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Putting a stop to golf course plans

Opponents of effort to turn Verdugo Hills site into homes play a mini round.

July 26, 2010|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

Locals took to the kiddie links Sunday in a bid to save Verdugo Hills Golf Course.

Marc Stirdivant, a member of Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment, joined friends and family for a round of miniature golf and a brief magic show at Golf 'n Grill in Tujunga in the latest effort to block plans to turn Verdugo Hills Golf Course into a 229-home development.

Stirdivant and others are trying to stop the project that he says will lead to traffic congestion and diminished recreational opportunities.

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"This is a park-poor area of Los Angeles County," Stirdivant said. "It seems preposterous to us to add 229 homes while at the same time taking away a recreational facility that has been serving the people for 50 years."

Golf 'n Grill donated 15% of Sunday's proceeds, and magician Alfonso Aceituno, who said he visits Verdugo Hills to practice his putting, entertained those who came to support the cause.

"They are trying to make the town a better place, and I appreciate that," said Melvin Balabegian, a Golf 'n Grill manager.

Stirdivant said Glendale-Crescenta VOICE is working with lawmakers and several other organizations, including the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, to raise funds to acquire the site or battle the development proposal when it comes before the Los Angeles City Council.

Further studies must be completed before the city considers the project. No date has been set for a vote or completion of the final environmental document, Stirdivant said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has pledged financial support to preserve the course, according to savethegolfcourse.org, and Stirdivant said activists are hoping to enlist the help of Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian.

Krekorian could not be reached for comment Sunday.

After acquiring the roughly 60-acre Verdugo Hills site in 2005, owners MWH Development proposed condos and commercial development. The plans have shifted to focus on single-family homes. MWH has developed several sites in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles.

Stirdivant said years ago his group convinced state and local officials to acquire another proposed development site and turn it into the Verdugo Mountains Open Space Preserve. But the state's financial situation has made that a long-shot, he said.

"Economic conditions have made it difficult for the state, county and city to use discretionary funds for open space," he said. "But at the same time, it has made things more difficult for developers."

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