Court Issues Judgement and Writ

judgement

The next step in the Hollywood Community Plan Update trial will occur on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 when the City is served with the Judgement and Writ ordering it to “rescind, vacate and set aside all actions approving the [HCPU] and all actions certifying [the EIR] adopted in connection therewith, as well as all related approvals issued in furtherance of the HCPU,” passed on June 19, 2012. The City has the option to comply with the judge’s order, offer a negotiated settlement with the petitioners or to appeal the judgment within 60 days.

The City Council will hear a motion to draft the necessary ordinance to comply with the judgement at the Tuesday session.

 

Letter to Beverly Press Editor – December 29, 2013

re: Superior Court Decision Overturning Hollywood Community Plan Update

As someone who actually conducted research that was used for the lawsuits challenging the Hollywood Community Plan Update, I take issue with the claims of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce that the Update’s Draft Environmental Impact Report was released two months before 2010 Census Data was released. Continue reading

L.A. Violates Your Due-Process Rights

How residents unearthed 200,000 words of phony findings City Hall used to illegally approve a skyscraper at Hollywood and Gower —

 

By Jill Stewart published: August 30, 2012 —

 

In May 2011, at a final public hearing over whether to approve the tallest skyscraper in Hollywood history, the Department of Planning unveiled 231 pages of surprise “supplemental findings” backing the developer’s plan.

The 200,000-word, book-length document gave the L.A. City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee an added boldness. Its chairman, City Councilman Ed Reyes, refused to let a member of the public rebut the developer, Hanover Company. Then the committee quickly approved the Hollywood/Gower Project.

Reyes should have let the man speak.

An environmental attorney from the Silverstein Law Firm, Daniel Wright knew the Department of Planning hadn’t written the 231-page “supplemental findings.” Doug Haines, a representative of the firm’s client, the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association of Hollywood, had discovered that the developer wrote the entire tome.

Wright had minutes earlier warned the land-use committee that the key study repeatedly referred to in the “findings” — the parking study claiming that the development would need 30 percent less parking than the city generally requires — wasn’t even included in the 200,000 words and was never seen by the public.

The Hirsch/Green Parking Study, it turned out, was merely an “exhibit” attached to a letter from the developer’s lobbying firm, in a pile of papers submitted at the hearing itself. Later, emails showed that city planners likely never read the study: Just before the hearing, planner Jim Tokunaga couldn’t open the developer’s attachment.

The land-use committee, known as PLUM, approved the skyscraper, along with the developer’s request for reduced parking, in parking-challenged Hollywood.

“We were asking city officials, ‘Where is the parking study that’s being voted on? Where is it?’ ” Wright says. “But no member of the public could see it — until it was posted the next day on the City Council website.”

Later, the City Council rubber-stamped the committee’s approval without allowing public comment — ending a supposedly public process in which the public was prevented from considering and debating the key issues.

The legal wrongdoing by City Hall resulted in an uncommon finding in July by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones: that the City Council and city had violated the “due process” rights of the Hollywood community. (Jones also found that L.A. violated the California Environmental Quality Act.)

“We alleged the city engaged in misconduct, lied to members of the public and suppressed information in an effort to conceal critical material from the public,” explains Robert P. Silverstein, the lead attorney. “So we won on our constitutional challenge — which is extremely rare.”

On Aug. 13, Jones affirmed her initial ruling, rejecting objections filed by the developer and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. She ordered not just a redo of the areas obfuscated by city officials, such as parking shortages, but also an entirely new Environmental Impact Report.

R.J. Comer, attorney for the project’s investors, said they are considering all options. The City Attorney’s office had no comment.

But Wright responds, “They’re so caught with their hands in the cookie jar, we do not see an appeal.”

Silverstein persuaded Jones to enter into evidence disturbing emails showing city officials readying the developer’s “findings” in support of the project as the city’s own.

Environmental attorneys consulted by the L.A. Weekly say they cannot recall such a courtroom slap-down. Although this was a lower court, only a few appellate cases have been reported involving municipalities guilty of violating due process.

