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Developer fights landmark status for WWII internment camp

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LOS ANGELES >> A developer has taken legal action against the historic-landmark designation for a one acre plot of oak trees at a former World War II-era internment camp in the San Fernando Valley, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Developer Snowball West Investments won’t stop installation of some sort of commemoration at the site, but the company wants permission to tear down a golf course and build a 220-unit residential community, according to The Los Angeles Times ( ).

The site is at Verdugo Hills Golf Course, just north of the 210 Freeway in Tujunga, and the historical designation brings extra layers of scrutiny that could make it harder to build homes and roads in the area, according to Fred Gaines, attorney for Snowball.

A backer of the historic designation called the move sad and stunning.

“I would hope that this is just a leverage position to help them get their development approved,” Lloyd Hitt, a retired Sunland pharmacist, said of the lawsuit in the Times.

In June, the City Council voted unanimously to honor the former site of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, part of which is now a one-acre oak grove.

From 1941 to 1943, more than 2,500 “enemy aliens” — Japanese, Japanese Americans, Germans, Italians and Japanese-Peruvians — were detained there following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Council vote overturned the Cultural Heritage Commission’s rejection of the designation earlier this year. In its rejection the commission noted that none of the camp’s original buildings was still standing.

In the run-up to the June vote, Councilman Richard Alarcon countered that numerous other sites without original structures are honored by the commission, including a former Disney Studio site that is now a Gelson’s supermarket.

Gaines said the decision was rushed because it was Alarcon’s last week in office and the developer doesn’t believe the proper process was followed.

Felipe Fuentes, the area’s new councilman, said he supports honoring the history of the area, but wants to find a balanced way to do so.

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