A proposal to construct a luxury gated housing development in the Verdugo Mountains has residents concerned over the potential devastation of wildlife and native plants while leaving tenants in a fire zone.
Residents in the Verdugo Mountains love enjoying the undisturbed wilderness that surrounds their community. But locals say a newly proposed luxury development will threaten everything.
The proposed project, called The Canyon Hills Development, was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2005.
It was given a 20-year timeframe during which it was allowed to build about 220 new homes.
But over the last 18 years, nothing has happened until the developer, Whitebird, Inc., requested permits to begin preparing the site in January 2023.
That’s when the group “No Canyon Hills” reorganized to protest the proposed plans.
The Verdugo Mountains above the Sunland-Tujunga neighborhood get many hikers and are home to all sorts of wildlife. Locals say a large development like Canyon Hills will wipe out many native plant species and drive away the animals that call the mountain range home.
“We’re really in nature here unlike anything you can find,” said Patty Hencken, a local resident. “And so now that I understand the magnitude of what this means to the community, I’m really up in arms about it.”
The area is very dry and prone to wildfires which is another issue locals want the city and developers to keep in mind.
“We feel that it would be, at the bare minimum, reasonable to ask for further environmental analysis before massive construction and cut and fill grading demolishes this habitat,” said Emma Kemp, co-founder of the “No Canyon Hills” group.
Kemp said the group is asking the city to halt construction and conduct a new, updated environmental survey. They’ve also started an online petition which has garnered more than 166,000 signatures in support so far.
“What new knowledge do we have today that we didn’t have back then?” asks Kemp. “Our understanding of ecosystems has shifted significantly in the last two decades.”
Kemp and other residents in the area say they’re concerned that not only would the massive build destroy unique plants and displace animals, but it overlooks the inherent dangers of the area’s high potential for wildfires.
Located not too far from the proposed development spot was the La Tuna Fire in 2017 which burned more than 7,000 acres.
“And to take away a lot of the natural barriers and buffers from landslides, fires, etcetera that nature already put in here,” said Nicole Georges, a local resident.
Resident Cliff Hughes’ home is also perched above the hillside and he understands why the area is desirous but also worries about the natural elements that make the place so special.
“I think a subdivision or whatever development is going to take away from what it has to offer naturally,” said Hughes.
KTLA reached out to Councilmember Monica Rodriguez’s office on Thursday as the development falls within her district. KTLA has also reached out to the developer and its attorneys and are awaiting a response from both parties.