Attorney Noel Weiss, who has won suits against L.A., says, “It’s because they are running a kangaroo court. The City Council and its PLUM committee don’t read the planning documents before them, which often aren’t written by the planners they pay. It’s lawless, and nobody has been shutting it down. Judge Jones is stepping on a lot of powerful toes by being so courageous against big L.A. powers. I very much admire her for doing it. ”

Although one Hollywood neighborhood council dominated by business interests backs the high-rise, the other four Hollywood-area neighborhood councils do not. Many residents are angry that it would tower 270 feet over a low-slung historic community. The first three stories were to be parking, topped by 17 stories of condos or high-end rentals — squeezed onto a cramped lot whose zoning restrictions prohibit skyscrapers.

Labor lawyer David Bell, president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, argues that while the City Council granted the developer many “entitlements” — zone changes and billboard ads to help provide a more robust bottom line — the council was simultaneously degrading a protected skyline that has made the Hollywood Hills and its landmark sign among the most recognized sights anywhere.

“This isn’t Tarzana or Century City,” Bell says. “Hollywood is a global cultural asset that belongs to the community and world, being trampled upon for 176 luxury apartments. It isn’t right.”

The most controversial “entitlement” allowed investors to provide far less parking than required. (The developer claims, among possible mitigations, that the well-to-do residents will choose to use buses and subways.) Another “entitlement” lets the developer embed a huge billboard into the building’s side, visible from great distances and, Haines says, taller than the W Hotel nearby.

Maybe the ghost of Hollywood historic preservationist Robert Nudelman, who abhorred City Councilman Eric Garcetti’s dream of skyscrapers and billboards in Hollywood, caught wind of what was unfolding. One day, Haines, who greatly admired Nudelman, noticed in the public record an odd term — “supplemental findings” — mentioned in a letter from the developer’s consultant written to City Hall.

“I called city planner Jae Kim and said, ‘Hey, this isn’t supposed to be a game of hide-and-seek. Where are these supplemental findings?'”

As it emerged at trial, Kim then provided Haines with the “findings,” assuring him three times that City Planning had no intention of submitting the developers’ submission to the council committee.

But Haines was uneasy. He pored over the 200,000 words, and then he and attorney Wright attended the committee hearing. Then they watched, stunned, as Jae Kim himself delivered the findings as the city’s own.

La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association’s legal team showed in court that Kim’s superior, senior planner Jim Tokunaga, exchanged emails with Kim before the hearing, explaining that they would do a quick edit of the developer’s work. The new version was 20 pages shorter, with some sections tweaked.

Key city officials have refused to comment on who (or what) compelled Kim and Tokunaga to proceed. And no city officials involved would comment on why the Hirsch/Green Parking Study was kept secret from the public and added to the city website only after the skyscraper was approved.

City planner Michael LoGrande, Kim’s and Tokunaga’s boss, refused to comment, saying the project still faces litigation. Ken Bernstein, a principal city planner, returned the Weekly‘s call to LoGrande but did not know any details. Kim and Tokunaga did not return calls seeking comment.

Garcetti’s office, which led the cheers for the Hollywood/Gower skyscraper and wants more high-rise towers in Hollywood, said it did not know the Department of Planning had claimed the fat “supplemental findings” from the developer as its own. Julie Wong, a top aide to Garcetti, said she didn’t know if LoGrande had launched an investigation and was surprised to learn that LoGrande was not commenting.

City Attorney’s spokesman Frank Mateljan could not comment as to whether those involved in violating the due process of the Hollywood community will be investigated.

However, former city planning commissioner Mike Woo, who stepped down in mid-July, said an investigation would not be unheard of.

In an email, Woo explained that when a judge finds that L.A. acted illegally, “The City Attorney routinely reports back to the decision-making bodies (in this case, the City Planning Commission and the City Council) about the outcome of the lawsuit and recommends a course of action. In theory, this can include the kind of investigation or reprimand” the Weekly queried Woo about.

Silverstein isn’t holding his breath. If the skyscraper is ever built, he says, “Its big billboard should say, ‘Don’t violate our constitutional rights.’ ”

Reach the writer at jstewart@laweekly.com

Go to article

Let L.A. Be L.A.

by Joel Kotkin – published 7-30-2012 in City-Journal.org
Unrestrained high-density development doesn’t become the City of Angels.

Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments. The proposal—which calls for residential towers of 50 stories or more along Hollywood Boulevard, where no building currently tops 20 stories—has been approved unanimously by the city council and will now probably be challenged in court.

Read Full Article

SaveHollywood.org is currently suing the City to prevent it from being destroyed. The facts and the law are on our side but we will have to show it in court. Lawsuits are costly. We need your financial support to save the Hollywood we all love. Now is the time to act. Please take a moment to use the “Donate” button or write a check to SaveHollywood.org to make it a success.

Who Killed Hollywood?

Help solve the mystery. The date was June 19, last Tuesday in the City Council. What passes for City Council debate on the Hollywood Community Plan began with everyone in the room knowing the vote as usual would be unanimous. It was 3 minutes, 10 seconds into Richard Alarcon’s raising the issue of the City Attorney’s office having suggested environmental protections in the HCP should be stronger. At that moment, the Council camera captures Paul Krekorian getting up out of his seat at the far end of the horseshoe and making a beeline to the dais. “How far behind are we on our community plans?” asked Alarcon. Planning Director Michael LoGrande gave him a long-winded response that never came close to answering the question. There is intense conversation between Krekorian and Assistant City Attorney Dion Connell. A visibly concerned Connell confers with other city officials over a few minutes while another city official whispers in Alarcon’s ear. A lip reader could have fun and maybe learn a lot studying the video of the conversations caught while Alarcon was hesitantly raising a curious question about the City Attorney wanting greater environmental protections. Watch the two realities: The feigned stupidity of city planners that was broadcast and the background mystery.

A Big Lie

Over the behind-the-scenes objections of the honest city planners and with a disregard for the advice of the City Attorney, on June 19th the City Council adopted the corrupt Hollywood Community Plan (HCP).

The HCP is based on two material frauds:

1) Hollywood Must Build for 250,000 ppl in 2030

The Plan insists that in 2005, Hollywood’s population had increase from 210,794 ppl in 2000 to 224,426 ppl. Hollywood’s population was not 224,426 ppl in 2005.  In 2005 Hollywood’s population fell to about 206,000 ppl and by 2010, it had fallen to 198,228 (US 2010 Census). There has been an accelerating exodus from Hollywood starting in 1990, and there are no facts to show that after the decline began, it reversed itself and started to increase only to drop again.

2) The City Studied All Reasonable Alternatives

It did not study the mega-Sizing Alternative of building for 250,000 ppl, the mini-mega-Sizing Alternative of building for 244,000 ppl, the adverse impact of increasing population density beyond 21,000 ppl/sq. mile nor the No Project Alternative. The HCP did not even mention, let alone study, the Down Zoning Alternative which was required due to the fact that Hollywood has been losing population since 1990. In the thousand or so pages of the HCP, the DEIR, the FEIR and the attachments, there is no detailed examination or analysis of anything, only conclusions which support the mega-Sizing desire of Garcetti.

LA City Hall: A Temple to Crimogenics  by Richard Lee Abrams – City Watch 6-26-12

On to Phase Two

George Abrahams — People for Livable Communities and the three other organized groups fighting the Hollywood Community Plan have understood from the beginning that the fight to get the City to respect State Law and even their own laws is a long-term effort. All of us have been working toward the goal of being able to establish the basis of a winning legal challenge to the proposed Plan. The principal focus is the Administrative Record. The Administrative Record is the legal foundation upon which all discussion before a court of law must be based. The period where facts and expert analysis can be introduced is the time from when the Plan is first presented to the public by the City Planning Department to when the City Council votes on the Plan. It is the only time when interested parties can introduce relevant material. All four groups opposing the Plan have been diligently building our case. In alerting the residents of Los Angeles to our effort and raising public awareness about the many faults in the proposed Hollywood Community Plan, we were making it clear to the City Council that their votes on that Plan will have consequences. In this regard we were successful. The PLUM Committee went into closed session to confer with the City Attorney on a matter where “there is significant exposure to litigation, based on ‘existing facts and circumstances’ and the advice of counsel” and ultimately sent the Plan to the City Council “without recommendation”. This was a major admission by the Committee that there were faults in the Plan and that they would face a significant risk of losing in court. When the Plan went to the full Council, it looked for a time that we would be able to make them see reason and send the Plan back to the City Planning Department for correction of the faulty data, a full recirculation of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and a study of the Downzoning Alternative. In the City Council meeting (June 19th), Councilman Alarcon had his doubts about the Plan and questioned the City Attorney and the Planning representatives about it. The Council chose to ignore the warning from the City Attorney and voted to approve the flawed Plan. This was Phase One. However, this does not mean that the fight for a fair and just Hollywood Community Plan is over.

