DEEGAN ON LA-The alignment of well-organized community activists, an egregious land use proposal, a councilmember that “got it”, and some guerrilla tactics all combined a few days ago in a victory for hillside residents and wildlife when a proposed 132,000 square foot hillside party house was scratched by the developer, following an outpouring of objections from the community. The Michael Scott Party House in the hills will not be built.
The project was unable to get the support of Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) who, after carefully listening to his community of outraged constituents, called on the Building & Safety Commission to deny the haul route permits and requested that the applicant withdraw his project as proposed. A spokesperson for Councilmember Koretz told CityWatch that “developer Michael Scott did indeed subsequently withdraw his application.”
Many factors contributed to this victory and provide a “how to” manual for communities in our city faced with rampant out-of-control development that’s happening practically everywhere. For a while, especially in Hollywood, it took expensive litigation to stop a developer.
Now, communities are becoming more aggressive and emboldened in taking the lead in the fight against developments that they feel do not fit in their neighborhoods. Many success stories are being written. More will come as the developer-politico axis realizes people are angry with what they see as the ruination of their neighborhoods.
The successful activist model created to stop the party house relied on a coordinated community campaign that sets a good example.
The key is to be tactical with your strategy to stop a project, or modify it, so it fits into your vision of your community. Steps you can take that this and a few other recently successful community preservation campaigns have taken include:
- Get on record with your councilmember immediately. Find him/her at this link and send a letter or email stating your objections to the development project. Every letter and email counts. Swamp your councilmember with community objections. Say what you are against specifically, not just NIMBY (not in my back yard) complaints.
- Learn the “Council File” number at this link so you can its track progress through the city system. Go to the hearings and make public comment.
- Learn the City Planning route the project is taking at this link. Find out the code(s) assigned to the project, and what they mean; go to hearings and speak out. The public is always allowed public comment time at public hearings on zoning and in City Council committee and full council meetings.
- Know some city planning vocabulary.
- Make contact with several key staff at your council office. Know who they are and be sure they know who you are and why you are contacting them. Who to know at your council office: the councilmember, the chief of staff, the planning deputy, the deputy that covers your community, and the press deputy.
- Register to vote at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration and remind your Councilmember that you are a constituent that has a vote, and the action he or she or she takes on the project may influence how you vote the next time they are up for election. Now is a watershed time for this tactic: half the city council members are up for election in the March 2017 primaries. If you live in an odd-numbered district, your council member will need to campaign for re-election in the next several months and will need your vote to win. Elections are won by very small numbers of votes which magnifies the importance of each vote. It’s powerful leverage when an organized community gets together on an issue and says to their councilmember “we won’t vote for you unless…”
- Open a Facebook page to share with supporters.
- Start a Move On petition
and adjust the settings so each time someone signs the petition and enters a comment that information automatically arrives in the email box of who you select to receive it. Include the council member, the chief of staff, the planning deputy, the deputy that covers your community, and the press deputy. The constant reminder that there is organized opposition makes an impact.
- Go to your neighborhood council and make public comment at the land use committee meeting and at the board meeting. If the land use committee has not scheduled a hearing on the project you object to, request one. Most NC’s try to protect their neighborhoods and may be on your side. They are a great resource to get you “into the loop.”
- Be inspired. Each of these projects became a victory for the community activists that campaigned to protect their neighborhoods: Los Flores; Edinburgh; Hillside Party House and Harry Potter.
- Contact a reporter at your local paper and give them your story. Media pressure helps bring your message not only to the developer and the council office, but to your greater community. Editors like local stories. David v. Goliath themes capture attention.
- Never back down. Tennis legend Bjorn Borg, a former world No. 1 tennis player widely considered to be one of the greatest in tennis history, with 11 Grand Slam titles that included 5 consecutive wins at Wimbledon, revealed a secret of his success when he said, “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball.”
Good luck, warriors!
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.