Members of the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council's Land Use Committee met Thursday at the Chatsworth Train Depot with one high-priority topic: Make it clear to the West Hills Neighborhood Council and the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commision that they will fight to keep the community's crown jewel, the Chatsworth Nature Preserve.
Based on the fiery comments made by CNC members during the meeting, and by the reading of several letters addressed to the redistricting commission, the West Hills council touched a deep nerve here with its stated desire to have the entire Chatsworth Nature Preserve reside in Council District 3.
Commenters spoke passionately about how Chatsworth residents and city council members for Council District 12 have protected and nurtured the beautiful, pristine property for more than 30 years, and how they want to keep it that way.
What really riled the Land Use Committee was how one West Hills Neighborhood Council member stated at a Feb. 1 meeting that he was "interested in the highest and best use of the property." Linda van der Valk, land use committee chairwoman, said, "In Chatsworth, those words usually mean development."
In a Feb. 12 letter to the Redistricting Committee, the Chatsworth Historical Society mentioned similar "threats" to the nature preserve that have arisen from time to time—such as one reported in a July 1999 Daily News article: "... in 1999, when Rick Caruso had suggested that the reservoir could be used for housing or a sports field." (Caruso is the real estate developer of popular multi-use shopping complexes like "The Grove" in the Fairfax District and "Americana at Brand" in Glendale.)
But even with such threats, it was the stewardship of city council members such as Hal Bernson, said the Historical Society letter, that protected what he called "the last piece of property that we have that is a wildlife refuge, that is open and needs to be preserved." (From a Daily News article dated January 25, 1995)
Said Judith Daniels, CNC vice president, "The Chatsworth Nature Preserve is the only nature preserve in the entire city of Los Angeles, and we believe it should stay in the state that it is in now, which is, undeveloped and left alone for nature."
Van der Valk stated that "Council District 12 has brought up the property from reservoir status to a nature preserve. From Councilman Bernson to Councilman Smith and now Mitchell Englander, they have all promised to keep it a nature preserve."
And the CNC has heard many offers for the land, she said. "We've had places looking to make it into golf courses, condos, hotels, this and that," van der Valk said. "Oh yeah... soccer fields."
In other business, the committee addressed such items as: replacing the dilapidated shades inside the train depot's meeting room, contacting the owner of an "eyesore property," and deciding on the type of camouflage design for a cellular antenna tower that would be appropriate on a Chatsworth neighborhood street.
The committee highly preferred the "clock tower design" over any "fake palm trees."
Van der Valk offered to let West Hills claim the cellular antenna tower "for CD [Council District] 3." She dead-panned, "We'll keep the nature preserve, they can have the clock tower."