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Judge rules against city’s Hollywood plan update

By Aaron Blevins, 12/19/2013

City officials may appeal superior court decision

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The Hollywood Community Plan update has been defeated in court, as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman ruled that the update was “fundamentally flawed” on Dec. 10.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman ruled against the community plan, which aims to put high-density development near subway stops. (photo by Edwin Folven)

Opponents of the community plan update, which sought to guide development in Hollywood while preserving neighborhoods and historic structures, are celebrating the tentative ruling.

“Everything will be thrown out because, as we argued for about three years and as Judge Goodman found, the city’s actions clearly violated the law,” said attorney Robert P. Silverstein, who represented the La Mirada Neighborhood Association, one of the plaintiffs.

Three entities — the association, Fix The City and SaveHollywood.org — filed lawsuits against the update in July 2012, challenging the plan’s population predictions and its ability to ensure that the city’s infrastructure can accommodate future growth in Hollywood. The judge issued one ruling for all three cases.

At the center of the lawsuits and the judge’s ruling was the city’s population estimates, which were based on Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) figures — not U.S. Census Bureau data.

The SCAG predictions stated that Hollywood’s population could increase to 250,000 people by 2030, whereas the Census showed that Hollywood was experiencing a 22-year decline in population. According to the opponents, the area’s population dropped from nearly 214,000 in 1990 to 198,000 in 2010.

In his ruling, Goodman stated that, “forging ahead in the processing of the [update], EIR and related documents in this case based on fundamentally flawed factual premises has resulted in a failure to proceed in the manner required by law.”

Silverstein agreed, saying that the population figures laid the entire foundation for the community plan update; therefore, analyses of the area’s infrastructure and housing were “distorted.”

“And they refused to correct it,” he added.

Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said the Census figures were released two months after the city had incorporated the SCAG population prediction into the update’s draft environmental impact report (EIR).

He said the tentative ruling was disappointing, but considered it a “fixable problem.” Gubler said his understanding is that the city should be able to incorporate the Census numbers into the EIR, and not reopen the entire debate again.

“In the end … it’s going to end up right where we are today,” he said, adding that the plan will call for increased density near Hollywood’s subway stops, just as it had originally intended.

Silverstein said he believes the tentative ruling will be finalized, thus invalidating the Los Angeles City Council’s approval of the update and the certification of its EIR. It is unknown whether the city will appeal, but Silverstein said it’s possible the city could pursue the community plan update with the new figures included.

“There’s always a fear that the planning department and city council march to the beat of the big developers, and disregard the interests of the affected communities,” he added. “What we constantly see is the city elevating the interests of wealthy politically-connected developers over the interests of the communities that the mayor and council members are supposed to represent.”

Jim O’Sullivan, vice president of Fix This City, said he hopes the city analyzes the judge’s ruling and redoes the EIR in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). He said the organization would like to see a plan that is good for residents and developers alike, and uses proper population figures.

O’Sullivan said Fix This City feared that the city would implement the Hollywood Community Plan update without identifying needed infrastructure upgrades — and without following CEQA — and then attempt to pass similar plans for West L.A. and the Wilshire area.

“We looked at it. We knew the infrastructure was falling apart,” O’Sullivan said, adding that the community plan update could also have impacted already-taxed ambulance services, fire stations and LAPD divisions. “We just didn’t know what would happen … so we got involved early. …We didn’t believe that it was sufficient, that it followed the law and it was going to be good for the residents in the area.”

He said all involved are waiting to see how the city will respond. In a statement provided last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti said simply, “We are reviewing the court’s decision.”

George Abrahams, president of SaveHollywood.org, said his organization also argued that the city council and mayor were essentially providing population figures to themselves, as the entire council and mayor are members of SCAG. He said the planning department was then required to use the SCAG numbers.

“It’s always them … doing it for themselves for their own benefit,” Abrahams said. “That whole scheme is gone.”

He said the judge ruled that a new EIR would be required for the community plan update. Beginning the process again would result in additional meetings and hearings, Abrahams said.

“You have to do the whole thing over. That’s our understanding of the whole lawsuit,” he added.

Abrahams said SaveHollywood.org will insist that the city include a downsizing option as a “reasonable alternative” in the update. He said the city upzoned a lot of areas for a population increase of 25,000 to 50,000 people, but the new update should rezone the area to match the its actual population. Doing so would affect height restrictions and floor-to-area ratios, Abrahams said.

