPOA and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy have appealed this ruling..A staff report also recommended that the Commission approve the planning and zone changes that would allow the originally-proposed 280-home project.
The Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council decided, at a special Board meeting on Nov. 17, to oppose the Canyon Hills project in its present form. The resoution and a more detailed letter to Wendy Greuel explaining the STNC's position will be available soon on their Web site (and on this one).
The Burbank Mayor and City Counci sent a letter to Wendy Greuel on Nov. 9 asking her and other LA City Council members to be cognizant of the adverse effects Canyon Hills would have on the environment and on the citizens of Burbank.
The Final EIR came out in early September, 2004. It consists of changes to the Draft EIR and developer's responses to the hundreds of letter that the City received opposing the project.
Why We Oppose Canyon Hills
What You Can Do -- We Need Your Help!
Where you can review the EIR
The Sierra Club would be happy to send you a copy of the DEIR and/or FEIR on CD-ROM. Just email FEIR@verdugos.org
Bumper Stickers & Brochures
Bumper stickers are available with the following design:
To obtain a bumper sticker, please send your request together with your address and a donation (minimum $1) to: Sierra Club Save the Verdugos, P.O. Box 4242, Sunland, CA 91041
The Sierra Club has printed a brochure about Canyon Hills, which they'll be glad to mail to you. Just email CHBrochures@verdugos.org. If you would like to distribute a number of brochures, please contact the Sierra Club's local Conservations Chair, Dean Wallraff at (818) 679-3141. . . .