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Exec: Las Lomas not dead yet

Posted: December 20, 2008 7:04 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2008 4:59 a.m.
 
Officials for the Las Lomas project believe they can resurrect the moribund 5,500-home development despite a stop-work order, a failed lawsuit, a president's resignation and two cities' resistance.

"They're reviewing all their options," said Las Lomas Land Company LLC spokesman Edward Park.

Las Lomas suffered its latest setback Dec. 12 when Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe tossed out a lawsuit filed by developer Dan Palmer against the city of Los Angeles.

"The court's decision ... was disappointing and we are going to appeal the ruling," Park said. "We still plan on developing the region's first smart-growth community and the northern gateway to the San Fernando Valley."

Palmer sought $100 million from the city over the failed effort to develop 555 hilly acres that straddle the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys. He also wanted the city of Los Angeles to annex the development.

Palmer resigned as president of the Las Lomas Land Company for "personal reasons" Dec. 11.

Local development consultant Allan Cameron, who engineered 18 annexations locally to expand the boundaries of Santa Clarita Valley, said the demurrer ruling is a serious blow to Las Lomas.

"They can appeal to the California court of appeal but this demurrer ruling is a gunshot to the head," he said.

Carl Newton, attorney for the city of Santa Clarita, said the ruling is not set in stone.

"It's not a final determination, in litigation terms," Newton said. "But, it's a pretty strong determination by the court the city felt was correct."

The judge ruled the plaintiff's complaint was insufficient in its case against the city and he determined the demurrer should be granted to the city without leave to amend, meaning Las Lomas need not re-file the lawsuit.

"This is good news for Santa Clarita. It was not a good development," Newton said, noting the project called for grading 20 million cubic yards of earth.

Las Lomas officials still promise to create 9,000 direct jobs, 22,000 indirect jobs, more than 1,300 construction jobs and $1.3 billion in annual wages.

Critics of Las Lomas, however, say the development is counter to what Santa Clarita stands for.

"By creating a green belt around Santa Clarita, what we're doing is preserving the character of this community," said Paul Brotzman, director of community planning for the Santa Clarita.

"Our challenge becomes: How do we create the appropriate employment here, residential development here with shopping within the heart of the city rather than spreading it out in an urban sprawl?" Brotzman asked. "A green belt helps us create these limits."

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