Gubler said the zoning that was done as part of the update was “very modest” and was not “a huge upzoing of Hollywood.”

He said there is a “level of uncertainty” for individuals planning projects and for projects that are in development. The chamber president said developers may consider putting such projects “on ice.”

Silverstein said it’s possible that the ruling could affect projects in Hollywood, but he wasn’t sure to what extent they would be impacted. He specifically referenced the Millennium project, which he is currently fighting in court.

“We believe that it is another nail in the coffin of the incredibly irresponsible and potentially criminal Millennium Hollywood project approvals by the city council,” Silverstein said. “Because the new [update] has been struck down, we are looking into how that affects the overall Millennium Hollywood approvals. Of course, having an earthquake fault running right through the Millennium Hollywood site should have been more than enough to lead the city council to reject the Millennium Hollywood project  — that the mayor and city council have repeatedly violated the law and treated the public with disdain is unfortunately nothing new.”

He added that the judge ruled that the EIR was illegal because the city failed to analyze a reasonable range of alternatives to the plan and that the city failed to adopt the plan in a way that would have monitored its impact on infrastructure.

“We are very gratified that Judge Goodman issued such a detailed and thorough ruling analyzing the facts and the law in this case,” Silverstein said.

In a statement, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the plan was created by city staff and dozens of neighborhood volunteers who spent “countless” hours developing a road map to accommodate future development and mobility in the “heart of Hollywood.”

“I stand by the plan being challenged today,” he said. “It reinforces Hollywood’s role as an entertainment and job center. Additionally, the plan establishes lower height districts in appropriate areas, integrates new development into existing scale and protects hillsides from over development. If additional actions are needed in council to address the ruling, then I will provide that leadership. Any perceived or real issues with the plan can be fixed, and this ruling should not stop investment in Hollywood.”

 

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6 Responses to “Judge rules against city’s Hollywood plan update”

  1. Scott Zwartz says:

    The statements attributed to Leron Gubler, CEO of Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, exemplify the arrogance which he, Eric Garcetti, and Mitch O’Farrell habitually show for anyone other than themselves and their billionaire backers.

    Gubler thinks that they can stick in a few numbers and then re-issue the same EIR with no public participation. The questions I have for Mr. Gubler are:

    (1) Did you read the judge’s opinion?

    (2) If you read the opinion, why are you completely ignoring Judge Goodman’s statements that the city may NOT just plug in a new number and issue an EIR with no public discussion?

    This grand hubris of Gubler, O’Farrell and Garcetti has to stop. At a recent community meting, one of the Garcetti’s own supporters was lamenting that Garcetti is so dense that he still cannot comprehend that Hollywood has been losing population and not gaining population. “He has to stop saying the population is increasing.”

    HA, Garcetti does not care what the facts are nor does Garcetti care what is good for Los Angeles. Essentially, Garcetti hates Hollywood and wants to turn it into Manhattan West with all his mega-projects. The only way Garcetti could justify these huge projects is to lie — and the judge rejected the lies. What does Garcetti do? He repeats the lies over and over and over again.

  2. Jim Geoghan says:

    Your tax dollars did not go to build another playground, or library, or to pave potholes… none of that. Your tax dollars was used so the city could defend itself against these law suits – law suits the city could only lose!

    The city knew their information was out of date – but the council needed to push this plan through for the DEVELOPERS who shoveled money into their campaign chest.

    I was at City Council meetings where those who sued told the City Council “We will sure you, we will win, you will pay our legal fees!” AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.

    We cannot look to the City Council for justice, for truth, for what is right. We can only turn to the courts.

    We need City Council members who cannot be bought so easily.

