Friday, April 10, 2009

Panel Says No to 1,950-unit Ponte Vista

Staff to Draft Plan B

Pro-development union workers wore orange shirts and project opponents wore red to signal “stop” at the Thursday hearing.

The L.A. City Planning Commission on Thursday turned down the developer’s proposal for a 1,950-unit housing complex on Western Avenue, instructing staff to work with the developer and the community to make another recommendation in a few months. The key issue is the size of the development. City planners favor 775-886 units, while the developer is proposing 1,395.

View the news reports, pictures and analyses here:

Daily Breeze story and blog post with more quotes and “drama”
Los Angeles Times
Ponte Vista blog
Commentary by community leader Doug Epperhart


Anonymous said...

There were many excellent points made at the City Planning Commission that were not mentioned in the newspapers. Here are a few items that stood out while I attended the hearing.

Deputy city attorney indicated State law (Senate Bill 1818) that gives certain development rights to applicants – density bonus. Propose waiver would attempt to buy not only this developer, but any future owners of the property. A concern as to whether the waiver would be enforced. Try to enter into that- there would just be no certainty. Also if you (Commission) do it through a development agreement. These typically freeze laws that are in existence at the time the agreement is entered. Deputy city attorney was not sure if can use this as a route to do this.

Commissioner Michael Woo raised a concern about the portion of this project which is a gated community. In the last 3 ½ years that he has been in the Planning Commission, Woo thinks he has not voted for any gated community. He has concerns about this because at least in other situations gated communities are kind of anti-social act. Commissioner Woo feels uncomfortable with this aspect of the project.

Commissioner President William Roschen raised concerns about the traffic and Environmental Impact Report. One of his biggest concerns is he reads the EIR. The senior housing is the most significant mediator in terms of that housing issue. Roschen thinks that probably is not appropriate. Some senior housing, but to depend on it solely for the mitigation of traffic, he thinks it could be a compromise.

Ms. Middleton said “what we really need is lower income housing, what we really need is affordable housing in a range that folks that make $10.00 to $15.00 an hour can afford.”

Mr. Doug Tauski said he is an example of a healthy senior citizen. I’m living in a nice 30 foot motor home at the moment. I’m living on social security because of the financial downturn. I’m looking for roof over my head. I’m looking for a job. Tauski challenge either the principal parties at the Ponte Vista or the union to explain to him how he is going to be able to afford to live in place like this, for affordable senior citizens or how he can get a job the project.

It would be wonderful for the Ponte Vista outreach team to inform the public as to how much the least expensive units will costs because many people are not aware of the deference between low income housing, affordable housing or workforce housing.

San Pedro Chamber of Commerce said...


The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce is pleased that the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission instructed the Planning Department to work with Ponte Vista in developing a mutually acceptable plan that maintains the senior housing, workforce housing, and many of the benefits promised in prior plans. The Chamber has supported a mixed-income; mixed-use concept from the beginning of the planning stages for Ponte Vista and is pleased that the project will move forward.

We would like to recognize and thank Councilwoman Janice Hahn who set a positive tone in her opening remarks at this hearing. She made it quite clear that she was interested in further pursuing the revised plans submitted by the new project developer which lowered the number and mix of units to a plan that will be more acceptable to the residents and stakeholders of the Harbor Area. Her comments addressed key issues while recognizing the importance of moving this project forward. Her leadership in this regard was encouraging to all of the proponents who supported diverse housing needs and spoke during the hearing.

We look forward to working with the development team as the revised plan is developed and presented to the City Planning Commission in four months.

Camilla Townsend
San Pedro Chamber of Commerce

Anonymous said...

Nobody’s Listening … Still

By Ken Draper

In 1992, then City Councilman Joel Wachs introduced the neighborhood council concept. He was running for Mayor and made the idea of neighborhood empowerment a key plank in his campaign.

He said then that a system of councils was needed because the populace had become cynical about their government, felt disengaged and believed that no one was listening to them. At least no one was hearing them. Seventeen years later … not much has changed. That is … on the government side.

Neighborhoods are finding their voice. And finding ways to collaboratively turn it into a citywide sound of resistance. But the voice of choice is rapidly becoming the court room … not Council Chambers. The most recent example was Judge Thomas McKnew’s invalidation of the City’s so-called “densification” ordinance. The result of a citizen lawsuit.

