Los Alamos housing project site.
Los Alamos residents say tree trimmers spoiled a bucolic scene at the intersection of Den and Shaw streets to make way for a 59-unit housing development approved 17 years ago. Credit: Contributed photo

Los Alamos residents are rallying to get changes made to a long-approved 59-unit housing development that they contend will negatively impact the community, but options may be limited.

Uniting under a Facebook group dubbed “Save Los Alamos — Stop the ‘Village Square Development,’” residents plan to meet Monday to discuss the development and organize against the project planned for the northwest corner of the community.

“The interesting thing about this project is that it’s bringing everyone together,” said Brian Ross Adams, a political consultant who moved to Los Alamos three years ago with his wife. “You have people who grew up there who don’t want to see their town destroyed. You have people who moved there because they wanted a peaceful life and they don’t see their town destroyed.”

The Village Square development near the intersection of Shaw and Den streets received Santa Barbara County approval in 2005 under the name Legacy Estates. The project since has had a number of extensions.

The project calls for dividing 16.7 acres into 59 parcels with lots ranging from 8,877 square feet to 16,875 square feet.

The Corona-based developer distributed a letter before Christmas warning about work related to the dormant development plan.

“I wanted to let you know that we will be doing some tree maintenance during the next several weeks; the trees will not be fully removed until grading commences early next year,” wrote Tara Mitchell, Legacy Estates director of entitlements and planning.

Los Alamos housing project site.
Tops of trees have been lopped off to make way for a 59-unit housing project opposed by Los Alamos residents. Credit: Contributed photo

Grading at the site and importing soil are scheduled to start in February with construction of the homes expected in 2024, she said, adding that the timeline will be dependent on weather and other factors such as labor and materials. 

County Supervisor Bob Nelson, whose Fourth District includes Los Alamos, said he is monitoring the situation closely.

 “I have met with and spoken to several concerned residents as well as the representatives of the developer. I am still gathering information and exploring various options available to minimize impacts on the community,” Nelson told Noozhawk.

On the morning after Christmas, tree-trimming crews moved in to lop off the tops of multiple trees, raising the ire of residents who reported the activity to Santa Barbara County firefighters and sheriff’s deputies.

Residents contended that the project’s approval and environmental mitigation measures were outdated. 

“Our town and this country and the state have drastically changed since 2005,” Adams said. “There’s a number of problems with the project.”

The project’s existing approvals limit what opponents can do, Adams said. 

“However, we do have some strategies that we’re going to employ in the next couple of weeks that can hopefully at least put a pause to it,” Adams said. 

Concerns include inadequate water supply in the community, environmentally protected species, narrow streets and more.

“We don’t have any infrastructure in the town to support a mega development. We’re an extremely small town. We don’t even have postal services,” he said, adding that everyone has post office boxes that are full.

Opponents also fear the homes will become short-term rentals attracting tourists instead of residents invested in the community. 

The developer has pledged to hold a meeting for the community in January. 

“Our desire is to work with you, our neighbors, to complete the development on this end of town in a way that is complementary to your existing home,” Mitchell’s letter said. “We will be good neighbors.”

The new coalition of opponents plans to meet from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the Los Alamos Valley Men’s Club, 429 Leslie St., to spell out the project’s plans and discuss how to fight it. 

Ideas include lawn signs, bumper stickers and hiring a lawyer well-versed in the California Environmental Quality Act about the possibility of an injunction to halt the construction. 

Adams also said he intends to tap into his connections with lawmakers at the state and federal levels. 

“We want to get everyone on the same page that this should not move forward without more community input,” Adams said.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.