  3. Bill says:

    Where does one begin? They just can’t stop lieing and lieing. This is a replay of the lies, misrepresentations and manipulations it took to get the illegal Hollywood Community Plan passed.Every point, problem, and detail brought up along the way, by so many,that they all ignored, including their own legal council’s recommendation they send the flawed thing back, were all addressed by this Judge and he decided IN FAVOR of THREE law suits that mentioned all the things they all ignored. His decision is compelling and pretty damning. These guys won’t stop..they think they can go in and tweak it? Who are they kidding?
    Garcetti escaped to a get away once again during a controversial issue.. this time to Australia..that is what garcetti does.
    He and O’farrel, both supported by Gubler’s Chamber PAC. Millennium funded the Chamber, Garcetti and O’farrel. Chamber hired Millennium’s law firm to fight the three law suits.. O’farrel is now Garcetti’s mouthpiece. Are we to believe anything this whole Millennium funded group says? They lied to get the thing passed.A JUDGE points out all the lies in it, and all the illegalities in it.. A JUDGE! And they cant stop lieing. What they will do to get this passed for their big developers who bought all of them.
    Gubler is lieing about the population rate. The Judge specifically said the current data WAS available BEFORE Council voted..
    Do they think everyone is stupid and no one will read the Judge’s ruling? They thought that was how they’d get the HCP passed..But they were wrong.
    A correction:The HCP never protected neighborhoods..that was one of the huge problems with it and why so many came out opposing it. Neighborhoods were not protected with regards to mitigations for traffic and certainly not for Infrastructure and Emergency Services..The LAFD pres. came out saying ‘people will die.. fires will burn out of control..we cant get to people now!” Garcetti’s response..’people don’t be afraid’ and went ahead and got it passed. Shame on city council who always voted his way, never reading anything.This arrogant group (O’farrel was nowhere around while this was going on so what is he talking about?) would like no one to know this. They continuously acted like there were no people this affected at all. They ignored and dismissed the thousands against it for all the reasons the judge mentioned. When no one listened there was no recourse but law suits..which Garcetti could have avoided but he refused to listen to anyone. No one was ‘protected’ here. That is a crock.They were protecting their political campaigns and careers.. Chamber was protecting itself because they were being funded (Diamond level donors) by Millennium. And most of the members live nowhere near the area impacted by the HCP. They continued to spew lies about crime being down in Hollywood at all the hearings..They bent over backwards to get the thing passed, and drew battle lines between them and the communities that are the foundation of Hollywood. They too, only cared about serving up Hollywood to developers like Millennium, and if the HCP was illegal,so be it.
    News Flash to O’farrell..city staff, volunteers, etc. all working hard on this..?? Here was the great outreach of The Dept. of Planning, and HOW this all remained UNDER THE RADAR… They ONLY sent information out to’those within a 500 foot radius of proposed changes” We are in a community of 250 homes!! and only a handful received any notification about the two HCP hearings. From neighborhood to neighborhood we discovered the same problem..MANY had never heard about the HCP..Most were not informed about the hearings. We begged mary richardson to send out to ALL in our community and she flat out refused and kept reiterating ‘we only had to send out to..500 ft. radius..and that is all we are sending out to..” No community could rally and unite under this lack of outreach in the time frame this all happened in.Then she and kevin keller were complimentd by City Council about all their outreach to ALL of Hollywood, while all those that knew the TRUTH squirmed in their seats. O’farrell, is reiterating the same script and the lies that The Plum Committee (all funded by Millennium) and other pro Millennium pro garcetti liers kept saying throughout the whole process. Did Garcetti hand him the script before he left for Australia? Does he have one single thought of his own? This LIE was how they succeeded in keeping the HCP under the radar. The first of the two public hearings we were given over 500 pages of material to absorb/ read and come back in two or three nights to speak publicly on this plan. Seriously.. We would have needed at least six months and good lawyer . This was such a criminal sham. And they knew what they were doing! They scheduled a follow up hearing the next month,the day before Thanksgiving. Seriously..
    I attend THREE Hollywood neighborhood council meetings..I never saw O’farrell’s face during this whole time..Not until later when he was running for garcetti’s CD13 seat. He was ensconced way east of this area so what is he talking about..AS IF he had anything to do with the communities most affected by the impacts of the HCP..It is nearly as bad as garcetti lieing about all the doors he knocked on about the HCP the day he got it passed… A group of us had one meeting with him and he stood us up, sent an underling and he told us he could not converse about the HCP..as he knew nothing about it. Knocked on doors? He went into hiding during this whole time L.A. Weekly had to chase him down for a comment after the Planning Commission voted to approve the HCP and again he lied ‘there is no specific plan..nobody is shoving anything down anyone’s throat” Puleeeze!The lies never end. O’farrell is filling his shoes quite nicely.
    So a Judge threw Garcetti’s baby, the illegal HCP out, he runs off to Australia and the rest still keep lieing .
    It will still move forward..
    Really? Says who?

