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South L.A. Mothers Shut Down Insulting Open Space Hearing

In Fight Back, News, South L.A., Video by Ileana Wachtel

South L.A. mothers halted a city hearing on open space Saturday after city planners failed to involve the black community, held it the day of the huge Taste of Soul festival, and wanted half of the attendees to discuss “Culture & Community” instead of open space.

“Why doesn’t our community know about this open space hearing?” demanded a longtime activist and mother as City Planner Ken Bernstein delivered a stock presentation he gave in October at the Valley open space hearing in Van Nuys.

“We know ALL ABOUT culture and community here!” said another South L.A. activist and grandmother. “We came to talk about open space!”

LISTEN to the women shutting down the South LA hearing here, THEN ATTEND the Hollywood hearing Weds., Oct 25  6-8pm, Emerson College on Sunset Blvd.

City planner Michelle Levy insisted, “We’re doing the best we can,” but audience members immediately responded that City Hall has a massive PR apparatus. When Bernstein tried to continue the hearing, audience members insisted it be halted. One woman said, “[If] you continue with this meeting today, you’re going to write it off as official, and that’s the problem!”

Another said, “Did you hear the word NO?” At that point, Bernstein announced he was cancelling the hearing.

Chief City Planner Vince Bertoni promised a robust, public give-and-take to update the General Plan, which is a blueprint for making L.A. a better place while it grows. The Open Space Element is a critical section of the General Plan.

But instead, Bertoni’s failed oversight has resulted in a dysfunctional roll-out almost no Angelenos know about.

From Westwood to South LA, each hearing has grown more tense. Residents want to know why they’re asked to soak up half of their time off-topic, and filling out a grade-school level “survey.”

City Planners failed to set any hearings for the Eastside or Harbor Area at all, then got blowback, so they asked to be tacked onto a meeting called PlanCheck in Boyle Heights. Few Boyle Heights residents could attend.

Reviews have been withering. Sandy Brown, a Westwood Neighborhood Council member, said, “The planners were so off-topic I didn’t know what the hell was going on. They were obsessed with an unhelpful survey to pump up numbers proving their outreach.”

The failed outreach has only been outdone by city planners’ seeming ignorance of state law that spells out Open Space requirements, such as 1) protecting habitat for animals and plants; 2) an open space plan that considers faults, floodplains and other safety hazards, 3) preserving Native American sites.

Patricia Bell Hearst, president emeritus of Hillside Federation, said the Westside hearing, “was so pitiful. City Planners rushed past open space so fast I was embarrassed. They don’t enforce their own codes, so of course they ignore state law.”

Coalition to Preserve LA executive director Jill Stewart said people at the Hollywood event should “resist breaking up into tables without a microphone when LA is being turned into a heat island by lost open space, climate change, few parks, and the decimation of L.A.’s urban tree canopy.”