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El Sereno Green Space Wins New Protections

The City Council voted Tuesday to take the final step necessary to protect 20 acres of hilly open space in El Sereno from development.

The council voted to rezone 57 parcels that compose the Elephant Hill site.

The City Council in November 2009 approved a settlement with a developer to purchase the land, ending more than 20 years of battle over the land.

The council later voted to sell five acres of the land to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which built a walking trail. The council’s approval to rezone the parcels on the site was the final step to allow the purchase of the land by the authority.

“I want to thank the El Sereno community and our environmental advocates for working and fighting with me to protect this beautiful open space,” Councilman Jose Huizar said.

“Since I took office, securing Elephant Hill for the El Sereno community has been one of my biggest priorities and today’s vote protects this land so that our children and their children will be able to enjoy it for a very long time.”

A proposed subdivision on Elephant Hill in the 1980s triggered community concerns after a similar development project in nearby Monterey Hills caused subsidence and property damage, leading to an expensive settlement.

The Eaton Crest project in Monterey Hills cost the city $65 million to settle with about 700 property owners, according to Huizar’s office.

Developer Monterey Hills, LLC was cleared to build on Elephant Hill in 1993, but didn’t move to build on the site until 2006. Huizar blocked the city from granting the developer’s building permits, drawing a lawsuit. The two parties agreed in 2009 to an approximately $9 million settlement, keeping the land undeveloped and owned by the city.

“Along with the MRCA’s development of a walking trail, re-zoning these city-owned parcels will provide increased opportunities for outdoor physical activity in a neighborhood with no park or recreation facility nearby,” said Elva Yanez, a member of the Elephant Hill Advisory Task Force.

“The hundreds of residents who use Collis Avenue as an informal track to walk and run will have a new, natural destination to explore.”