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Valley Activists Getting Nothing but Pushback from LA Planning Commission

LOS ANGELES

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Valley Village has been a hotbed of proposed developments and activists who are focused on maintaining the character and affordable housing component of their neighborhood. Yet, it seems at every turn, the city council and development cronies are popping up to put obstacles in front of the activists and concerned neighbors. 

Back in May, I wrote about the Hermitage/Weddington project proposed by Urban-Blox. A 1940s apartment complex on Hermitage would be replaced with the neighborhood’s first and only four-story 43 unit apartment buildings with an unknown number of parking spaces. The project had been granted a density bonus and would have environmental impact, as well as eliminating existing rent control, according to Save Valley Village. Families who have been residing in the remaining buildings have been served with over eight eviction notices, according to the Save Valley Village website. 

On Weddington, a 1950s single family dwelling is in danger of being demolished by Urban-Blox, which per Save Valley Village, plans to replace existing homes on Weddington Street to make way for a new project that would bring more traffic, eliminate open space and rent control. Per Save Valley Village, Urban-Blox has “become known for purchasing existing rent-control buildings, evicting occupants, demolishing buildings, and selling.” 

The group has been attending South Valley planning commission meetings to address the Urban-Blox proposed project. A spokesperson for Save Valley Village shared with me, “Prior to the (July 14) hearing, we were so jerked around about how many copies we needed to submit, the deadline, not receiving notices. There are five commissioners, yet one office asked for 12 copies of the supplemental documents. A couple hundred dollars later, we bring those in and they ask where the 13th copy was! We could have brought 20 copies in and they would have asked for 21.” 

The representative of Save Valley Village adds, “The most disturbing part is how the documentation just sits there. We make sure to print our appeals and evidence in colored paper. This tells us if they are looking at it or reading it at the hearing, which they are not.” The representative notes that one commissioner “managed to take down a sandwich, a yogurt, and a bag of potato chips during the hearing. Clearly, this was more important than hearing the testimony of the residents and neighbors, all of whom had taken time off work.”  

Planner Dan O’Donnell, the representative notes, “has been recommending the Commission deny appeals since 2003,” deflecting information that shows noncompliance. Commissioner Rebecca Beatty addressed that the proposals dealt with “people’s lives,” while Commissioner Mathers voted to uphold the appeals. 

Both Mathers and Beatty “were not happy with the fact that the proposed project has eight inches between buildings, as well as proof that the applicants had lied several places on their application. The commissioners weren’t happy with removing rent-control housing. Mather’s had said that “price staggers the imagination” when they disclosed a sale price of over $600,000, off by $150,000 or so from their previous application and last public hearing.” 

The Save Valley Village website notes that Karo Torossian from Council Member Krekorian’s office attended the July 14 public hearing, “never letting his developer friends down with nothing but full support for their 28 small lot subdivision project that demolishes a chunk of Valley Village’s culture and history.” Save Valley Village has been collecting signatures for a petition to recall Council Member Krekorian. 

Save Valley Village and other grassroots groups throughout the city will continue their fight to maintain the integrity of their neighborhoods. With hope, council members and commissioners who seem to place roadblocks before concerned citizens will be replaced with those who listen.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

-cw

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