State law SB 1818 mandates that California cities create their own ‘1818’ ordinance to allow density bonuses to developers who provide a percentage of affordable housing units in their developments.

Despite a public outcry, LA produced a bill that went far beyond the state mandate … in some cases allowing up to 300% of the bonus required by state law.

When they couldn’t get City Hall’s attention the people sued … asking that the City’s version of the ‘density bonus’ law be brought in line with that of the state. And a judge agreed. (CityWatch report). Noel Weiss story on Judge’s decision elsewhere on CityWatch home page.)

The list of citizen court actions to get City Hall to listen is growing. Some months ago when the Mayor chose to go around the request of Westsiders to conduct an Environmental Impact Study before implementing his Pico East-Olympic West traffic plan a coalition of community groups went to the bench and ask for help. The Judge ruled in their favor and ordered the Mayor to do the impact study.

Earlier this month a Superior Court Judge issued a tentative ruling ordering the LA Department of Water and Power to give back $30 million to customers whose water bills were used to help balance the City’s budget. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer folks … and a bunch of other citizen and businees groups had opposed the practice of transfering dollars from water bill payments to the City’s general fund. Said it was a secret tax.

Two citizen suits are in progress … and headed for court … charging the City with breaking the law by not issuing … as required by code … Annual Infrastructure Reports so that decisions on the millions of builing permits can be made with contemporary information. The last Report was issued more than 10 years ago.

There are some who wince at the concept of taking legal action to get City Hall’s attention. But it’s hard not to argue that City Hall has brought these law suits and their costs and the delays on itself by patronizing LA’s citizens instead of listening and involving them in the process that is government of, by and for the people.

Former Planning Commission President Jane Usher was last year, as the Times reported, deeply unhappy with the City’s plan to give real estate developers new concessions ... taller buildings, less open space, more housing units … for any project that had even a small amount of affordable housing. She fired off an email to neighborhood activists spelling out ways they could challenge in court.

Usher, no longer on the Commission, was a participant in the citizen suit that sent the City’s ‘density bonus’ ordinance back for a remodel.

As my Mid-City grassroots counselor Kieth Bright reminds: like the law suits or not, these frustrated LA citizens didn’t start by making a call to a lawyer. They tried to make the system work first … pleading, shouting, urging, calling, emailing and making endless trips to City Hall to try to get help or use their minute or two of public comment time … before they went in search of other ways to be allowed to play in the process that is their city government . Instead, they were played by their city government.

The scary part for politicos is that the citizenry are learning how to play and the courtroom is one strategy. The ballot box … as the defeat of Measure B recently demonstrated is another.

More citizens are making Publc Records Act requests.

And soon they will figure out how to generate their own ballot measures and legislation. Won’t that be interesting?

Looks like Councilman Wachs knew what he was talking about all those years ago.

But of course no one was listening.

City Watch LA

Just4fin said...

As Yogi Berra said, "It's not over, till it's over. Same can be said for the proposed Ponte Vista development process. While the Commission heard emotional and impassioned pleas from proponents, it also realized that the facts of the matter needed to be addressed to insure that whatever is finally agreed upon to be built would be a project that would fit the community, the location and not become a nightmare legacy in the future.

As we have said, it's all about density. The planning department thinks that 775 to 885 units would be a better fit if a specific plan is adopted. The developer rolled out a new plan for 1395. Needless to say, they are miles apart and the Commission advised the developer that given the special needs and limitations of the site, that a lower number would be appropriate. They urged them to work with the Planning Department to that end.

We continue to have a say in the matter as to what is finally considered and adopted. The Commission also denied certification of the original EIR and it will require re-circulation based on the new project and conditions that now exist. This will allow us to insure that methods and data are used that are site specific which was a concern of the Commission.

It is often expected that people have to compromise to move things forward. But be assured, that we don't have to compromise our quality of life to satisfy the need of a developer to build a huge project in order to make a profit.

In the case of Ponte Vista, smaller has always been better.

Anonymous said...


A former commission president slams L.A.'s planning director as a developer sellout


Published on April 29, 2009

It’s been a bad season for L.A.’s City Planning department. Recently, big sections of a city law to encourage density and affordable housing were struck down by Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew. And now a leading civic figure is alleging that City Planning Director Gail Goldberg, who pushed the pro-developer law, is little more than a handmaiden to developers.

L.A. Weekly