Judge Orders City to Rescind its Attempt to Change the General Plan

JusticeGraphicPublished July 17 in CityWatchLA:

THE CITY-On June 20, Fix The City, Save Hollywood, La Mirada, HELP and Attorneys for the City of Los Angeles once again stepped into Judge Allan Goodman’s Superior Court to deal with the now-defunct Hollywood Community Plan update.  More specifically, FTC and its fellow community groups were there to challenge what the City did in response to being ordered by the Court to scrap the flawed plan.

In February of this year the City was soundly defeated by the above coalition of community groups  when Judge Goodman ordered the City to rescind its new Hollywood Community Plan.

The City did rescind the new plan and reenact the old plan.  However, in the guise of complying with the Judge’s order, the City voted on April 2nd, 2014 to modify the General Plan Framework to make community plan monitoring and reporting discretionary.   The City Council even went so far in the Resolution they adopted to deal with the stern admonition from the Court to state that the intent of their action was  to “overrule and supersede” the writ and judgment of the Court. The judge was probably being very kind when he said that move was “too clever by half”.

But Judge Goodman did not stop there. He stated that the Resolution the City adopted was demonstrably arbitrary, capricious and without basis in law, that no reasonable person could conclude that adoption of the April 2ndResolution made the General Plan of the City of Los Angeles internally consistent but that the contrary was the case. Further he stated that the City’s actions constitute a misstatement and misapplication of the City Charter, state law and his February 11, 2014 Judgment.

However, one of my favorite quotes was, …see complete article here.

Judge Goodman’s Ruling

City Council to Discuss Defeat of Their Fatally Flawed Hollywood Community Plan Update

lacityhallByWendellCox

 

City Attorney Mike Feuer has sent a letter to the City Council requesting a closed session meeting to discuss the challenges to the City Council’s June 19, 2012, adoption of the Hollywood Community Plan Update (HCPU) and its environmental impact report.

Last month Judge Goodman agreed with the three challengers, La Mirada Neighborhood Association, Fix the City and Save Hollywood, that the Hollywood Community Plan Update was fatally flawed as a planning document. It failed to comply with CEQA, and CEQA Guidelines and was not consistent with the Charter of the City of Los Angeles, the General Plan Framework Element and other applicable laws. Continue reading

Rejecting Hollywood Densification

lacityhallByWendellCoxby Wendell Cox 12/24/2013

The city of Los Angeles received a stunning rebuke, when California Superior Court Judge Alan J. Goodman invalidated the Hollywood Community Plan. The Hollywood district, well known for its entertainment focus, contains approximately 5% of the city of Los Angeles’ population. The Hollywood Plan was the basis of the city’s vision for a far more dense Hollywood, with substantial high rise development in “transit oriented developments” adjacent to transit rail stations (Note 1). Continue reading

“Plan Bay Area” Will Drive Housing Prices Higher, Intensify Traffic, and Increase Air Pollution

sfDevelopment constraints will lead to unaffordable housing

The proposal’s regulatory overreach will have detrimental consequences for Bay Area residents and the metropolitan economy. The proposed Plan Bay Area would allow little or no new development beyond the urban fringe, where cities have grown naturally since the beginning of time. Similar, though less draconian constraints on urban fringe development have been employed for 40 years in the Bay Area.  The result has been to more than double house prices relative to incomes, making home ownership affordable only to the affluent. Even after playing musical chairs with the lives of seven million current residents and a million additional residents who could move here by 2040, Plan Bay Area says that people will drive cars just about as much as they do now.  But its critical to note that much of this traffic would be concentrated around the priority development areas, which would intensify traffic congestion and air pollution and its relative health impacts. Continue reading

The Tallest White Elephant in the World

WhiteElephantReaching more than a thousand feet into the air, The Shard was hailed as one of the wonders of the age when it was completed. Yet Britain’s tallest building is almost entirely empty, as its owners struggle to find buyers and tenants for its offices and luxury flats. As our picture shows, London’s 72-storey skyscraper is largely dark in the early evening, while the surrounding buildings are bright with office lights. Continue reading

Tower Blocks Should be Demolished

Tower-blocks-in-HackneyHigh-rise housing should be replaced by streets of terrace homes says Policy Exchange set up by planning minister.

Modernist tower blocks should be demolished and replaced with streets of terrace houses and low-rise flats that people actually want to live in, an influential Conservative think tank will claim on Thursday. Continue reading

Megacities And The Density Delusion

MegaCitiesMany retro-urban theorists maintain that high density is the key to urban prosperity. These theorists often point for justification to Santa Fe Institute research that, they claim, links productivity with density. Yet in reality it does nothing of the kind. Instead the study emphasizes that population size, not compactness, is the decisive factor.

Size does matter. A region is helped by the infrastructure that generally comes only with a large population, for example airports. But being big does not mean being dense. In fact the U.S. cities that made the largest gains in GDP in 2011 — Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and greater Detroit — are not dense cities at all. Continue reading

Rhode Island’s Tallest Building Will Soon Go Dark

superman-building

Rhode Island’s tallest building will soon be its most visible symbol of the state’s long economic decline. The 26-story Art Deco-style skyscraper, known to some as the “Superman building” for its similarity to the Daily Planet headquarters in the old TV show, is losing its sole tenant this month. No one is moving in, and the building, the most distinctive feature on the Providence skyline, will no longer be fully illuminated at night, if at all, its owner says. It’s a blow for the city and the state, which had 9.4 percent unemployment in February and has had one of the worst jobless rates in the nation for years.

Nicolas Retsinas, a senior lecturer in real estate at Harvard Business School, says 111 Westminster, as the building is also known, will be “the ultimate urban pothole.”

http://www.wbur.org/2013/04/07/superman-building-go-dark

 

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

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Stand With Hollywood Leaders – You CAN Make a Difference!

Many Community Leaders in Hollywood are fighting the City’s attempt to allow big-time developers to build high and wide on the already grid locked major streets you travel on in Hollywood. Developers, politicians, and lobbyists are salivating while plans are made to destroy the heart of the Hollywood we know and love and replace it with a soulless sea of skyscrapers.

In addition to being home to thousands of residents, Hollywood is the main entertainment destination for people in Los Angeles and for tourists from all over the world. However, this hosting burden of being the Entertainment Capitol of the World is immense and no other community in Southern California is equally challenged, except perhaps for Anaheim with its Disneyland venue.

Hollywood’s infrastructure is crumbling, and we don’t have enough services to support it! We don’t have enough resources to respond to the emergency needs of the current population.

Meanwhile, because of the City’s spending sprees, we have gutted the emergency response fund! Our lives and the lives of our visiting guests from near and far are threatened!

Will you stand by silent and allow this? Or, will you support Hollywood’s community leaders as they launch legal challenges to the life-altering changes that the current Hollywood Community Plan will bring?

Fighting costs money!

Don’t stand by while Hollywood is sold to the highest developer bidders. This is your chance to make a difference.

We need your donations! We need them now! Also, if you are willing and able to donate your time and expertise in this fundraising effort, we welcome that, too! You can either visit our website at savehollywood.org or you can send your tax-deductible donation to:

 

SaveHollywood.org
P.O. Box 3943
Los Angeles, CA 90078

Thank you for your interest and support in this very important cause.

The Team of SaveHollywood.org

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