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Ahmanson Ranch

The proposed development of Ahmanson Ranch has long been a source of tension and controversy throughout Ventura and Los Angeles Counties - and rightfully so. Any project that adds to traffic congestion, eliminates almost 3,000 acres of open land, soils the cleanliness of adjoining creeks, and accelerates dust particles and air pollution must be scrutinized exhaustively.

Unfortunately, the debate over Ahmanson Ranch has become so divisive that leaders on both sides have fueled more rhetoric than solutions. In order to do so, we must recognize that both sides offer compelling and justifiable reasons.

Opponents of the project sensibly project an additional 45,000 car trips each day, particularly on the heavily congested 101 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway, if plans were to continue in developing the 3,000+ residential units, 250,000 square footage of office space and 150,000 square footage of commercial/retail space. They also reasonably contend that an Ahmanson Ranch town could hurt treasured areas like Malibu Creek Watershed and Surfrider Beach.

Washington Mutual Bank, the majority owner of this pristine land, has proposed a 10,000-resident town that will create well-needed jobs and three new schools. Project supporters state that the commercial space will stimulate economic growth in much needed areas of revenue for local government.

In reality, both sides offer valid support for providing added value to our communities. The issue is not whether one group can topple the other. A great misconception has grown on this issue that it must be a zero-sum game. What we have is politics pitting one side over the other. What we need is leadership bringing both parties together to create a win-win scenario for all residents.

I oppose the current proposal on Ahmanson Ranch, but for different reasons than what has dominated the newspapers and airwaves. Current plans for traffic and sewage mitigation (to name a few) do not accommodate residents in both L.A. County and Ventura County equitably.

Both sides must create a more informed public and a more accurate depiction on the viability of working together. Buzzwords like 'smart planning' and 'affordable housing' can be as deceiving as 'massive grading' and 'land desecration' - in essence, they are all scare tactics to sway public opinion.

Neither group is wrong for applying persuasive techniques. After all, if we are going to stand up for anything in California, let it be our quality of life. At the same time, both sides must realize that this issue requires some 'common sense' ideas and leadership. We have debated far too long with rhetoric - little action has been achieved.

We can request as many Environmental Impact Reports to support either side, pending on how the study is conducted. However, the more progressive approach would be to recognize that both parties have legitimate concerns and must be willing to negotiate pragmatically.

Ironically, the partiality on either side is to make California better for future generations. Different approaches, but common societal objectives.

As a conservationist, I applaud the efforts of local activists to protect our limited resources. As a local business owner, I can respect the stated objectives to bring new housing and schools to our communities. As a state legislator, I will urge both sides to come back to the table with a renewed quest for achieving a balance between the environment and its inhabitants.

You can reach Michael Wissot by contacting SymAction Communications