On December 16, 2014 the City Council approved a three-year contract to hire a panel of outside Land Use/CEQA Counsels including (1) Jenkins & Hogin, LLP; (2) Remy Moose & Manley, LLP; (3) The Sohagi Law Group, PLC; (4) Burke Williams & Sorensen, LLP; and (5) Meyers Nave to defend the City in land use, CEQA and Brown Act litigation. They also authorized the City Attorney, without the need for further Council approval, to employ individual firms to defend the City in Real Party litigation.
Historically Los Angeles has used its own City Attorneys to defend the City in land use, CEQA and Brown Act litigation. The frequency of these types of lawsuits has increased because the City has failed to adhere to the requirements of CEQA and the Brown Act. This failure has strained the capacity of the City Attorneys to provide CEQA advice and defend CEQA litigation impacting the City’s own public projects.
Land use entitlement approvals that are granted by the City include a condition requiring the developer to defend and indemnify the City in the event of Real Party litigation. The change of practice to exercise its rights to the defense and indemnification from developers has not been tested. The City could incur massive legal expenses hoping it will be reimbursed by developers. There is no guarantee that the expenses incurred will actually be reimbursed.
HERE IS WHY OUTSIDE COUNSEL IS BAD FOR THE PUBLIC
- The City should already have been requiring developers to pay for the City Attorney’s costs and time. The City should have kept track of those expenses, but instead gave developers a free pass for all these years. That is a scandal in and of itself.
- Developers can fulfill their obligation through paying for the City Attorney’s office to increase their staffing to handle things internally.
- Using outside law firms to represent the City will create an economic incentive for the private firms to file harassing motions and use other procedural tricks to increase their billings. The City, being indemnified by the developers, will have no reason to try to control or stop such abuses. The upshot is that community groups will face even more “scorched earth” tactics than already being waged against them.
- Using outside law firms to represent the City will allow these outside firms to learn confidential information, e.g., the City’s philosophy about settlement and other strategic issues, which these outside law firms — which also have a heavy practice representing developers — will use to benefit their developer clients, and hurt the public. The City’s proposed action is ripe for conflict of interest problems.
- Other conflict of interests arise because the outside counsel, being paid by the developers, will protect the developers’ interests, and might not encourage the City to settle or resolve issues, or take positions against the developers, if that were not in the best interests of the parties paying their fees. Again, economic forces will drive the outside firms to run up bills so that their profits are as high as possible. The result will be more harassment for community groups already fighting the government and well financed developers.
The solution to this dilemma is for the City to scrupulously abide by State law, stop granting faulty entitlements and avoid engaging in fruitless litigation against residents. The City should not spend another dime ganging up with outside law firms to defend environmental and land use entitlements that were approved improperly.
To read more details, go to CF NO. 14-1606 and 14-1438 below:
THE IL VILLAGGIO TOSCANO (IVT) PROJECT:
On August 28, 2013 over the strong community objections, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve the 325 residential unit Il Villaggio Toscano (IVT) project at Sepulveda Blvd. and Camarillo. The IVT developer received entitlements to build 325 multi-family residential units and 52,000 square feet of commercial with 1,206 parking spaces. Height of the buildings would be 82 feet. The gross floor area for the project would be 582,359 feet. The project adds 5,800 new daily car trips.
Attorney Robert Silverstein was hired by the Sherman Oaks Residents For a Safe Environment to protect the public interest. (Sherman Oaks Residents for a Safe Environment v City BS145096LASC). The lawsuit was filed against the City because residents in good faith believe that the entitlements granted by the City were invalid on land use, environmental approvals and Brown Act grounds.
Residents rightly objected to the traffic, noise, congestion, infrastructure damage and pollution that the massive 8-story, 325 unit apartment buildings would bring. The EIR was devoid of meaningful mitigation measures and contained many flawed conclusions. The lengthy document obfuscated traffic, congestion and infrastructure problems while going on at length about tangential matters ignoring mitigation measures that are required by CEQA. The EIR reached faulty conclusions claiming impacts were reduced to “less than insignificant” when in reality the impacts are significant.
Don’t Be Deceived: City Hall is In No Hurry to Stop Mansionization
LIVING IN LA-There are many lessons about city government that community activists can draw from 10 years of campaigning to curb the mansionization of Los Angeles’s single family residential neighborhoods. But, the most important lesson of all is that City Hall is in no hurry to halt the mansionization process. True, the City Council has adopted a General Plan and subsidiary Community Plans that are as clear as could be that the City’s official policy is to protect the character and scale of its residential areas. And, the City Planning Commission was even more to the point when it adopted its Do Real Planning document: stop mansionization. But talk is cheap. Even though many communities have repeatedly complained about shady contractors who demolish local homes in order to quickly build and sell spec McMansions, little has actually happened. The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO), adopted in 2008, and the parallel Hillside mansionization Ordinance (2011) are both deliberately toothless. As explained in CityWatch and now in the mainstream media, their laundry lists of exemptions and bonuses have permitted the very McMansions they were supposed to stop. So, does all of the media attention and local activism mean that the City is finally changing directions on mansionization? Will the Planning Department now clean up the defective mansionization ordinances and will the City Council then quickly adopt them? The answer is “not really,” and it was on full display at Tuesday’s (11/04/14) City Council meeting. Without taking any more public testimony, the City Council voted unanimously to approve Councilmember Paul Koretz’s motion to remove the loopholes from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, but with City Planning’s vague, convoluted, time-consuming work program. This approach involves drafting Interim Control Ordinances for nine neighborhoods requesting Residential Floor Area Districts and five neighborhoods requesting Historical Preservation Control Ordinances. Once adopted, these temporary ordinances could remain in force for only two years. Tuesday’s City Council vote does not create these 14 Interim Control Ordinances, it only instructs the Department of City Planning to prepare them. That means that City Planning must now determine the boundaries and zoning limitations for these areas. Furthermore, Councilmember Paul Koretz verbally requested a large ICO district for the greater Beverly Grove area. Its boundaries would be West Hollywood on the north, Wilshire Boulevard on the south, Doheny Boulevard on the west, and Citrus on the east. This area might include several other proposed ICO areas, but it still means that City Planning would need to determine separate boundaries and pro visions for the remaining 11/8/2014
Don’t Be Deceived: City Hall is In No Hurry to Stop Mansionization
Press Pause on Mansionization
Support an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) modeled on the Beverly Grove RFA
What the citywide Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) currently allows
Figures below are based on a 6,000 square foot lot.
