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Setting the course for a compromise

October 22, 2010

While the developer who plans to build 229 single-family homes on the Verdugo Hills Golf Course faced a skeptical crowd this past week, just having the meeting was itself an olive branch.

After years of acrimony between developers keen on transforming a large portion of the struggling golf course into a housing tract and neighbors who oppose impacts including what will surely be a significant influx of traffic congestion, the tussle over the acreage has been waging in the same pit for years now.

Despite attempts at securing a coalition of governments to buy the property or block development plans, preservation advocates have made little progress, stymied in large part by the economic downturn that made open-space acquisition politically more difficult as more social services and other programs took major hits.

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And so with a major environmental report on the housing proposal — which would develop nearly half of the golf course land into 229 four- and five-bedroom homes and keep the remainder as open space — on the horizon, that both sides held a meeting to begin hashing out their differences was an encouraging sign that not all will be locked at the horns.

While Los Angeles city and county officials continue to explore ways of securing the golf course, it may behoove stakeholders to continue the dialogue, especially if the city's planning department approves the proposal. That would make the land significantly more valuable and expensive — which means steeper acquisition costs and more motivation for development.

That would in turn give developers a lot of leverage in conversations about what the land will look like, all the more reason to keep the communication channels open with the hope that some sort of concession can be secured by neighbors.

It's becoming increasingly clear that neither side will fully get what they want, barring any extraordinary development in the deal wrangling. So, as one resident at the meeting put it, "Let's get to the real ideas acceptable to both sides of the fence."

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