Mayor Meeting

A Broken Planning and Land-Use System Is Destroying Los Angeles Neighborhoods, Say Residents

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Residents from across Los Angeles detailed yesterday how a broken planning and land-use system is destroying L.A. neighborhoods — and why reform is desperately needed. They spoke to a crowd of reporters at a press conference outside L.A. City Hall before meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti, delivering him a letter signed by numerous community leaders that reminded the mayor to follow through on a promised reform plan.

“L.A. city’s planning process is broken,” said Debra Hockemeyer, vice-president and treasurer of Brentwood Hills Homeowners Association. “It needs an overhaul from top to bottom.”

Hockemeyer and other Westside activists are fighting a 516-residential-unit mega-project known as Martin Expo Town Center on Olympic Boulevard and Bundy Drive. The Westside is already choked with traffic, activists have noted, and the over-sized development will create 16 gridlocked intersections — but city officials have shown little, if any, interest in downsizing Martin Expo Town Center.

Debra Hockemeyer, in red dress, speaks outside City Hall

Debra Hockemeyer, in red dress, speaks outside City Hall


Grace Yoo, an attorney and co-founder of the Environmental Justice Collaborative in Koreatown, said, “We, the residents, are tired of how the city ignores existing zoning laws.”

Yoo and other activists are battling a 27-story luxury housing skyscraper proposed for a low-slung, working-class community in Koreatown that a city planning commissioner once deemed “wildly inappropriate.” Yet Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council approved the project, which came with a General Plan amendment and height district change.

“The developers know how to get it done,” said Yoo, referring to how developers spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in high-priced lobbyists and campaign contributions to woo politicians and city agencies for rule-bending, spot-zoning favors.

In North Hollywood, neighborhood activists are fighting a 732-residential-unit mega-project known as NoHo West at 6150 Laurel Canyon Boulevard that’s proposed for a low-slung, middle-class neighborhood. Local residents believe that the community’s character will be destroyed, and they’ll be overwhelmed by gridlock traffic.

The developer wants to override neighborhood protections and seeks a zoning change and other city approvals — and city officials have shown little to no interest in residents’ concerns.

“It’s extremely out of scale,” said North Hollywood resident Kat Curry, noting that city officials must stop “making it up on the fly with planning.”

Kat Curry, in sunglasses, at City Hall

Kat Curry, in orange shirt and sunglasses, at City Hall


Damien Goodmon, founder of Crenshaw Subway Coalition, is battling the gigantic Cumulus mega-project proposed for South Los Angeles at 3321 S. La Cienega Boulevard. The developer wants to build a 30-story luxury housing skyscraper in a working-class community and seeks such spot-zoning favors as a General Plan amendment, zone change and height district change.

Goodmon said that spot zoning in South L.A. and other lower-income, working-class neighborhoods will fuel citywide displacement of longtime residents. He said of Cumulus, “It disrespects the community’s interests.”

Numerous community leaders agree with Goodmon, Curry, Yoo and Hockemeyer.

Former L.A. Mayor Richard Richard Riordan; Skid Row activist Rev. Alice Callaghan; Westlake activists Gustavo Flores and Manny Flores; Christine and Gareth Kantner, owners of Cafe Stella in Silver Lake; West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council board member Xochitl Gonzalez; and numerous others signed a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti, reminding the mayor of his April 2016 promise to reform the city’s broken planning and land-use system. The mayor and City Council have yet to do anything of note.

However, the Coalition to Preserve L.A., which sponsors the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, is poised to drop next week far more than the requisite number of citizen signatures to place the reform measure on the March 2017 ballot. In previous polls, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative has received huge support from Angelenos.

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