Verdict for maintenance of Hillcrest hillsides expected Tuesday

This screenshot of a Google Maps look at Hillcrest Parkway demonstrates the reduction in landscaping.
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Residents of the Hillcrest area in Castaic are expecting a verdict on the future of their landscaping concerns this week.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday morning to discuss the communitywide vote on the county’s maintenance of Hillcrest’s overgrown hillsides, which could have a major impact on local property values.

The residents of what the county refers to as Landscape Maintenance District 37, which surrounds Hillcrest Parkway, had until Tuesday, July 24, to vote on whether they want the county to continue maintaining their properties, at the cost of increasing their annual LMD fee from $240 to $655.

If the result is a “yes” vote, the county’s new contract will go into effect in September, and account for deferred maintenance, renovation of the center median at The Old Road and Hillcrest Parkway, and rehabilitation of planted material and irrigation systems.

If residents vote no, the county will detach the zone from its Landscape Maintenance Districts program after one year. Individual property owners would become fully responsible for the landscape maintenance.

Fees that property owners pay to maintain the landscape have not been raised in over 20 years.

Previously, the residents had voted “no” on the issue in 2007 and 2014, said Castaic resident Ingrid Riederer, who also co-founded the group “Keep Hillcrest Green” to address the landscaping issue. The rise in the fee is to account for the fact that the fixed cost residents pay hasn’t been adjusted since the district was formed in 1990.

Some homeowners, such as resident Cindy Gonzales, raised concerns at a June 27 county presentation that insurance companies had been cancelling policies because overgrown brush and trees posed fire hazards.

If the initiative fails, individual homeowners will be in charge of landscaping their own properties that are currently part of the LMD, but that could create a ripple effect in the community, said Hillcrest resident Laura Laughlin.

“If your neighbor can’t afford to repipe his home, the whole neighborhood’s property value is going to go down,” she said. “So you can’t just look at it as how much it costs to take care of your own square of land.”

L.A. County officials reduced the level of service after the last failed attempt to raise the landscaping fees in 2014, as they could not financially maintain it.

Lani Alfonso, principal engineer with the Public Works Department, said the county was considering detaching the zone because of the rising costs.

“What we’re collecting as far as assessments is no longer enough to cover the cost of maintenance,” she said. “If the voters vote no, the proposal from the county is to detach the zone and return the maintenance to individual owners. It’s no longer financially sustainable. Maintenance cannot be (financially) scaled back further without performing no maintenance at all.”

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