89.3 F
San Fernando
Friday, Jun 9, 2023


golf/25 inches/1stjc/mark2nd By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter A proposed public golf course in the Tujunga Wash is pitting area businesses against environmentalists, who say the course will destroy a rare wildlife habitat within Los Angeles city limits. Business groups, including the United Chambers of the San Fernando Valley and the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce, say the 18-hole public golf course will give the northeast Valley area a much-needed economic shot-in-the-arm. Kathy Anthony, president of the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce and owner of a local dressmaking shop, ticks off the benefits she sees for the business community, like merchants selling more gas and sundries to visitors, and new home construction. “Do you know in this town we don’t have one place where an organization can hold a meeting and have lunch?” she added. “They’re going to have a banquet room for the organizations. It cannot hurt the community, it can only help it.” Developers also say that golf courses are in high demand in the San Fernando Valley, and that the Valley’s six existing public golf courses are often crowded. But opponents say the course will threaten a delicate ecosystem in Big Tujunga Canyon that includes the endangered slender-horned spineflower, as well as rare birds, reptiles and fish. “It is the taking away of a unique, irreplaceable ecosystem,” said Dick Hingson, conservation coordinator for the Angeles chapter of Sierra Club. The course was approved last year by the Los Angeles city Planning Commission, but was appealed by a coalition of seven organizations including the California Department of Fish and Game, the local Sierra Club chapter and the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association. As a result of that appeal, the issue will go to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee this month. City Councilman Joel Wachs, who represents Sunland-Tujunga, has yet to take a position on the project by Foothills Golf Development Group, which is leasing the property from Cosmo World Corp. “This is a very difficult issue for the councilman,” said Arline DeSanctis, Wachs’ chief field deputy. “At his heart, he’s always been an environmentalist and a preservationist.” But DeSanctis added that Wachs is aware that the project will generate at least 50 new jobs, encourage new home construction in the area and cut down on trash dumping in the wash, thus beautifying the community. “The reason people are supporting it is because they feel it would provide an economic boost to the area,” DeSanctis said. “They feel that once people are drawn in by this course, there will be extra revenue generated for existing businesses.” But golf course opponents say the land it is planned for is part of a natural flood plain, and could be seriously damaged during a heavy rain. “It’s just an inappropriate place to put anything because it will wash away,” said Bill Eick, a volunteer attorney for Small Wilderness Area Preservation, one of the groups appealing the Planning Commission’s approval. Added Hingson: “When the big flood comes, then everyone is going to be running to the government. They’re going to want taxpayers to bail them out.” But Foothills Golf representatives say that the new, scaled-back plan for the course as well as requirements from the city address those problems. Nearly 200 of the 352 acres owned by Cosmo World Corp. and leased by Foothills Golf will be set aside as a nature preserve, according to Foothills Golf spokesman Andrew Baldonado. That area will be fenced off and maintained by the company, Baldonado said. Baldonado also said that Foothill Golf has agreed not to ask the city for financial aid in the event of the flood, and will be required to take out insurance to protect nearby homeowners if any flooding problems can be linked to the course. The golf course and accompanying facilities originally was proposed in the late 1980s as a $50-million, 350-acre-plus project, designed to be a potential home to the U.S. Open. The clubhouse alone was expected to encompass 50,000 square feet. But after a nearly six-year-long review of the plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it was turned down because it would have involved re-channeling the Tujunga Wash. Development of the site, located on Foothill Boulevard near Wentworth Street, was taken over in August of last year by David Hueber, president of Foothills Golf and former president and chief executive officer of both National Golf Foundation and Ben Hogan Co. The current plan for the course recently dubbed Red Tail Golf & Equestrian will encompass 160 acres and will cost between $12 million and $15 million. The two-story clubhouse expected to include a restaurant, banquet facilities and a pro shop will only be 8,100 square feet. Also added to the project are two miles of equestrian trails that lead up to the clubhouse, so that riders can hitch their horses and eat lunch at the restaurant there. “The equestrian use was another added incentive that we thought certainly would go a long way and it has in getting people to view it as a recreational place for the whole community,” Baldonado said. But Mary Meyer, plan ecologist with the state’s Department of Fish and Game, said that no amount of incentives would make a golf course an easier sale for her department. “This is really the last site in the L.A. basin where we have a viable example left of something that was fairly common,” Meyer said, adding that any development over the size of about 40 acres would harm the canyon’s. But those arguments aren’t enough to sway supporters like Arnold with the Sunland-Tujunga chamber. “I believe that people will come up here, buy a gallon of gas and play golf. It will only enhance the community. “These people fighting it,” she added, “do not buy a loaf of bread up here, or a gallon of gas.”

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Related Articles