The day non-profit Save L.A. Open Space has been dreading has come. The draft environmental report outlining developer plans for the 16-acre Weddington Golf and Tennis Club has been released to the public.
"We knew it was in process," says Alan Dymond, President of Save L.A. Open Space, "We've been closely following to the best of our ability where it was in the planning department."
As the non-profit had surmise, the owner, Weddington Investment Properties, is seeking to divide the site into two lots: one to maintain the nine-hole golf course on the north and west side of the project, and the other to house a new senior living facility on 4.5 acres of the site. The new senior housing, which will be known as the Studio City Senior Living Center (SCSLC), will consist of six 45-foot high, four-story buildings. The complex would house 200 senior condominium units and 40,000 square feet of common area. Construction of the senior facility would entail demolishing sixteen existing tennis courts.
"We're extremely unhappy," says Dymond. "They're taking away a huge part of our open space." According to Dymond, the tennis courts are also one of the few such facilities in the neighborhood left. The recreational center gets calls from residents as far away as Burbank, looking to use it.
Instead of a senior center, Save L.A. Open Space is looking to re-cast the area as a Los Angeles River Natural Park that would divert at least 200 acres of surrounding urban runoff from the city streets. Working with Community Conservation Solutions, the non-profit's plans include infiltration sites and cisterns. It would also mean retention of the existing tennis courts and driving range.
"If we can elicit some funding from federal, state, and private donors, we can go to the owners to see if we can make an offer to purchase the property, but we're not there yet," says Dymond, who identifies this restarted construction proposal as the first major hurdle in the non-profit's plans to maintain this green space in Studio City.
According to the draft environmental report released, an "environmentally superior" alternative would be not to build anything. Barring that, it states that a higher density with recreation option is the next best thing. "Aside from the No Project Alternative, the Higher Density with Recreation Project Alternative would also be considered an Environmentally Superior Alternative since it would result in the least Project impacts over any other of the remaining alternatives," states the document.
Dymond says the proposal has been a long time coming, and that is part of the non-profit's challenge: to keep residents aware. "The threat has been around for over twelve years, many times over. Not too long ago, a councilmember went public and said they had saved the Golf and Tennis courts. People thought it was over. In fact, it isn't saved. It's only on a hiatus. They're still trying to develop this piece of land."
Apart from the immediate threat of development, Save L.A. Open Space also worries at the draft environmental report's perceived lack of clarity with regards to plans for the whole 16-acre project. The report details plans for the senior housing, but leaves details on the existing golf courses out.
"This is very much a part of the Los Angeles River. It would be a shame to lose it," says Dymond. "This is not an acceptable thing, to take out 16 acres of green space just so someone can make some money."
Residents can read the whole draft environmental report and make their wishes known here. Public comment ends September 15.