2007-02-22 / Letters

Why were Shea homes built in a Calabasas scenic corridor?

The 48-home Shea Homes development on Las Virgenes a block south of the freeway has become an issue in the Calabasas City Council election and a symbol of the fears we have that Calabasas will become another San Fernando Valley.

As chairman of the planning commission at the time we approved this development, I know the limitations we were operating under. This decision was not made lightly. We agonized over it at three meetings before finally approving the project on a divided 3-2 vote.

The original Calabasas City Council had approved a shopping center on the site 10 years earlier. The project had not gone forward, but the approval was still valid and it was scaring off investors who wanted to build a badly needed market nearby. Approval of a residential project on this property could persuade the owner to abandon her shopping center approval, clearing the way for development of a market on the present Albertsons site.

The site was already zoned for multifamily development (12 to 16 units per acre). We approved four homes per acre, only 25 to 33 percent of what the zoning allowed. We did not even require widening of one side of Las Virgenes Road so as to preserve the trees and protect the rural homes of the Pontoppidan family.

The basic problem here is that Las Virgenes Road was laid out 100 years ago along the base of the hills to preserve good farmland on the valley floor. In the 1980s the farmland on the west side of the road became the urban development we see today. The hillsides on the east side of the road cannot be developed to the same density as the valley floor without major unsightly grading.

Citizens concerned about this situation should ask the city to address it in the new General Plan. David M. Brown Calabasas

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