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Crews prepare to clear acres of land for controversial housing project in Verdugo Mountains

Residents fight against massive housing development in Verdugo mountains
Residents fight against massive housing development in Verdugo mountains 03:10

A nearly 20-year battle in the Sunland-Tujunga area may be coming to an end as a housing developer seems set to begin a massive construction operation.

In 2005, developer Whitebird Inc. received the green light from the Los Angeles City Council to build over 200 homes in the Verdugo Mountains. However, the company waited 18 years to file permits to start construction, sparking concern amongst community members. Residents said they are organizing plans to stop the development.

"This project seems to go against the grain of where we are moving as a city, as a people," said co-founder of the No Canyon Hills group Emma Kempt. 

Kempt added that not only would the massive project destroy nature and displace animals but would also put residents in danger.

"There's only one main entry and exit road to the housing development this is a very high fire risk zone," said Kempt. 

In 2017, the nearby La Tuna Fire burned 7,194 acres around the Verdugo Mountains near Burbank, Glendale and L.A. The burn scar area raised flood and debris concerns for the area. The eight-day fire prompted evacuation orders and then-Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for Los Angeles County.

The attorney for the developer disagrees with the No Canyon Hills group and believes the project would actually reduce the risk of fires like that.

It will provide a new southern evacuation rout for those residents to La Tuna Canyon Road and the freeway and include a new 1,000,000-gallon water tank close to the existing neighborhoods that can be used by firefighters," stated attorney Jack Rubens.

Kempt called on the city to do an updated environmental survey before allowing construction to start, which Rubens says isn't possible. 

"A second EIR cannot be required for the Canyon Hills project because it is fully entitled and doesn't require any further discretionary approval," said Kempt.

Those fighting to preserve the natural beauty of the area said they'll do everything they can to save it 

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