Lawsuit over hillside home alleges back-room deals at LA City Hall

A proposed home for two Hollywood executives is at the focus of a legal battle that accuses Los Angeles land use officials of repeatedly flouting environmental and other rules. 

Crane Boulevard Safety Coalition, a community group represented by a veteran land use lawyer, is suing the L.A. City Council’s Planning Land Use & Management Committee and Ian Cooper and Rachel Foullon, executives for Monkeypaw Productions, which produced the 2017 film “Get Out.” The complaint alleges that the PLUM Committee wrongfully signed off on Foullon and Cooper’s proposal to build a 3,600-square-foot home at 464 Crane Boulevard, and that the approval is part of a long-standing pattern of approving homes that are too big for the area. 

The approval disregards PLUM’s own policies. In June, the committee gave a green light to the Wildlife Ordinance, which intends to stop construction of mansions on environmentally sensitive hillsides between the 405 Freeway to the 101 Freeway.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jamie Hall of Beverly Hills-based Channel Law Group, also serves as president of environmental group Laurel Canyon Association, which helped write the proposed Wildlife Ordinance. 

Political theater

The lawsuit alleges the committee did not use the same considerations when evaluating how a proposed mansion could affect a biologically and geologically sensitive hillside in the Mount Washington neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, which is a few miles away from the eastern edge of the area that the proposed Wildlife Ordinance aspires to protect. 

The suit also contends that PLUM has a pattern of ignoring neighborhood objections to projects. PLUM makes its decisions away from public scrutiny and prior to hearings on important projects despite being required by law to consider objections, Hall wrote in the suit filed in August. 

“In sum, the city’s heretofore, undisclosed pre-PLUM process is an elaborate dress rehearsal, and the public PLUM meeting is a cynical ballet performed by elected and appointed city public officials pursuant to a script written by the city’s bureaucrats. This is not normal,” the lawsuit states.

PLUM gave the 464 Crane project a green light in May, despite the plaintiffs alleging that the project had not complied with the area’s planning rules. The lawsuit requests that the PLUM Committee start a new application process for the project and conduct new hearings.

A representative for Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, whose district includes Mount Washington, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Developers named in the suit, Ian Cooper and Rachel Foullon, said that the focus on their project’s application was vexing.

“We are frustrated at being stuck in the middle of a lawsuit against the city’s processes, but are hopeful it can be resolved quickly and amicably, so that we can build the home we’ve worked long and hard for, and join the inspiring and creative community that is Mount Washington,” Foullon and Cooper said in an email. The Crane Boulevard home is the only house the couple has developed, Foullon said.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs claim the hillsides of Northeast Los Angeles enclaves Mount Washington and Glassell Park are too steep, and the streets are too narrow to support big homes. The Mount Washington and Glassell Park Specific Plan, which was enacted in 1993, demands restrictions on building big homes in the area.

The suit alleges that from 2011 to 2017, developers applying to build homes in the neighborhood respected planning rules on maximum home size. But because of developers’ lobbying, the city’s planning department and politicians often gave approvals to projects that were too big for the neighborhood. Planners stopped enforcing rules on floor plan ratios and examinations of how a proposed home would comply with the neighborhood’s specific plan’s baseline hillside ordinance. 

When objections are raised, council members and their deputies ignore grievances.

Back-room meetings

The lawsuit alleges that city council deputies confer and make decisions on deals before PLUM meetings, which is in violation of California’s Open Meeting Law. Councilmembers typically defer to the desired position of a councilmember in whose district a real estate project has been proposed. 

Through the application process for 464 Crane, the project’s advocates did not follow city rules for building on steep hillsides, according to the lawsuit. The complaint also alleges that the project’s developer misstated the size of the home in order to avoid an environmental safety study. The objections of the plaintiff were ignored throughout the hearing process, the suit alleges.

Before the May 2 PLUM hearing, Crane Boulevard Safety Coalition made an appeal to stop the project at 464 Crane. However, the plaintiff alleges that a deputy to Hernandez communicated with a deputy of PLUM committee Chair Marqueece Harris Dawson. Hernandez’s office requested that the appeal to the green light be denied. Hernandez’s office’s wishes were respected. In a May 10 meeting, the City Council approved the project. The lawsuit claims 150 home projects are pending in Mount Washington. 

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top