The Verdugo Hills Golf Course
Established nearly fifty years ago, the Verdugo Hills Golf Course (VHGC) is a priceless historic and recreational resource, unique in greater Los Angeles. One of the few public courses where children can learn to golf, it is utilized by many high schools and community colleges for their golf programs and tournaments. Equally important, the VHGC provides a recreational opportunity for countless families through affordable and accessible golf.
The Verdugo Hills Golf Course is a treasure to non-golfers as well, providing valued beauty and open space, as well as a spot of visual relief along the 210 Freeway. It has been a landmark of the community for decades and holds sentimental as well as historical value. It is believed to be the site of the ancient Tongva/Gabrielino village of Wakanga and during WWII it was the location of a Japanese internment depot. Today, community residents are working to seek historical status for the land.
Developer buys the golf course and the community responds
In early 2005, it was learned that MWH Development had purchased the golf course with plans for building a 320-unit condominium complex or a 300,000 square foot commercial complex. In June of that year, the developer met with residents of the Sunland-Tujunga area and presented their plans. The resounding response from the local residents was “Save the Golf Course!”
A year later the developer returned with revised plans in an effort to prove he was listening to the community. His new plans showed a nine-hole course surrounding a 269-unit condo complex, which apparently is what the developer called “listening”.
In 2006, community leaders from Glendale, the Crescenta Valley, and Sunland-Tujunga gathered to form the Verdugo Hills Golf Course Committee with the express purpose of bringing all the communities together in a combined effort to save the golf course. While the golf course is located in the City of Los Angeles, it is only one block away from Glendale and about a half mile away from La Crescenta in Los Angles County. More importantly, the golf course is enjoyed by residents from each of these communities as well as many other cities in the region.
The Golf Course Committee settled on a strategy of bringing four parties together in order to purchase the golf course: The first three are Los Angeles City Councilmember Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian. Each of these individuals has – or should have – an interest seeing the golf course preserved for the benefit of their residents. And because the 63-acre golf course property is actually 3/5ths hillside open space, the fourth entity is the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. At the urging of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course Committee, these four parties have met together on one occasion, with separate meetings and conversations taking place as the situation warrants.
In June of 2007, MWH Development filed an application for a 229-unit detached single family housing project on the golf course site. The majority of the property is currently zoned A1-1 allowing only one house per five (5) acres, or RE-40-1, allowing one house per 40,000 square feet (almost one per acre). The developer’s requested zoning change is for RD-5, which allows one house per 5,000 square feet!
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, an early supporter of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course, pledged $1.7 million towards the purchase of the property in November 2007.
At the end of November 2007 a Notice of Preparation was filed for an Environmental Impact Report. Public input was collected and the draft EIR is currently underway.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Wendy Greuel called for staff members of the four parties to meet and explore funding options for the purchase of the golf course and its extended property. Staff members met in February 2008 and again in April 2008 after the City of Los Angeles Recreation & Parks team surveyed the golf course property and determined it was in viable condition and in need of only minor repairs.
The developer, Mark Handel/MWH Development, has declared himself a ‘willing seller’. This is a truly unusual turn of events in a land use battle of this type. This represents a significant opportunity, which means if the funding can be found, the golf course can be saved. Considering what is at stake, it would be a shame to let it slip away.
What are the consequences if funding is not found?
- Project would require 500,000 cubic yards of soil to be graded and although the developer proposes to maintain 34 acres of the property as open space, the combination of cut slopes and fuel modification areas will result in permanent loss or degradation to much of that habitat.
- It would result in the destruction of 97 mature native oak trees on the site.
- The development would add an estimated 2,060 auto trips per day in and out of the project along La Tuna Canyon Road and Tujunga Canyon Boulevard, making it all the more difficult to travel the Tujunga Canyon Boulevard/Honolulu Avenue traffic corridor. Families living on Tujunga Canyon Boulevard already find it very difficult to navigate in and out of their driveways.
- Moreover, the recently approved Canyon Hills project, a high density residential development less than a mile away, would exacerbate traffic, along with the proposed townhouse project to be built on the convalescent hospital property.
- Loss of important watershed, all the more critical in these times of needed water conservation. The proposed development would cover the entire 28 acre footprint of the golf course.
- It would also severely impact local schools, city services, such as police and fire departments, and utilities.
- We would lose the only par 3 course in the area and further reduce available developed recreational resources in the foothill communities.