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Thursday, December 24, 2009

JANUARY 6TH IS THE BIG HEARING ON THE HIGH-RISES!

As you may know, the L.A. City Council will vote on the Hughes Center's proposed conversion of 600 apartments into 600 condominiums this Wednesday, December 10th at 10AM at L.A. City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, in the third floor city council chambers. Unless you want to get wet and gouged for high parking fees, you don't need to attend. I can handle giving the developers and their high-priced attorneys fits by myself. (UPDATE: the council on December 10th voted to extract 10 affordable units out of the project--not much out of 550 units--but the real battle is the local hearing on January 6th). READ ON:

These two new towers, 7 and 18 stories, are part of the remaining 4 lots in the project located in the triangle between the 405 freeway, Sepulveda blvd. and Howard Hughes Parkway.What I really do need your help in is coming to the second hearing, which is for the up-zoning of the Hughes Center. This is a permit to let the developer nearly double the size of what they are currently allowed there, in order to build an 18-story condo tower. They are seeking to increase the rights on another parcel from 4 stories to seven stories, all without an EIR or even admitting that these towers are an "upzoning". If this reminds you of our victory a few years ago over Playa Vista Phase 2, it's because it's the same issue: falsely stating the starting point/environmental baseline to make it appear that what the developer is seeking has no environmental impact.

This hearing is in West L.A., by the West L.A. Planning Commission,on Wednesday, January 6, 2010, after 4:30 PM at the Henry Medina city building at Sepulveda and Exposition Blvds., 11214 W. Exposition, second floor Roll Call Room.

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A LEGAL UPDATE:
I spent the weekend reading all the crucial documents (in between my law school studies, of course!) and I found a killer paragraph in the project's "development agreement" that's going to make our lawsuit, if this project is approved, a slam-dunk victory against the forces of greed and over-development.

The problem for the Hughes Center is that the clock is ticking. They have 4 lots left, which total around 7 acres, out of the 69 acre project. While they are tangling with the neighbors, in two years their rights to develop the project will be cut in half. This is due to the fact that their development rights are part of a "development agreement" which they essentially bought from the City Council in 1986, and which was OK'd only days before voters passed Proposition U by a 2-1 margin. Proposition U cut the zoning for most commercial properties in the city by 50%. What the development agrement did was insulate the Hughes Center's zoning from the voter-initiative. But when the development agreement expires in November of 2011, the 1 million square feet that the Hughes folks want to build drops to 500,000 square feet, as they will now be affected by Proposition U.

This confirms my feeling that something was "up", which I got after meeting with the owners of the project and their attorneys and Bill Rosendahl's staff on November 9th. After I explained to them how we were going to beat them in court, with two lawsuits in a row we are planning, their attorney Allan Abshez said they were willing to talk about cutting the building heights as part of a bid for an "extension" of the expiring development agreement. Abshez explained that if they could have "flexibility" in the types of uses on the remaining parcels, which are currently limited to office and residential space, and they were instead also allowed retail and medical office space, they would "consider" keeping the buildings to 4 stories.

After reading the development agreement, I can understand why Abshez floated this trial balloon. Due to the speedy way this project was rammed through the city's bureacracy in 1986, the development agreement left a big opening for us to attack their plans even for 4 stories there. I won't go into our latest discovery now, but rest assured, this developer has big problems!

You can read about the long history of developer-deception and political-payoffs (er-campaign contributions) that led to how the Hughes Center was changed from a low-rise, 1 million square foot office park into a 3 million square foot Century City-like project, while at the same time the city folks and developer swore to us that they were actually cutting the size of their project rights, not increasing them. This is all posted in gory detail at http://nomorehughes highrises. blogspot. com

In legal terms, what this means is that a windfall gift to a developer was falsely described as a gift to the community. This really pissed off the Appeals court when Playa Vista tried it, as State law is really clear that when developers lie to the public, the developers will lose.I hope to see everyone at the hearing on January 6th!

Rex Frankel

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