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County planner: Our lax practices will end

Posted: March 7, 2008 2:18 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
County planners are expected to crack down on developers who misrepresent themselves on land applications following a review of documents submitted by the Las Lomas Land Co., LLC, a top planner says.

Frank Meneses, administrator of the Current Planning Division of Los Angeles County's Department of Regional Planning, said he'll put an end to the lax practice in his office of allowing developers to identify themselves as owners of property when, in fact, they are not.

"This is something we need to correct," he told The Signal on Wednesday. "We, probably, were not as diligent as we should have been. As a result of this, we're going to have do that from now on,"
he said reflecting on the Las Lomas case. "I'll probably tell my staff that they should start checking these more thoroughly."

On Feb. 8, The Signal reported that Las Lomas developer Dan S. Palmer had identified his company as both the applicant and the owner of 14 parcel lots of land on a zoning application in 2003 and that the same claims were made n an application submitted in November to reconfigure the lots representing 555 acres.

In fact, 251 acres of land identified as belonging to Las Lomas actually belongs to R. Fred McHaddad, 77, and his wife Janet, of Van Nuys, the paper revealed.

Last week, a review body of four departments including the CEO's office concluded the McHaddads and the Las Lomas Land Co. each owns six parcel lots of land on the east side of The Old Road, between Calgrove Boulevard and the Michael D. Antonovich Open Space Preserve.

Two of the original 14 identified lots had been "folded into" two other lots.

Asked if developers were allowed to identify themselves as owners on applications even though they are not, Meneses said "No."

"If there is more than one owner, you must include all the owners," Meneses said, adding that Palmer did not include McHaddad on the applications.

"In this case," he said, referring to Las Lomas, "we have a letter from Mr. McHaddad, giving his consent to allow Palmer filing for him."

That letter was not included in either the 2003 zoning application or November's re-drawing of the Tentative Parcel Map.

"Everything now appears to be in order, now that we have the letter giving consent," Meneses said. "The applicant (Palmer) should have indicated all the property owners. If they (other owners) had granted consent there should have been a letter."

Las Lomas Spokesman Matt Klink said documents listing all its owners were filed with the county. "As we've stated all along, we have filed these forms correctly," he said. "All the information about Las Lomas owners at the time was available to county representatives."

Meneses admitted that staff at his regional planning office has allowed developers some "flexibility" in applying for land changes.

That practice is now being reviewed and instructions have been issued to staff to stop the practice, he said.
Developers failing to disclose all owners of the property they're seeking to amend are not reprimanded in any way. "With the kind of workload we have, we don't have time to scrutinize every application. We can't doubt that things like that (misrepresentation) have happened in the past."

Developers supplying the county with false information are not fined or charged in any way. "Right now, we don't really have a way to fine somebody," Meneses said.

The only time planning staff scrutinize land applications as a method of fact-checking, is when developers submit a final map of the land about which they're expressed an interest.

"Rarely, does someone try to pull something over on us."

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