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World War II internment site considered for historical status

A housing development is planned for the site of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course in Tujunga. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

The Los Angeles City Council has decided to review a World War II internment site for possible status as a historical monument, a move that could end up protecting Verdugo Hills Golf Course from residential development.

The council voted unanimously last week to approve the motion for the review. L.A. Councilman Richard Alarcon, whose district includes the golf course, introduced the motion, and the matter will now go to the Cultural Heritage Commission. The commission will recommend whether to designate the site a Historic-Cultural Monument.

Alarcon praised the council’s decision.

“I strongly believe that a housing development would be inconsistent with our goal to preserve the legacy of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station site,” Alarcon said in a statement, adding that the designation “would allow us to protect this important piece of our history.”

During World War II, the federal government converted the former Civilian Conservation Corps camp — where the golf course is now located — into the Tuna Canyon Detention Station.

The camp was “a gateway to internment” for civilians of Japanese, Japanese-Peruvian, Italian and German descent taken into custody after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, according to Alarcon's office.

Residents and several local officials have been trying for years to keep the golf course from being developed. The proposed development by Snowball West Investments would include 229 single-family homes, to be located on about 28 acres of the 58-acre golf course, with the rest of the land being converted to open space, according to the draft environmental impact report filed with the city of Los Angeles in 2009.

If the golf course were to be designated a historic site, demolition or alteration would require permits from the Cultural Heritage Commission.

At Tuesday’s meeting, attorney Fred Gaines, representing Snowball West, told the council that because the developer was already undertaking an environmental impact report, further review was unnecessary.

“This motion and this case is a complete waste of time,” he said. “You can have all of this process and waste all of this time and the city’s resources, [Snowball West’s] resources, to get to the same place you’re already at.”

Residents have previously tried to prevent development through failed attempts to rezone or buy the land outright with grants and government funding.

“This space must be preserved, documented and protected,” Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council representative Krystee Clark told the City Council. “It is important for the stories and the memories of the men who were detained here to be remembered.”

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-- Daniel Siegal

Photo: A housing development is planned for the site of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course in Tujunga. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

 
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