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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:

  • allowed the use of a USGS 7.5' map with 40-foot contours interpolated to 25-foot contours
  • allowed the use of the grid system to calculate density instead of just slope

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:

  • No houses to be built south of the I-210 freeway; that portion of the property to be donated to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy or other public agency to be preserved permanently as open space.
  • The 9 houses closest to the freeway out of the 230 proposed on the last tract map not to be built.
  • Wendy Greuel requested that the developer offer a conservation easement on the western portion of the property north of the freeway, that they've always stated would be preserved as open space. Rick Percell said that he couldn't agree at the hearing, but would consider it. Why wouldn't he agree?

Articles about the hearing from the L.A. Times and the Daily News are available online.

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.

Our Links

Their Links

Why We Oppose Canyon Hills

  • It's urban sprawl, spreading the city where it wasn't before. This is bad. There's plenty of space to create new housing via infill.
  • Traffic has gotten a lot worse in the last few years on the stretch of I-210 that goes through the project. Canyon Hills will make this a lot worse.
  • There will be years of construction noise coming from the site, and the site will be an eyesore for years while it's being graded, filled and built out. The construction will generate tons of dust and pollution, over a period of many years.
  • The Sunland-Tujunga area is, and always has been, rural. Driving on the highway or hiking in the Verdugos, it's wonderful seeing all the untouched hillsides. Even if the aesthetics of the project turn out as well as the developers say they will, they still can't match the aesthetics of the bare land, as it is now.
  • The Verdugo Hills should be left alone -- no more development! Oakmont was a big mistake!
  • There will be a significant loss of animal habitat and interference with wildlife corridors and movements.
  • Hundreds of mature oak and sycamore trees will need to be cut down.
  • The development will increase the stress on already overburdened city services: police, fire, schools, water.
  • The light pollution will make it harder to see the stars in the area.
  • A property owner such as Whitebird (a big out-of-state company that owns or has options to buy the proposed Canyon Hills Site) has a legal right to develop the property in accordance with the existing zoning regulations and land-use plans. This would be bad enough -- the city planning agencies should put the remaining open space in the Verdugos off-limits to developers, and help arrange its sale to an agency like the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, who will preserve it. But it is unreasonable for a developer to expect that the city will change the rules to make a development more profitable when the majority of citizens in the area are against the development in the first place. No one objects to the property owners developing their land in accordance with the existing zoning and with the city plan: the City's General Plan, our Community Plan, and our Scenic Preservation Specific Plan. But Whitebird is asking for exceptions so that they can make millions replacing our open space with luxury homes.
  • Changes to the City's plan and its zoning regulations for this project would set a precedent, allowing future developers to expect that they can flout existing law and regulations and develop their property however they like.

What You Can Do -- We Need Your Help!

  • Donate Money to the Sierra Club to help save the Verdugos and fight Canyon Hills. To fight the developers we need to hire attorneys who are expert in Los Angeles land-use law. The developers have deep pockets, and have already spent hundreds of thousands; we need to spend tens of thousands to win. Your donation will be used exclusively to pay for costs of defending our Community Plan and current laws, and to protect and preserve the foothill communities.Use the button in the left column to donate online via Paypal, or send your check to Sierra Club Save the Verdugos, PO Box 4242, Sunland, CA 91041. Donations to the Sierra Club are not tax deductible since they're used for lobbying.
  • Donate Money to the GC VOICE: Donations to the Glendale Crescenta VOICE are tax-deductible and are used for education and outreach concerning Canyon Hills and the Verdugo Mountains. Send your check to PO Box 273, Montrose, CA 91021, and make sure to write "Canyon Hills" on the check.
  • Attend the events listed on the calendar, to find out more about the project and to express your opinions about it.
  • Keep informed: subscribe to the CAP Views Newsletter. Email CAPViews@comcast.net.
  • Publicize Canyon Hills: we feel that, because most of our Sunland-Tujunga neighbors that we've talked to oppose the project, the ones we haven't talked to will oppose it when they're aware of it. So virtually any publicity helps fight the project. Write letters to the editor, talk to your friends about it, call in to talk radio shows about it, etc. There are plenty of talking points in our documents.
  • Pass out information: we're putting information about the project in stores and libraries, we man tables outside the supermarket, we pass out flyers and brochures everywhere. We have brochures available if you can get them into the hands of community residents. Talk to our Block Captain Coordinator, Julianne Maurseth, about how you can help with this effort.
  • Get your friends and neighbors to sign the petition.
  • Join the Sierra Club. They're doing great work on this and other conservation issues in Los Angeles and everywhere else. They run over 4,000 outings in the L.A. and Orange County area each year, and you can meet many wonderful people who share your interests in the outdoors and in preserving our environment.
  • Call or visit your City Council member to express your opinion about the project. If you live in Sunland Tujunga, your City Councilmember is Wendy Greuel. Her email address is greuel@council.lacity.org, her field office is at 7747 Foothill Blvd. in Tujunga, and her phone number there is (818) 352-3287. Her position on the issue will be very important, when it comes to a vote. Remind her that this issue is very important to many of her constituents, and that supporting the developers may well cost her her office in the next election.

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. . . .