The City has long had a “so sue us” strategy when facing challenges to their abuse of authority, hoping that the people opposed will acquiesce, give up and go away. But fat chance of that. The facts in the administrative record and the law are on our side. So, we go onto Phase Two — we sue them. The case will likely go through both trial court and appeals court before it is settled. The City has to pay all the attorney fees and court costs when it loses a suit. But, until the final decision of the Court is made, the plaintiffs in a case must be able to fund the suit.

We need your help again. Please help us win the case for a Hollywood Community Plan that will fairly serve the interests of both the residents and the businesses in Hollywood. This will also benefit all the residents in Los Angeles who will be affected by the outcome of the suit and harmed if the current Plan is not stopped. Please use the “Donate” button to save Hollywood from excessive density, over-development, skyscrapers and traffic grid-lock.

LA Weekly:  Hollywood Community Plan Passed by L.A. City Council: Welcome to Skyscraper Hell

Hollywood Patch:  City Council Approves Hollywood Community Plan Update

Time to Take Action – A Hollywood Neighbor Speaks

by Daniel Costa –

Here are my observations of the PLUM meeting that took place yesterday. It was predictably a grotesque display of backstage hand-shaking, shoulder-patting and self-praising by the Council Members with special interest and ties to the developers they’re so intimately in bed with. Business as usual when it comes to the development of Hollywood.

We first heard from the Hollywood Community Plan (HCP) Staff who was generously offered 45 minutes to gloat in a vague language and often-inaccurate statistics about the benefits their project would have on the community. Of course this was reciprocated and echoed repeatedly throughout the entire presentation by the Assembly Members like an impeccable performance by two stage actors (no doubt they’ve had a chance to hone their rehearsal skills in the past).

This was followed by a procession of the habitual interested parties in favor of the plan as well as other leaders who had been coerced into submission in exchange for gifts and special consideration. Much like the fans at a sporting event, the majority of those in favor sat in the front rows while the few against the plan congregated in the back in a stance of solidarity, each side cheering for their own team.

Then came the time for the public to speak, just a handful of us trying to represent the interest of our peers in the community. Mind you, we were given exactly one minute to get our point across, a true testament to the declining power that people possess in our current Democracy. Nevertheless, each of us stoically took turns conveying our objections to a panel we knew had already made up its mind on the outcome of this hearing. Some of us got cut off by an annoying game buzzer as if we were contestants on Jeopardy, while others managed to barely speed through their soliloquy.

 

But as I looked around the majestic room in City Hall, there was something, someone or rather a sound of crucial importance missing from this meeting… The voice of the residents and constituents who have the most at stake if this proposal is implemented. Why, one may ask out of logical curiosity? And the answer is because 99% (Doesn’t that figure sound familiar these days) of the people who live and work in our community have no clue that their city is about to get ransacked by a bunch of unscrupulous developers who have been given “Carte Blanche” to do as they please. Of course this is intentional by the powers that be for all the obvious reasons. An educated public is not in their best interest and would put a serious damper on their plans to fill their pockets.

Yet either the developers or our city officials are the ones who will have to deal with the aftermath and irreversible consequences this faulty plan will have on our community for years to come. They will not be the ones sitting in massive traffic, circling endlessly to find a place to park, or facing inadequate police and fire response time to name just a few of the perils we will be faced with. Nor will they be forced to watch architectural atrocities and blunders such as the hideous “project” on the corner of Hollywood & Western (Eric Garcetti’s claim to fame) and many others that have been hastily erected around the city. And furthermore, they will not be the ones to see their home and property values depreciating by the cheapening and commercialization of a historical city that deserves to be restored to its former glory and integrity. That’s because I guarantee you that the majority of these officials and their cronies will not be residing anywhere close to Hollywood when the crap hits the fan. But I do envision us cursing their names from the havoc they leave behind.

So please get involved right now before it’s too late. As mentioned in the post above, there is another meeting on April 17, 2012. This is your chance to get your 1-minute of fame. If enough of us overwhelm City Hall, create petitions, inform our neighbors and create a sizable movement, our voice will be heard! I also met with a few attorneys who will take legal action if the plan goes through, but they will need financial and active support from our community.

If like me, you love this neighborhood and would like it to be restored in a responsible and manageable way with the architectural/historical integrity and respect it deeply deserves, so that it may benefit its residents rather than the deep pockets of a few interested parties, I plea that you get involved ASAP!