Officials consider preserving Montecito Heights hilltop development site as open space

Rendering of proposed Montecito Heights project/Ferrier Architecture Studio

A government agency dedicated to preserving open space is interested in purchasing a  Montecito Heights hilltop  from a church that has proposed building about three dozen homes on the site.

Councilman Gil Cedillo has introduced a motion asking the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to report on its interest in preserving the hilltop area known as Flattop, which is owned by The Foursquare Church.  He also wants the city to look into the feasibility of a 2003 study that called for keeping the undeveloped property on the border of Montecito Heights and Lincoln Heights open to the public.

“We would like to purchase the property and create a natural park for the Montecito-Heights-Lincoln Heights community,” said Dash Stolarz with the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, which works with the conservancy to buy and manage property for parks and open space.

The church, founded by legendary Echo Park evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, last year notified neighbors that it was preparing to develop its hilltop holdings, including Flattop, a popular neighborhood gathering spot and view point.  A development consultant working with the church unveiled plans for about three dozen homes on new streets that would loop around existing transmission towers.  That proposal generated heated opposition from nearby residents, many of whom consider the privately-owned land a shared space.

While church officials last year indicated they were open to other proposals and uses for the property, it’s not clear if they have given up on the  residential development. The Eastsider has contacted the church, which is headquartered in Echo Park, for comment.

Roy Payan, President of the Montecito Heights Improvement Assn, said he supports the idea of the land being sold for open space but wants to make sure the buyer cannot turn around and sell it for commercial purposes.

“I want it to be preserved as open space in perpetuity,” said Payan, whose remembers running across the hills as a member of the Lincoln High cross country team. He noted that Flattop  is one of the rare places in in central Los Angeles that affords 360-degree views but remains accessible to the public. “It’s a very unique spot in the city of L.A.”


  1. Preserve it as park land.

  2. Lincoln Heights Res

    So which is it residential housing or natural park-?!
    Sometime back a meeting I attended it was suppose to be gated community has it changed-?!

  3. Kudos to Cedillo. What a gift to the community, the city, and to the animals, birds, and plants! Los Angeles will always need open space to counter balance the massive concrete, urban sprawl . Saving our precious open spaces is a legacy any councilman should want to be remembered for!

    • Exactly! In a better world, the zoning would be changed all over the county to prohibit further hillside development. LA needs more sprawl like it needs a hole in the head.

      • That’s so backwards it’s painful. Development in the Los Angeles hills is the opposite of sprawl. Stopping development in the hills pushes development further out from the metropolitan core to places like the inland empire. Those people then have 2+ hour commutes to get to their job in the city.

        • I disagree, they’re both sprawl when you get down to it. More houses up narrow hillsides destroys open space, segregates land use even further, and ultimately creates more car-dependent Angelenos.

          Infill development in Los Angeles means dense mixed-use buildings in the flats, near transit lines and amenities, where the infrastructure and topography can better accommodate growth.

          Living in the hills, appealing as it may be for the view, comes at the expense of previously undeveloped land, and puts a lot of strain on the infrastructure by spreading the population over too broad an area.

          And we wonder why the roads are crumbling and emergency response times compromised.

          • Totally agree with corner soul– hills should be preserved as unique open spaces accessible to all. This reminds us that we are living with nature, not constantly conquering it. I usually support more development but our priority should be replacing surface parking lots, strip malls, and vacant lots on major streets, not hillsides (which as corner soul points out only increases dependence on the automobile).

  4. This article left me cold. So what does it really mean for Gil Cedillo to introduce a motion asking for information? Did he line up a majority of Council votes? Does he need to come back with a follow up motion? Is there a staff report? Does a formal motion carry more weight than pressing for an update from open space preservation groups? What can the city do? Can the city buy undeveloped lots that have defaulted with the County Assessor that will be offered to government agencies at a discount? What is Mr. Cedillo’s fleshed out position?

    • What this means is that gil and his fellow aldermen want a piece of the action, Just like the city council is doing with the La Tuna Canyon Las Virgenes Golf Course parcel proposed residential development – our councilmen are extortion specialists, they throw up roadblocks to force the rightful owner/developer to pay the tribute fee.
      This charade must get embarrassing for the trustees of the santa monica mountains conservancy who are now routinely solicited for letters of interest in acquiring these specific properties as part of the council’s “squeeze the dough” play.
      The SM Mountain Conservancy has their own list of priority parcels designated for acquisition and preservation – why doesn’t gil and his band of comrades help the SMMC trustees with their list?

  5. I thought montecito/lincoln heights had a large park already or does Debs not count?

    • Debs is a decent size park (with no part of it in Lincoln Heights), but that’s like saying we shouldn’t preserve open space near Pacific Palisades because we have open space near Bel Air.

  6. Los Angeles is the most park-poor-city in the nation.

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