Wed, Sep

So, What’s Goin’ On With Highland Park and Their Land Use Committee?

EASTSIDER-Recently at the HHPNC (Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council) , something weird even by Northeast LA Standards happened.

With no public notice, Item 29 on their November 7 NC Council meeting proposed a total redo of their Land Use Committee. 

Right here in Northeast LA. 

Highland Park, like most of rapidly gentrifying Northeast LA, has recently had the usual land use issues, like “never met a developer I didn’t like,” or “liquor licenses are good for business.” You know, the usual kind of thing as our area becomes rapidly transformed into home for those who can afford $3000 a month for an apartment, or $850,000 and up for a small home. 

It was sort of like the legislatures “gut an amend” practice I have reported on elsewhere. And, by an advisory only Neighborhood Council, no less. 

The Plot Thickens 

Anyhow, a stakeholder brought this to my attention, so I fired off a Public Records Act request to the President of the HHPNC and showed up at their meeting. The exact language on their agenda was: 

“29. Discussion and motion for the Board to make changes to the Land Use Committee by appointing 2 co-chairs and 3 additional board members, and instructing the 2 co-chairs and 3 board additional members to appoint up to 5 new stakeholder committee members.” 

From talking to some board members as well as stakeholders in the audience, a couple of things became clear. First, what allegedly caused the Board to step in was that the land use committee had five board members and five other people on it. However, when one of the stakeholders ran for the Board and was appointed, that made six board members, a violation of the HHNC Bylaws. 

Lest you think this is innocent, however, it also turns out that the new board member, Yajaira Castillo, had offered to convert her position on the land use committee to that of an “alternate.” Situation solved. 

So why did the Board go through all these contortions to reconstitute the committee? I am told that the Executive Committee didn’t like the existing land use composition and wanted to reconstitute the whole land use committee to make it more amenable to the desires of the President, one Stephanie Maynetto-Jackson. 

While we will not know the truth of these allegations until I have received a response to my public records request (well after the publication of this article), another stakeholder sent me some information which would seem to demonstrate that DONE was brought in on the question, and that the Executive Committee chose not to take the advice of DONE. Which, if true, raises some other interesting questions. 

Parliamentary Playtime 

The other thing that raised my antenna was the manner in which the Chair handled the meeting. She decided to only allow one minute (to a total of 10 minutes max) for all public comments on non-agenda items. Legal, sure. Troop friendly, definitely not. 

Finally, with some 40 (that’s right forty) Items on the Agenda, the Chair bounced around as to which items should be dealt with and which weren’t going to be addressed. It will come as no surprise that it was clear that the Chair did not want to address Item 29, even though there was a fairly large contingent of stakeholders who were at the meeting specifically for that item. 

My personal take was that hot potato items with pushback were unlikely to be addressed at the meeting no matter what, and clearly the Chair was making the determinations. 

In the instance of the Land Use Committee matter, there was enough hell raised that the Board went beyond their already extended three-hour meeting and allowed a number of stakeholders to speak. 

Seems to me that my instincts were right and the motion to reconstitute the land use committee was deliberately to control which board members would get on, and how that majority would be able to control the appointment process for filling the other “up to 5” stakeholder appointments. 

A “hats off” to Caroline Aguirre for the tip that led me to the meeting. You gotta love Northeast LA Neighborhood Councils. 

The Takeaway 

Circling back to the beginning, it is impossible to understate the importance of a land use committee in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. After all, even though the Council offices (here Jose Huizar of CD14 and Gil Cedillo of CD1 fame) never met a developer they didn’t love, a pesky Neighborhood Council can be a loud fly in the ointment. 

Witness the 370-condo development right between the 5 and the 2 freeways in Glassell Park. With about 600 parking spaces. Unanimously rammed through the GPNC land use committee without a peep from the Board. You can find the Curbed article here.   

Taken together with a DONE representative “mandating” a training program (which he, himself, put together and presented to the Board) over in Lincoln Heights, and I start to wonder if the DONE staff are off the reservation. After all, Grayce Liu is gone, and with her the institutional knowledge, and her successor obviously has no clue as to the insides of the 99 Neighborhood Councils. Not her fault, she doesn’t have a background in our NC system going back to 2000. 

We shall see. So welcome to Northeast LA and stay tuned! 


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.