8150 Sunset mega-project looms over neighborhood

Fix the City Sues Over Frank Gehry’s 8150 Sunset Mega-Development

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Fix the City, a neighborhood watchdog group, has sued the city of Los Angeles over its dubious handling of the 8150 Sunset mega-project, a highly controversial development proposed by Townscape Partners and designed by famed architect Frank Gehry.

Activists and residents have long decried that 8150 Sunset, a giant mixed-use development located at Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, is too big for the surrounding area, will ruin neighborhood character and close down a public street and will cause more traffic nightmares at a gridlocked intersection.

While L.A. City Council member David Ryu of District 4 gained some concessions from Townscape Partners, residents still believed 8150 Sunset was mightily flawed — and Fix the City has now filed a lawsuit. The City Council approved the oversized development in November.

In the lawsuit, Fix the City states that City Hall violated the City Charter and several state laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The suit also charges that the city’s Planning Department “acted as spin doctors for [Townscape Partners] by concealing information from decision makers and the public about the issues [Fix the City] identified in its appeals that presented serious legal problems underlying the project’s approvals. These are critical safety concerns. Closing a street in a fire district within an earthquake zone shows a callous disregard for public safety.”

And the lawsuit drops the bombshell that only “after the project’s approval was final were internal emails released that City staff had concerns about many of the issues raised in Fix the City’s appeals…including the improper vacation of a city street, improper use of a city parcel of land, failure to satisfy earthquake safety requirements and required implementation of CEQA mitigation measures to ensure adequate emergency response and traffic capacity. Planning staff ignored the concerns from other departments that the project could not be approved as presented without other discretionary approvals.”

Neighborhood activists have long contended that the city’s planning department works only on the behalf of developers, regularly ignoring residents’ concerns. Now, apparently, the planning department also ignores other city agencies.

It’s just one of many reasons that Angelenos believe L.A.’s planning and land-use system is rigged, unfair and broken — and why a growing, citywide grassroots movement is now focused on reforming that system through the ballot measure known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.

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