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City Council's Real Estate Development Racket Exposed in Bombshell Court Filing... or Eunisses, You Didn't!
We write in haste because holy cats, does all of Los Angeles need to see the Petition for Writ of Mandate that was filed with the Superior Court yesterday by CEQA super lawyer Jamie T. Hall!
[update 9/6/2023: The Real Deal has picked up this story]
In this 59 page document—prepared on behalf of the aggrieved residents of Crane Boulevard in the Mount Washington neighborhood, who are rightly concerned that a huge new house on the bare, steep east hillside on their narrow residential street could put them in danger in the event of a landslide or earthquake, but whose appeal was rejected—Hall blows the lid off the conspiracy that preservationists have long suspected was operating openly among senior staff and elected officials in Los Angeles City Hall.
Although there are some loud YIMBYs on the internet who, with no knowledge of this unique location, will tell you that the Crane Boulevard residents are bad people for questioning new construction, in fact they’re acting out of reasonable, prudent experience. Instead of listening and learning, city staff are actively working against their interests. As Hall states in his Petition, this is not normal.
Here’s what the neighbors know: after heavy rains in February 1969, Rainbow Avenue, a nearly identical narrow hillside street a few blocks away, collapsed and slid 100 feet down the mountain, taking many homes with it.
The displaced residents formed an advocacy group and lobbied Washington D.C. to enact policies that would make their fellow citizens safer. The Rainbow Avenue Disaster Committee would be horrified to know that, 54 years later, the greatest threat is coming from L.A.’s own elected officials.
But it is. According to attorney Hall’s Petition, there is no such thing as a properly noticed public hearing or a fair assessment when a high dollar real estate project is proposed. Instead, council staff engage in illegal discussions in person and on shared documents hosted illegally on cloud storage devices, to ensure that the personal wishes of their boss are conveyed to the PLUM Committee—before that body meets.
And when they meet, the fix is in. The PLUM Committee’s hearings are entirely scripted by staff—including the pre-arranged votes that conform to the wishes of the councilmember in whose district a project is proposed. In the case of Crane Boulevard, that councilmember is self-described “reformer” Eunisses Hernandez, but they all do it.
The existence of a script perhaps explains why, unlike other city meetings since 2020, PLUM hearings have been conducted with audio only for members of the public tuning in remotely, even as stray references by meeting participants made it clear that they are on video and can see each other.
After listening to a number of PLUM hearings, it was obvious to us that something screwy was going on. But without a video stream, it was hard to tell exactly what. So last November, we filed a public records request for the video of the PLUM hearing where Mitch O’Farrell engaged in anti-democratic shenanigans around his failed landmark nomination for The Complex at 6480 West Santa Monica Boulevard; the city unconvincingly claims no video record exists. (Our live narration of this demented PLUM hearing is on Facebook and Twitter.)
And now we understand why they turn the public cameras off: PLUM participants are doing a table read of a script prepared by their staff, and as anyone who has watched L.A. River Follies knows, Mitch and his fellow council crooks can’t act.
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Hall writes: “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.”
Hall’s Petition describes, but does not reproduce, smoking gun emails which the City Clerk’s office apparently released accidentally, and which the City Attorney’s office now seeks to claw back. (Funny how this keeps happening—makes us wonder if there are people in City Hall who are engaging in their own quiet form of activism through document release. If so, we thank them for trying to keep the city honest, and hope they will stay safe and keep screwing up.)
There’s something that’s special about the Crane Boulevard project. The million dollar view that this giant house would block includes the tower of the Southwest Museum, the city’s first museum that was established by our preservation hero Charles Fletcher Lummis and his pals.
That museum is empty, thanks to the city’s disgraceful failed stewardship. How amazing would it be if community members on the next hill over succeed in taking out City Hall’s garbage and giving Angelenos a chance at honest representation, fair hearings and land use decisions that make sense rather than just making lots of money?
So thank you, Crane Boulevard Safety Coalition and Jamie T. Hall. May your Petition be the wedge that breaks open the rotten machine once and for all, lets in the light and gives us Los Angeles leaders and civil servants who are on the side of the Angels and not the other guys.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
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