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North Side will lose its 'mountain'

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • September 14, 2012 - 5:24 PM

The faith of a squad of early-teen Latino soccer players could soon move a North Side mountain.

Council Member Don Samuels has promised that trucks will begin hauling away this month what those pint-sized futbolers dub “La Montaña.”  The job may not get done until next month, but the wheels are turning.

The hill involved, just off the busy N. 7th Street, occupies a triangular-shaped parcel at the north end of Heritage Park, the redevelopment that replaced public housing projects, hard by the problematic City View Apartments.

The players complain that the brush-covered hill is home to vagrants. They make the rounds in the area between begging for money at freeway ramps and Mickey’s Liquor. The hill lies between, and players tell of syringes, bottles, squalid living spaces and people who make propositions to their sisters. They've been working on the issue for more than a year.

The peripatetic Jay Clark, who employs soccer as a community organizing tool, helped the team and their parents to approach Samuels and others about moving the dirt pile. The hill grew slowly as the surrounding subdivision was converted into single-family homes in the pre-recession era. As backhoes dug basements, builders needed what they saw as temporary storage for the excavated dirt. But when homebuilding plummeted, the city was stuck with a pile of dirt.

Doing anything about the hill required working out a deal with developer Richard Copeland to whom the land was sold for redevelopment. The city moved in 2011 to foreclose on that developer, but even with a voluntary foreclosure the city didn’t have the land back yet. Add the time it takes the city to seek proposals and award a contract, and under normal processes, the mountain wouldn’t move until sometime next spring.

But the city is working with the developer to allow early access to the site.

Public Works is standing by to truck the dirt away on a faster track than a bid process would require, as soon as it gets the all-clear from the city's development agency, which is in charge of the foreclosure.

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