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Commissioners consider Oakmont

February 28, 2002

Tim Willert

NORTHEAST GLENDALE -- Hundreds filed into Glendale Civic Auditorium on

Wednesday night, many hoping to persuade the Planning Commission to

recommend denial of the controversial Oakmont View V development to the

City Council.

By 7 p.m., about half the 1,100 seats had been filled for the highly

publicized public hearing, which had the feel of a congressional hearing

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and was expected to last late into the night.

Representatives of homeowners' groups, along with open-space

activists, environmentalists and students mostly opposed to the project,

were on hand to speak in front of the commission, which had not reached a

recommendation by press time.

"We've worked for a long time studying this project and evaluating the

impacts it might have on the city," said Claudia Culling, one of three

speakers representing Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment.

"And we're convinced that it would be devastating."

On Friday, the city's planning division recommended that the

commission deny recommending the proposed 572-lot, single-family housing

development on 238 acres in the Verdugo Mountains.

Senior Planner Laura Stotler summarized the details of her report

during Wednesday's hearing, characterizing the project as inconsistent

with the city's general plan.

The project's accompanying environmental impact report concluded that

the project would harm the air, wildlife and panoramic views.

Thirty-three so-called "unavoidable environmental impacts" listed in the

report included increased traffic, noise and pollution and a reduction in

open space.

When a slide appeared on a large projection screen behind the

commissioners stating that 1,800 indigenous trees would be removed, many

in the audience started clapping loudly and had to be quieted by Nancy

Burke, the commission chairwoman.

Developer John Gregg followed Stotler, and told the crowd that his

family is in the home-building business and has been since his mother

built their first home in 1934.

"We're entrepreneurs, we're guilty of wanting to make a profit," said

Gregg, dressed in a black pinstripe suit. "But we only deserve that if we

fulfill a legitimate human need that citizens of this community want to

have, and that is a home."

Gregg summarized what he referred to as a 12-year struggle with the

city to approve the project, one in which he said he has spent more than

$1 million for two environmental impact reports.

"I've been told, if you read the requirements of the planning

department that they say we should meet, then you can't build anything on

our land," Gregg said. "You can't convert animal habitat to people

habitat without creating impacts."

Paul Hubler, representing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Glendale), called on the

commission to recommend denial.

"Glendale and its environs would be inalterably changed if this

project goes forward," Hubler said. "By adopting the planning staff's

recommendations, you have the opportunity tonight to move forward in

ensuring that Glendale preserves the Oakmont site as a lasting legacy of

nearby natural space for our children to enjoy."

The council will vote on the proposed project and accompanying

environmental impact report Tuesday night.

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