BY BARRY LANK
GLASSELL PARK – The trails that cut through the grasses of Walnut Canyon show how accustomed neighbors have become to walking through this hilly retreat of weeds and walnut woodland. But Walnut Canyon is not a public park. It can be bought and developed, just like the residential lots surrounding it on Brilliant, Sundown and Haverhill drives.
Which is why residents are seeking to buy the land and preserve it as public open space as a developer, which has snapped up about a third of the canyon, pursues plans to build 32 homes in a project called Abode at Glassell Park.
A spokesman for the developer confirmed that discussions about selling the land to the neighborhood are ongoing.
“We’ve been upfront about it, that we’re interested in the conversation,” said Kristen Lonner, a principle at the development company of Burns and Bouchard. However, she said, “We continue to pursue our entitlement.”
A few efforts to thwart hillside development on the Eastside have succeeded by having the land purchased and preserved for public open space. That’s has happened on Flat Top, a hillside area on the border of Lincoln Heights and Montecito Heights, as well as Elephant Hill in El Sereno.
However, in Glassell Park, not even a price has been discussed yet between the developer and defenders of Walnut Canyon. Lonner said the company and the Friends of Walnut Canyon – a committee within the Glassell Park Improvement Association – are working on a letter of intent between them as preservationists gear up for fundraising.
Rick Bolton from the Friends of Walnut Canyon told supporters his group is looking at a couple of funding sources at the moment: Money from Measure A, the L.A. County parks measure that passed in November 2016; and funding from a state bond measure due on the ballot in June 2018 that would finance parks, coastal protection and outdoor access programs statewide.
Meanwhile, the Abode project moves forward.
The first draft of the environmental impact report – from December 2016 – noted two significant and unavoidable environmental side-effects: Noise and vibrations would be annoying to neighbors throughout the duration of construction, and the area would lose some of the visual charm of its trees, until replacement trees eventually grew back.
City staff is still working on the final EIR, according to Cheryl Getuiza, public information officer with the city’s Planning Department. Once it’s released, there will be a public hearing on the matter.
Bolton said that his group would pay particular attention to any changes to the hauling route for construction, which has been a particular concern for neighbors.
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