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Walnut Canyon development moves ahead as Glassell Park residents seek to preserve it as open space

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.”

Proposed housing development accounts for about one-third of Walnut Canyon area | Adobe Draft Environmental Impact Report

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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6 comments

  1. Andrew Montealegre

    In negotiation for the sale price it should be kept in mind that the property will be very expensive for the developer to develop. There are several streets that need to be built for the project and they are steep and topographically challenging and need to be constructed per today’s street standards. All utilities and infrastructure also need to be built. All these costs reduce the value of the lots. The price should be set using only market rates of lots that have absolutely no infrastructure or improvements available, if those can be found. I would also ask for a discount because it is a group sale, its cheaper to sell a group of lots rather than individuals.
    Finally, if there is a way to factor in the political costs of a project . . .

  2. This is why housing costs are so high…everyone wants more housing for people to live, just not in their backyard. We all need to stop this NIMYism. Everyone is getting tired of prices going sky high and seeing homeless families displaced but when we need to build housing everyone is screaming like the sky is falling.

    Santa Monica has one of the highest rents in the nation and hasn’t seen any development in 20 years!

    California is finally realized the crap thats been piling high and finally stepping in to take back power from the cities.

  3. Major developments in and near Glassell Park include a large number of condos being built on Eagle Rock Blvd, and also along San Fernando Rd, and Taylor Yard and other
    small lot multiple unit developments within a transportation corridor with easy access to public transportation. The proposed Abode project homes are estimated to cost $1 million plus for each house, which will not contribute to affordable housing.

    Walnut Canyon is special, it is untouched natural land, that should be preserved for all to enjoy- Parkland for all of our community- habitat for a range of animals from squirrels to bobcats hawks and owls
    its a treasure for all of our Los Angeles neighbors, human and animal. As urban density increases, the need
    for natural open space is greater. We all need to breathe and recreate to commune with nature. Walnut Canyon exists, it is a passive natural recreation area already, now- there is a trail, people use it and have used it for decades.

    In Northeast Los Angeles, our hillsides are a defining feature of life here- like the beaches are to the Westside. It is incumbent upon us as residents and people of conscience who have an idea of how we want to define
    our region going forward to protect the last remnants of native land. Also, the California Native Black Walnut trees (which is why Walnut Canyon is called Walnut Canyon) are a protected tree, and they only grow in certain areas of L.A. County- its on us to save this species and protect its habitat. These trees are only endangered by development, and over the years have suffered bit by bit until it finally happens that they die “death by a thousand cuts”. It doesn’t need to happen, we can save what we still have! join us and help to Save Walnut Canyon! Glassell Park Improvement Association- Friends of Walnut Canyon.

  4. We have a huge housing shortage in Los Angeles which has driven up rents as well as the number of homeless, the more houses that are built the lower the demand and in return the lower the rents go. New construction also brings in new tax revenue to the city as they can now charge property tax on the new value of the land as well as the value of the new home built. This is a win win for nearly everyone except maybe the neighbors surrounding the development. The benefits of building these homes certainly out weigh the negatives by far.

    • This point of view is so facile and disingenuous that it wouldn’t surprise me if Dolores is an astroturfing developer. Building ten or twelve million-dollar investment properties won’t solve LA’s massive affordable housing crisis, and it will have obvious negative consequences for the entire neighborhood which will no longer be able to enjoy the open space (not to mention the inconvenience of the massive development, increased traffic, etc.)

  5. Andrew Montealegre

    Taking a deep look at the “Walnut Canyon” property, it appears that an easier and cheaper open space preservation effort would be to focus on the other 2/3 undeveloped spaces. Not only would it make a larger park and open space but it can be accessed off Division Street. That would make it more publicly accessible and Division Street will hopefully have bus service returned to it. And because it is not subdivided and only zoned for 3-4 homes the process, and therefore the price, becomes cheaper. At one point one of the owners indicated to me they would be willing to sell at a discount and tax advantage.
    Another concept is to have the 32 homes of Walnut Canyon assess themselves to buy and maintain the rest of the open space for themselves and the community. It can be used as a marketing tool: “Live with a nature preserve at your door step in NELA.”

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