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.”