Residents showed they really care about Oakmont View V. State Sen. Schiff deserves a round of applause
First published in the Glendale News-Press
Sept. 29, 1999
Not available online.
Oakmont View V was a proposal to develop about 500 homes on the unspoiled north face of the Verdugo Mountains, about 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The state of California and City of Glendale eventually scraped together enough money to buy the land and it is now preserved as open space in perpetuity. Rep. Adam Schiff has served in Congress since he tossed out Clinton Impeachment Manager Jim Rogan in 1998. Well done, Adam!
This image needs no caption. It speaks for itself.
IF EVER there was a seminal event in the decade-long saga of Oakmont View V, the town hall meeting Wednesday certainly tops the list of candidates. The meeting demonstrated without doubt how deeply residents of Glendale, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge and even Altadena care about the biggest proposed development in Glendale’s history, which could result in 572 new homes on the hillside west of Montrose.
It also provided an outstanding example of political leadership for elected officials throughout the area. State Sen. Adam Schiff, (D-Glendale) who organized and hosted the meeting at considerable political risk, deserves everyone’s thanks for his service to his constituents.
There was almost a festive air as about 350 area residents filled the Camp Max Straus amphitheater to overflowing just as the sun was setting behind the Verdugo Mountains. Movers and shakers of the community were predictably present: Rob and Dot Sharkey, Gene Mestel, Alan Karbelnig, Dick Seeley, Mike Smith, Carole Sussman, Councilman Gus Gomez, Andrea Humberger and Lulu, her black dog, were all there.
They were joined by hundreds of others equally concerned about the future of a vital natural resource, like Dean and Lori Hartwell, Fred Dong, Karen Nelson and her 16-month old son, Evan, and surely the youngest in the audience, 2 1/2-month-old Alexander Riach, carried by his proud dad Mike Riach. If Oakmont were approved today, Alexander would be more than 15 years old by the time construction is scheduled to be finished.
As the almost-full moon peeked out from behind the clouds over the outdoor stage and the darkness enveloped the hillside backdrop, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Executive Director Joe Edmiston got a huge round of applause when he said: “It’s for every animal — including the human animals — that we are going to save Oakmont for future generations.”
His organization is expected to play a major role in the contemplated purchase of the 238-acre property from Gregg Development Co. With a $5-million state allocation to bring to the table, he can hardly not be taken seriously.
Marc Stirdivant and his group, Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment, deserve a great deal of the credit for educating local residents about the immensity of the planned development and its likely deleterious effects on the quality of life for everyone in the area.
Since 1997, VOICE has done an outstanding job of raising awareness and advocating alternatives.
“Oakmont is too valuable to lose,” Stirdivant told the crowd to sustained applause.
Former Vice President of the La Crescenta Homeowners Association Bob Taylor was inspirational as he recounted his group’s decade-long struggle in the late 1970s and early 1980s to block a 296-home development just across the Crescenta Valley from Oakmont.
“Tenacity and leadership sustained our group,” Taylor said.
Today the property Taylor helped save is the Deukmejian Wilderness Park.
NO ONE else present at the town hall meeting, however, risked more to make it happen than state Sen. Adam Schiff.
Schiff’s invitation to Oakmont owner Gregg Development Co. to attend and present its case was summarily rejected. The firm’s Vice President Lee Gregg called it a publicity stunt. Glendale Mayor Ginger Bremberg was characteristically blunt, declining the invitation to attend because she viewed the event as a campaign-related “propaganda session” against the development.
But Bremberg seems to have missed the point. When politicians are involved in almost anything, of course there’ll be political reasons for their involvement. However, there are occasions like this when elected officials need to consult with their constituents, to inform and educate them on the issues and obtain a sense of what is the will of the voters.
Too often, by her words and actions, Bremberg displays a total indifference to the wishes of her constituents. Not so Schiff.
“This is the best-attended town hall meeting we have ever had,” Schiff told the crowd.
There’s a reason for that: The proposed development of Oakmont View V is the hottest issue in the Verdugo Basin right now, and many care deeply enough about the future of this community to get up off their couches and make their views known. Summing up the discussion, Schiff said he hopes the future of Oakmont can be settled without a multimillion-dollar legal battle that would take many years to wend its way through the courts. He compared it to the mindset that cost Burbank taxpayers more than $7 million over nine years to fight expansion of the Burbank Airport terminal.
“Let the negotiations begin,” he said.
If there is any hope for a negotiated settlement, it must be seized. Wednesday night was the beginning.
“We’ll be measured as a community not only by what we build, but by what we preserve,” Schiff said.
Let’s hope we measure up.”
At the time this was written Warren Swil was editor of the Opinion Section of the News-Press.
OFF THE RECORD? If you read this far down you deserve to know a little secret, known only to my closest of friends. For more than 15 years my front porch looked directly across the Crescenta Valley at the site of the proposed development. Was it a conflict of interest for me to write and publish articles such as this, which, I hope, played a significant role in the eventual outcome?
What do you think? Post a comment and tell me!