SPHERE HALTS LAS LOMAS CITY EXTENDS INFLUENCE TO BLOCK NEW TRACT.
SANTA CLARITA - The Santa Clarita City Council voted to extend its sphere of influence south into the Newhall Pass - fulfilling its pact with Los Angeles to halt the 5,800-home Las Lomas development proposed there.
The unanimous decision Tuesday would split the 555-acre project site southeast of the junction of Interstate 5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway at the ridgeline between the two cities. The city of Los Angeles already applied to extend its sphere of influence north to meet Santa Clarita's.
The move will leave roughly 75 percent of the land in Santa Clarita's sphere, preventing developer Dan Palmer from annexing the project to Los Angeles for its water supply.
Carlyle Hall, an attorney representing the Santa Monica-based developer, said he was not surprised by the action.
``The writing's on the wall,'' he said after the vote. ``We will now take a look at our options, including litigation.''
The vote was postponed about a month when the city received a letter from Hall implying a possible lawsuit.
Hall argued that the city's attempt to submit the sphere change to the county Local Agency Formation Commission without a full environmental impact study violates a Superior Court decision in a 2004 lawsuit challenging a city plan to kill Las Lomas by annexing parts of the site.
Judge Dzintra Janavs ruled a ``negative declaration'' inadequate under state environmental law, and required a full environmental impact report before the annexation.
But the City Attorney's Office contended that the ruling doesn't apply to the sphere of influence amendment, which differs from annexation. Declaring a sphere of influence allows cities some say in developments near their borders.
``Obviously, we have a difference of opinion,'' Hall told the council at Tuesday's meeting.
Prior to the vote, Bart Reed, executive director of the Sylmar-based nonprofit The Transit Coalition, urged the council to order the sphere change. He believes Las Lomas will worsen traffic congestion in the Newhall Pass, which already sees some 250,000 vehicles on weekdays, according to 2003 state Department of Transportation figures.
``The traffic situation in this particular area can be horrendous,'' he said. ``It is extremely important the city of Santa Clarita assert its influence and extend its sphere of influence to the property.''
Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253