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Fighting the Speculators – Score One for the People

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ICTORY FOR THE LITTLE GUY-The proverbial battle has been won, but the war is far from over! One week ago, at the bimonthly meeting of the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, there was a unanimous vote for Historical Designation of the mid-century modern Fifth Church Christ Scientist building. 

Save Residential Hollywood, Inc. sponsored the application that was submitted on July 16, 2015 and it was ably shepherded by Charles Fisher, the noted architectural historian we hired. The designation now goes to the Planning and Land Use Committee for approval before being sent to City Council, which has 90 days to vote on designation. It’s a long process, but with small victories we are achieving our goal of saving the historic Church and preserving the character of our neighborhood. 

This great step forward would not have happened without the support of Councilmember Ryu and Supervisor Kuehl. Other supporters included: the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, The Hillside Federation, Hollywood Heritage, The Los Angeles Conservancy, Outpost Estates HOA, Upper and Lower Nichols Canyon HOAs, Spaulding Square HPOZ, Hollywood Versailles Tower HOA, Franklin Towers HOA, and the more than 1,500 people who signed our petition. SRH would like to send a huge “Thank You” to all who lent their support to our cause. 

Our success demonstrates the power of Vox Populi: united we can be heard and make a difference, even when the forces of City Hall and well-funded lobbyists are aligned against us. Unfortunately, fighting City Hall is very expensive. The speculator seeking to demolish the Church and rezone the land has already spent in excess of $275,000 on lobbying efforts through June 2015. And that’s just for their preliminary “lobbying” efforts. Going forward, they count on winning the war by outspending us and wearing us out. 

And make no mistake, this real estate speculator is prepared to go to the trenches because his return on investment would be colossal. The property was acquired at a bargain basement price of $13.2 million because it was zoned for medium residential use. The value will escalate when the speculation pays off and the property is rezoned CR-4 allowing unlimited height and almost unlimited density – as well as bringing in a commercial garage and establishments into what is now a purely residential neighborhood. 

The speculator banked on being able to reap obscene profits based on rezoning because he thought it was “business as usual” at City Hall. No doubt, prior to acquiring the Church, he was “assured” that rezoning was a fait acompli since the Mayor has never seen a development that is too large, too dense or too out-of-scale for the surroundings. 

Historically, Mayor Garcetti has even overruled the findings of his appointed planners when they don’t support out-of-scale development. This was true when he recently supported a 27-story skyscraper in Koreatown, rejecting the findings of his own Planning Commission which found the proposed development to be too large and out-of-scale. 

Our Attorney, Robert Silverstein, has won many victories on behalf of the “little guy.” The fact that the citizens of Los Angeles even need to hire an attorney (at our expense) to enforce building and zoning statutes that the City knowingly violates, is just one more weapon City Hall and its well-heeled real estate speculator cronies can count on. 

We are forced to do battle and win in the courtroom because City Hall is lawless. What kind of cynical and corrupt government do we have that knowingly breaks the law because it counts on the inability of its citizens to fund expensive court room battles? In this Wild West atmosphere, where any outrageous zoning change is available for the right price, why shouldn’t a real estate speculator take a bet on obtaining a rezoning, knowing the odds are in his favor – and knowing that his lobbyists have greased the wheels at City Hall and that city residents have no recourse other than mounting an expensive legal battle? 

It’s a latter day “Pacific Boss Tweed” leading a corrupt City Hall for the benefit of lobbyists and big money land speculators. Adding insult to injury, we the tax-paying residents, pay for lawyers used by the City to defend its illegal actions which inure solely for the benefit of real estate speculators.  

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Our opposition seeks to trivialize and demonize us by calling us “NIMBYS.” This is an epithet which is the last refuge of know-nothings with no cogent defense for their land grab. Are we NIMBY’s because we don’t want an additional 410 apartment units on a corner that is already rated “F” by every recent traffic analysis? Are we NIMBY’s because we care about emergency response times in our neighborhood when Franklin Avenue is reduced to a parking lot? Furthermore, are we NIMBY’s because we care about maintaining views of the iconic Hollywood Hills as part of the heritage of Los Angeles -- one we want to leave for future generations? 

Mayor Garcetti and his band of land speculators are the real NIMBYs since their own homes enjoy protective zoning. It’s ironic how they want to force residents onto bikes and busses by putting already congested streets on "road diets," but then prowl the streets in SUVs paid for by our tax money. 

Meanwhile, they obfuscate the issue, claiming that their actions are necessary because of the “housing shortage.” Conveniently, they omit analysis of what the actual shortage is…and exactly what is being built. There is no shortage of $3000 a month studio apartments, which is what market-rate developments are providing. There is a shortage of AFFORDABLE housing for working and middle class people and for seniors living on fixed incomes.   

Our fight is your fight because if City Hall and the real estate speculators suffer enough defeats, perhaps they will start following the law rather than attempting to build their lucrative overly-dense developments on the breaking backs of neighborhoods and their residents. 

We can tip the odds in our favor but success will take money as well as volunteers to get the word out. Help us win this fight on your behalf. Please visit our website and donate today so we can continue to be your voice and protect all of our neighborhoods. 

But first -- take a moment to savor our victory before the Historical Commission last week!  

(Helen Berman and John Campbell are community activists and represent Save Residential Hollywood.   They can be contacted at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 78

Pub: Sep 25, 2015

 

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