In 2005, a proposal for a 200+ luxury gated housing development called 'Canyon Hills' was approved by LA City Council, based on a woefully inadequate Environmental Impact Report conducted in 2003. Even back then, the project was controversial for its sweeping destruction of the Verdugo Mountains in Tujunga.
Now, almost 20 years later, the developer (Whitebird Inc.) wants to begin construction before the land use agreement expires in 2025. Last month, residents learned that Whitebird Inc. had recently pulled a Grading Permit to begin gutting the mountain, which will entail grading the scenic hillsides, cutting some ridge-lines down 80 feet, paving over ecologically important mountain streams and ripping out hundreds of Coast Live Oak trees. The permit could be approved any day now.
But the botanists are mobilizing. A small but mighty group of plant and wildlife advocates have joined forces online and launched a campaign to protect this important wildland habitat. In less than one week, a petition to oppose the development has garnered more than 1,700 signatures —and counting. Local residents have found the campaign and signed on to help. We are gaining momentum, and we plan to grow this effort all the way to the top.
We argue that the events of the last 20 years have rendered the original Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Mitigation Plan for this project problematic, to say the least. The outdated EIR denies the existence of mountain lions (now a protected species) and other large mammals like bears and bobcats in the development area of the Verdugos — we know this is false. As part of our organizing efforts, we have spoken with residents on the hillside who have witnessed both mountain lions and bears at the site. We have exchanged emails with scientists tracking a young male lion in this zone. As L.A. moves to build Wildlife Corridors in the Santa Monica range to minimize vehicle collision fatalities for wildlife in Urban-Wildland interface zones, we cannot stand by as an antiquated development proposal pushes already threatened wildlife down to the 210 freeway, as this plan proposes.
What’s more, three major fires have swept through this landscape since the project was originally initiated and approved, including the devastating 2017 La Tuna Canyon Fire. Charred remnants of structures burned in this fire are a grim indicator of the absurdity of the Canyon Hills proposal.
We want to Protect the Verdugos: Tongva, Chumash, Fernandeño Tataviam land. Native plants thrive here. Important ecosystems survive here. Tujunga is a historically lower income community with rural characteristics, and a development like this accelerates gentrification without addressing L.A.’s need for affordable housing. As one local resident stated, “You hate to see the whole world look like Valencia [Santa Clarita].” A responsible housing development plan would mean infilling already urbanized areas with density housing that connects to public transport systems under green building initiatives. As a progressive city with a dire housing crisis, we should NOT be building new gated developments in extreme fire-hazard wilderness zones.
The clock is ticking. L.A. City Inspectors will move to approve the grading permit imminently. As a group of botanists, plant lovers, wildlife advocates, rural land stewards, preservationists, civic scientists, local residents and concerned citizens, we are joining forces to gather and archive evidence that proves there are new and significant considerations at this site which must be taken into account before any construction can proceed. The project needs review and a new EIR. We pledge to oppose this at every level and we need your voice. Please help us spread the word and Stand Up for the Verdugos.
Follow the campaign: @nocanyonhills
Contact: [email protected]