- Base floor area ratio (FAR): 50% of lot size 3,000 sq ft
- 20% bonus for “green” building, articulated exterior walls, etc. 600 sq ft
- Attached garage not included in floor area calculation 400 sq ft
- Porches, patios, balconies, etc. not included in floor area calculation 250 sq ft
- Double-height entryways not included in floor area calculation 100 sq ft
- Maximum total floor area (this example): more than 72% of lot size 4,350 sq ft
What an ICO based on the Beverly Grove RFA Formula would allow
Figures below are based on a 6,000 square foot lot.
- Base floor area ratio (FAR): 42% of lot size 2,520 sq ft
- Bonus for detached garage: 6% of lot size 360 sq ft
- Additional 2% bonus for construction that incorporates a detached garage
and meets one of the following conditions: 120 sq ft
– Articulate exterior walls or
– Make second floor 25% smaller than ground floor or
– Reduce height to 20% below maximum allowed or
– Make both side yard setbacks at least 2 feet wider than minimum required
- Maximum total floor area (this example): 50% of lot size 3,000 sq ft
The Beverly Grove Model is sensible, smart, and successful. As a temporary solution, an
ICO modeled on the Beverly Grove RFA will allow reasonable development and stop
mansionization. Without it, developers will build houses almost 50% bigger.
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RESPONSES TO #82 PLANNING ISSUES DEBATE
Subject: Quit complaining and enjoy the opportunities
Sunday, November 16, 2014 10:40 AM
With a population of 3,884,307 Los Angeles is the second in population of any city in the nation. Population density is 8,282/sq mi. in the greater L.A. area. New York population density is 27,778.7/sq mi. Want to live in a city with a declining population consider Chicago where the population peaked at about 3.5 million people in the 1950s. Today’s Chicago population is about 2.5 million people. Or if you love So Cal weather consider Ventura County.
Quit complaining and enjoy the opportunities.
My data source is Wikipedia.
Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:28 PM
Subject: Response – Quit complaining and enjoy the opportunities
Mr. “DE” head is buried deep in the sand, sounding like a “profiteering developer” raking over Angelenos. The statistics you quoted from Wikipedia (not the census bureau) were estimates only based upon the 2013 Census Bureau not actual verified counts. Census calculations underestimate actual resident counts of a given area.
Mayor Garcetti in one of his recent speeches referenced approximately 4.5 million residents in LA City not including surrounding incorporated cities. Of course it does not take into account illegal immigrants, persons overstaying visas, newly transferred families, etc. Additionally, as thousands of units are built at an alarming rate it is for newcomers to the area as well.
Hence population counts underestimated.
People are clamoring to live in Los Angeles not Chicago. Comparing Los Angeles to NYC is comparing apples to orange including climate, topography, geography, land utilization, lifestyle and culture. Los Angeles is not NYC and we do not want to emulate NYC atmosphere, culture or lifestyle. Angelenos have our own identity that represents the Southern California lifestyle. LA City is spread out over 472 square miles and LA County is 4084 sq. miles, the Wild West and the necessity of the auto.
Natural resource availability limits population growth, Southern California can only support a number of residents. A major drought in California with Garcetti demanding a 20% reduction in water usage while thousands of additional units are being constructed is irresponsible. Mr. “DE”’ is proposing “toilet to tap” which is already used in Orange County and other cities to accommodate increased unsustainable population growth? Micheal Markus, OC water district — ”Our sources of supply are literally drying up”.
To accommodate more residents “toilet to tap” would be the next proposal politicians will be pushing after they have stripped Los Angles of its water. No way! Mr. “DE”’s response to, “Quit complaining and enjoy the opportunities” is outrageous and self serving. Enjoy the density, traffic, rolling blackouts, drought, brown lawns, horrific apartment complexes, lack of open space, lack of recreational areas (Weddington Golf), lack of parking and “toilet to tap” water. That spells the demise of quality of life for Los Angeles residents. Chasing property owners out of their hometown to accommodate developers’ financial interests is an “opportunity” for developers but a huge sacrifice for Los Angeles residents.
If you would like to share you opinion with others, please email:
If after reading the above, you may wish to send your comments to the following:
Michael LoGrande – Planning