  4. emma says:

    The Plum Committee (Reyes, Huizar, Englander) all funded by Millennium, met with the city’s legal council behind closed doors, at the second of two Plum Hearings, came out and announced they would send the HCP to City Council with a NO RECOMMENDATION. It was no secret the plan had many illegalities in it. Yet garcetti succeeded in getting city council to vote unanimously FOR IT. No one should be allowed to run for city council unless they pledge that they will READ things before voting on them! The Plum Committee HCP hearings (2 of them) are on YouTube..No one could make up what happened at these meetings, especially the first one..They obviously read nothing in The HCP..did not have a clue, yet they were about to decide on the HCP. Someone presented renderings of Millennium 55 story skyscrapers on Vine and it was the first they knew about this?? Reyes: “That can’t be accurate..Nothing that large could ever be built so close to The Capitol Records Building..(talk about putting one’s foot in one’s mouth!)..Dept. of Planning “yes, it can and it has been proposed” What planet were these guys living on? Ironically all three were funded by Millennium..Did they not know it? The Dept. of Planning tap danced around about how they EXcluded Cahuenga to Vine from the HCP, with regards to heights.. And so the barrage of questions began…’Why aren’t those streets in the HCP?” Can the streets be put back in the HCP”? What would have to happen for those streets to be included in the HCP”?? Uh OH.. More feet in mouths..Obviously they were not ‘prepped’..as the city conspired to reserve those streets for Millennium, so there would be no HCP restrictions..to assure if there were law suits Millennium would never be affected.. How could they not have been warned about this?
    By the second Plum hearing, which Reyes was going to continue this discussion at, since they could not figure out what was going on.. they had not one more question. They must have been told to shut up about it. Englander never even showed up. Huizar kept his head down throughout. It was obvious what was going on.And what should have been a nail in the HCP Coffin..legal told them ‘NO RECOMMENDATION”
    Then, Garcetti got his brothers (his sister,Jan Perry did not show up ) to all vote unanimously on a plan that was recommended by their legal council to be sent back. Wonder how all of those that voted the way garcetti wanted them to vote feel now.
    About the ‘outreach’ issue: Reyes would not allow anymore public comment at the second Plum Hearing based on the phony PR mantra from Hollywood Chamber, Dept. of Planning, Garcetti etc. kept spewing about all the ‘hundreds of meetings ‘ (outreach) that had occurred and how all of Hollywood knew about this. This script was quoted continually throughout at all hearings. When records were requested of The Dept. of Planning about these ‘hundreds of meetings’ they kept saying had occurred, they said that they had no records of them since they had not been planned by their office. So, where did they all take place? And why didn’t anyone know about them?
    It is very unfortunate that O’farrell is now making those same claims. Hollywood Chamber maybe had meetings?.. But Hollywood Communities? Where? They seem to be the lost hundreds of meetings that no one knew about or heard about.Maybe they were secret meetings?? And Reyes used the Hundreds of Meetings that had mythologically occurred as his justification (A Brown Act Violation) to not allow anymore public testimony at the second Plum Hearing. Because there had been Hundreds of Meetings and everyone knew about the HCP and everyone had their say..
    The speakers that got up and defended these Hundreds of Meetings the day this went to City Council were all part of the Hollywood Chamber and/or Hollywood Chamber PAC, supporting garcetti, and part of the Hollywood NC that is infiltrated with Board Members working for Millennium (but were not disclosing that as of yet)..The only NC out of seven that voted, to vote to support Millennium. And claimed their community all supported the HCP. A Community that does not attend meetings and most likely did not have a clue about the HCP. But they were all supporting Garcetti and pushing for his baby, the HCP…
    This was a conspiracy of liers at every level and just a tip of the iceberg of how the process was MIS handled to manipulate the passing of garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan. The Planning Dept. spinner of tales and concealer of the truth, has been hired by garcetti..and jan perry who may have realized she could not vote on The HCP since she would be running for mayor and it was extremely controversial and devisive, has also been paid back by Garcetti with a new job.
    The whole City Council should be scrapped and Garcetti and O’farrell should both be recalled.


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