Martin Town Expo Center

Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment Sues L.A. City Council for Illegal Martin Cadillac Mega-Project

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment has sued Los Angeles over its approval of the hated Martin Cadillac mega-project — dubbed Martin Expo Town Center — proposed at traffic-jammed Olympic and Bundy. With just 12% of Westsiders in support of the hotly opposed project — and the 7,000 to 14,000 cars it will draw — L.A. City Council members accepted money from the developer, then voted to ram through Martin Expo Town Center anyway.

The Martin Expo Town Center mega-project will jam 757,200 square feet of commercial and luxury apartments, with a tiny set-aside for poor residents, onto land whose zoning allows only a much smaller building — and allows no luxury housing.

But voila! Philena Properties spent $759,121 on lobbyists to wine and dine City Council members and to cut a backroom deal. Then our tainted Los Angeles City Council voted to approve Martin Expo Town Center (Read about the Sea Breeze corruption scandal now unfolding at City Hall, to understand how money flows to the City Council.)

Residents of District 11 engaged in massive letter-writing, angry public meetings, and a yard-sign campaign opposing the illegal project, but won only tiny changes. The project backed by City Councilman Mike Bonin openly defies the Los Angeles City Charter, which bans dramatic changing of zoning to benefit a developer. (Again, see the Sea Breeze “spot zoning” corruption scandal.)

“We believe that the General Plan amendment is illegal,” says Xochitl Gonzalez, a member of Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment, “and that spot-zoning is illegal — and they enrich developers.”

In Los Angeles, developers give cash and gifts to the City Council, hold extensive ex parte backroom meetings with elected officials — and then, like magic, the developers somehow get the land-use for their property changed to whatever they want.

Of more than 500 residential units and 150,000 square feet of offices planned at Martin Cadillac, only 5% of the space will house low-income residents — a too-little, too-late concession developers resisted for years.

The $759,121 in lobbying that Philena used to influence the Yes vote by the LA City Council is a drop in the bucket compared to $30 million to $80 million in profits that will flow to Philena as it peddles its giant project instead of selling cars.

With strong support from Mike Bonin, the Council approved the project drenched in zoning exemption favors.

In October, Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment hired noted attorney Beth Dorris and sued, saying the City Council’s approval of a General Plan Amendment to enrich a single developer is illegal and that the City Council has, once again, utterly failed to obey the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Gonzalez, a member of the West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, adds, “The neighborhood was completely ignored during the planning process. For four years, we’ve been saying that this project is too big.”

In talks with Philena Properties, Gonzales says, the developer steadfastly refused to downsize, and Council member Mike Bonin allied with the developer.

“This project is exemplary of how the whole development process is designed in L.A. to not listen to the voice of the people,” says Gonzalez.

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