The changing face of Bouquet Canyon

Cars are parked in a lot along Bouquet Canyon Road. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

For years, Bouquet Canyon Road unraveled across farmland, past ranches and, of course, by the Lombardi Ranch pumpkin patch in what for many was a ride through the country.

That same stretch of rural road just north of Vasquez Canyon Road, however, now bends past a sprawling used car dealership, just a half mile north of where they sold pumpkins every fall at the Lombardi Ranch.

The move to the country by Starfire Auto from an industrial center in Valencia to a bigger lot across the road from LARC Ranch, was a sign the business was healthy and growing.

For long-standing rural neighbors on Bouquet Canyon Road, however, the arrival was a sign their rural community was changing.

“This is zoned commercial,” Starfire owner Abe Osman told The Signal Monday.

“And, to be zoned C3 means zoned for unlimited commercial use,” he said. “There are more than 300 things I could be doing (here).”

Neighbors contend Starfire is “putting in a car lot without any permits.”

Not So.  Starfire Auto is a licensed dealership, permitted by the county to use the land for that purpose, Los Angeles County zoning official Oscar Gomez, of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, told The Signal Monday.

The car dealership is within 20 feet of Bouquet Canyon Road resident Breck Jelletich’s water well.

Jelletich sees changes underway which he fears may impact the dusty creek environment.

“They have, as of today, brought in at least 500 loads of asphalt and at least 300 cars and plan to cover the entire land into a parking lot,” he said in an email sent to The Signal.

“Some of the property is in the flood plain and any run off could flow into the creek and cause an environmental nightmare,” he said.

According to Los Angeles County zoning officials, Starfire was issued two notices on June 28 of violation for “operating without development standards.”

However, the notices required Osman to modify the landscaping and parking on his property according to standards set by the county.

“He needs to comply with development standards for landscaping and parking,” Gomez told The Signal Monday.

The dealership is expected to submit to the county its plan to make those required changes to landscaping and parking in order satisfy zoning officials.

Does he have a right to be there and operate a car dealership?

Absolutely, Gomez said. “Zone C3 does allow for car dealership use.”

As for environmental concerns expressed over water runoff and water impacting the flood plain, Osman said he has complied with all that is expected of him from the county.

“His neighbors were looking at paving and grading,” Gomez said, noting that those environmental concerns fall under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and, specifically, with the Office of Building and Safety, in that department.

Since no grading was done, however, no permit was needed.

A bulldozer on the property was used, according to Osman, to distribute gravel.

“There is no grading happening on this property,” Osman said. “We’re dropping gravel on the dirt.  We’re not cutting into the soil and not changing the environment.”

As for the concerns expressed by his neighbors, Osman said he getting to the point of “push back.”

For now, however, he’s happy to be running his business legally on a larger piece of real estate.


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