RIVERSIDE: New proposal to
develop La Sierra area splits
New proposal to build 725 homes on La Sierra Lands and preserve La Sierra Hills faces sharp criticism.
From Press Enterprise 11/4/15
No one knows exactly what may be built on a swath of largely open land in Riverside’s La Sierra area. But the idea of building anything there has already caused a clash between residents who just a year ago were working together.
Last November, developer Terry Manley’s ballot measure to preserve the La Sierra Hills as open space and build up to 1,950 homes on the La Sierra Lands was crushed at the polls by grassroots activists who vowed to uphold the city’s development restrictions.
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, about 80 residents gathered at Loma Vista Middle School to hear and ask questions about a new, somewhat nebulous project Manley would bring to the ballot in 2016.
Though it would include far fewer homes than last year’s Measure L — just 725 — people still questioned how Manley and the city would address traffic, police and fire service.
Manley was not at the meeting, hosted by Ward 7 Councilman John Burnard, but several residents who had met with him spoke on his behalf.
“I’d like to know why the city of Riverside feels they have to develop on every inch of greenbelt that’s left,” one woman asked, provoking applause. “We live in that area and we don’t want all the noise and the traffic that we have now.”
Development in the city’s citrus greenbelt and parts of La Sierra has been strictly limited for decades by voter-approved restrictions known as Proposition R and Measure C.
Manley wants to build several times more homes than the rules allow, so he has offered to turn over the 650-acre La Sierra Hills to a conservation group. So far, his new proposal might include single-family homes, a 7-acre park, equestrian trails, a site for a police and fire station and a water reclamation facility.
The development, which would be two-thirds open space, would have a density of 1.1 units per acre, with a range of offerings from clustered town home-type units to larger lots with room to keep horses or other animals.
The new plan is being pitched as a compromise proposal by some residents who led the opposition last year, including former Councilwoman Laura Densmore and Riverside Community College District trustee Virginia Blumenthal.
They told the somewhat hostile crowd they’d met with Manley because they knew somebody would eventually get a project approved for the area, and they asked for input on what residents would prefer to see if the land gets developed.
“I would rather do something like this that you have control over than let something like the old Measure L break through,” Blumenthal said. “You may not like it but at least it’s more livable.”