Saturday, June 28, 2008

OPINION: It’s STILL Too Damn Big!

By Doug Epperhart

Back in October 2005, I wrote a piece for More San Pedro commenting that the proposed 2,300-condo Ponte Vista project was too damn big. Trimmed by the developer to “only” 1,950 units, it’s still too big.

In the two-and-a-half years since I wrote that commentary, at least 16,000 area residents have signed petitions agreeing that adding 500-700 more homes on the site of the old Navy housing is enough.

The grassroots efforts of R Neighborhoods Are 1 were evident Thursday night, when a few hundred Harbor Area folks turned out to tell the Los Angeles City Planning Department they don’t want this massive development on our most crowded street.

To be fair, a few hundred Ponte Vista supporters, supporting yellow stickers, also showed up. I’m not sure the developer should get full credit, though, for the crew they bused in from a halfway house in Inglewood or the army of his lobbyists and employees adorning the auditorium.

A half-hour-long sales pitch by Bisno Development kicked off what turned out to be a five-hour-plus marathon of pro and con as rows of supporters and opponents took turns pleading for less cars or more condos.

The most important speech was given by Councilwoman Janice Hahn. Speaking immediately after the developer’s presentation, Hahn told the hearing officer that Ponte Vista was not the right project for the site across from Green Hills cemetery.

She said Bisno Development’s application to subdivide the property and amend the community plan should be rejected.

Hahn favors a “clean slate” approach in which the community and developer start from scratch and work to create consensus on what and how much should be built at Ponte Vista.

Unfortunately, Bisno Development has taken a different path, one that has been flawed from the beginning. Anointing people like Angie Papadakis and Louis Dominguez to represent the community was Bisno’s first mistake.

I think these folks are fine individuals, but I can speak for myself.

Private meetings with the chosen few does not constitute public process, nor does it engender trust within the broader community. The ongoing hard-sell tactics aren’t helping much, either.
Hahn’s community advisory committee met for most of a year trying to reach a compromise.

They learned two things: the city of L.A.’s Department of Transportation is unable to function in any meaningful way when it comes to serious traffic planning; and Bisno Development isn’t about to consider anything less than 1,950 units.

The hearing Thursday night proved one thing: there are a lot of people willing to turn out for something they believe in – or are paid to believe in.

Ultimately, I don’t think Ponte Vista will end up with a density equivalent to R-1 nor do I think 1,950 units will be allowed.

I agree with Hahn.

Let’s wipe the slate clean, start over and do it right. Let’s open up the process to the whole community.

People aren’t dumb. They know what they want and they know what’s needed. When asked, most of us are willing to give more and take less.

And we can buy our own lunch.
Doug Epperhart is a member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council governing board. He can be reached at

No comments: