Posts Tagged ‘City Council’

IMPORTANT! – Mayor Garcetti’s Interim CAO, Richard Llewellyn, Is Trying To Raise Land Use Appeal Fees To Discourage Average Joe’s To File An Appeal …

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

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This may happen at the City’s PLUM Committee Meeting this coming Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 2:30 PM.

Under the Constitution, the people have a basic right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, their government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.

Elected Officials in Los Angeles are attempting to punish those without a great deal of wealth or influence by imposing a draconian financial roadblock by increasing the appeal fees of those challenging decisions made by the City over land use entitlements.

In several appeals by Community groups, City leaders ignored written and oral warnings that their decisions did not follow the law. Instead, they followed the direction set by their pay-to-play masters, wealthy developers who knew how to grease the wheels to get things done.

When they prevailed, the Community Groups were proven right and the City Attorney and Elected officials should have taken notice.

However, instead of learning from those losses, Elected officials continued ignoring community groups and in some cases snubbed the past decisions of the Court and repeated the same illegal land use approvals.

Contrary to Councilmember Englander’s insinuation at the August 8, 2017 PLUM meeting,  Community Groups or Individuals didn’t file appeals to make money, Individuals and Community groups took on the risk of pursuing their complaints in court and won. That is, the Court agreed that the City failed to follow the law.  They didn’t do so to enrich themselves, but rather to protect the public’s interest.

It is utter nonsense and completely false for Mr. Englander to state at an open public meeting that “… you’ll see this number [appeals] drop dramatically, because often times it’s the same people that file over and over. And they do so not because they are against the City of LA, not because they want to disrupt the system or the process, they do so to try to make money. Often they’ll try to make money off of filing these appeals because they gather neighbors, they’ll try to get their law firms retained. There’s a few of them – some even attorneys that do it pro-bono when we know it’s not. And the system has turned, for a lack of a better word, for those outside this system that continuously abuse this, corrupt.” (ca. 24 minutes into the recording, see link below)

Englander’s comments show that the intent of the City is not cost recovery, but rather to stop appeals from members of the public and only allow the pay-to-play developer/applicants any voice in final land use decisions.

Now the City’s solution is to sneak through a massive increase in the appeals fee filing cost for regular members of the public to challenge the City for their failure to follow the law by making it too costly.

And, oh boy, were they sneaky! During the August 8th PLUM Committee meeting, Planning Staff admitted that they did not reach out to any Community Groups, instead they only reached out to a small number of Business Groups (VICA and Central City Association were mentioned). To top this, Councilmember Huizar’s only concern was that Staff failed to reach out to another Business interest, the Chamber of Commerce. He and his cohorts never asked about Neighborhood Councils, Homeowner Groups, small businesses, or any other Grassroots organizations.

In short, when LA is desperate enough the City’s Leaders will do anything to discourage the regular members of the public to speak up against any out-of-character development, and worse: To file an Appeal.

Some of you may remember that back in 2009 the city already tried to up the fees for those who dared to challenge the decisions of the City Council and the Mayor.

The alarm bell was rung back then when members of the public found, buried in a cost recovery memo, a City of Los Angeles proposal to raise land use appeal fees for non-applicants (read affected homeowners, associations, and community activists) to achieve the goal of “full cost recovery.”

At that time, the City was poised to raise appeal fees to tens of thousands of dollars. Such action would foreclose the ability of an average person to protect the value of their home or community from harmful effects of ill-conceived projects.

The astronomical increase in fees implicated the constitutional right of property owners, tenants, and small business owners to defend their rights from City overreach.

The response was huge and swift.  Homeowners groups, activists, and attorneys swamped the City Council with emails, calls, and letters expressing alarm that the real purpose of the fee hikes were to suppress the constitutional right to petition government for redress.

Los Angeles City Council members quickly agreed that if any City Planning “service” should be borne by the General Fund, it is land use appeals by non-applicants.

Fast forward to August 2017: The Ghost of the appeals fee’s past has returned. – And it came  right at a time when most families are out of town taking August vacations. (One can be assured that this is just a coincidence, or is it?)

The City has returned to the old 2009 fee cost recovery (Council File 09-0969)  and, at least on Tuesday, August 8, 2017, used an agenda item description, that failed to give notice to anyone in the land use, CEQA, or historic preservation world, that the Council was considering once again to raise these fees to the sky.

This newest proposal is being carried out by Richard Llewellyn, Eric Garcetti’s Mayoral Office attorney, who is currently serving as “Interim CAO”.  Thus, responsibility for this fee increase can be traced right back to the Mayor himself.

The CAO’s report claims, that it costs roughly $13,000 to respond to a land use appeal. – Hold on a second, and let’s question for a moment the legitimacy of how this cost was compiled.

We all know that staff frequently does not even prepare a written response, and Councilmembers only give land use appellants an insulting five minutes to try to communicate complex land use objections to them, while they are looking at their phones or eating a late lunch. To prove the point, here is a recording from March 22, 2016, when community members, as well as staff from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office, addressed the PLUM Committee with comments regarding the yet to be completed Target store on Sunset: https://youtu.be/4Ipkvfv1O6I (Notice Mr. Cedillo leisurely eating away on a banana …)

Going back to the current issue at hand, how many people can afford $13,000 to protect their property or tenant interests?  This is a very serious issue and it should not be taken lightly.

Once again, we face an effort of extremely monied interests rigging the system to squelch anyone who would dare ask the City to comply with its own laws or comply with such concepts as constitutional due process.

At the August 8, 2017 PLUM hearing Councilmember Mitch Englander spent most of his time essentially saying the fees should be raised to silence the City’s critics.

http://ens.lacity.org/clk/committeeagend/clkcommitteeagend26114049_08082017.html

(Please note that Item 2 starts at approximately 00:08:55 into the meeting.)

Fortunately, Councilmember Englander asked the City staff to come back next week with suggested criteria for “hardship” applications, so certain persons can beg on their knees for a reduced appeal fee.

Therefore, those of you who are outraged by the way the city is conducting its pay-to-play type of business, may want to mark your calendars and rally as many as possible to the PLUM Committee on August 15.

Let’s not forget that Councilmember Englander needs help from homeowners and activists in his own district to understand the issues — since he clearly appears headed toward taking the City in an unlawful direction.

Also, if the City is too “poor” to subsidize the cost of processing a land use appeal, why didn’t the City consider imposing development fees on developers who trigger the need to appeal, and then cross-subsidize the cost of appeal processing?

Richard Llewellyn and Mayor Garcetti have not suggested or even considered this concept.

Again, those of you out there who are able, mobile and willing to stand up again, as you did back in 2009, to tell your elected officials to stop twisting your wallets and start following the law, please make yourselves available on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 2:30 PM, and join the Councilmembers during their PLUM meeting in Room 350 at Los Angeles City Hall.

For your convenience, here is the link to the 08-15-2017 PLUM Agenda, and the item in question is Item 3 (CF: 09-0969):

http://ens.lacity.org/clk/committeeagend/clkcommitteeagend26114231_08152017.html

Added Bonus:

Here is the link to the “Council Directory Page”, which shows all the contact info for your LA City Council representative. Please don’t hesitate to call, tweet, email, or fax them with any concern you might have regarding this Issue BEFORE the Committee Meeting …

https://www.lacity.org/your-government/elected-officials/city-council/council-directory

Good Luck to All of Us!

 

It’s Time To Decide Who’s Worthy Of Your Vote In The March 2017 LA City Elections

Monday, February 20th, 2017

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When it comes to politics, we all tend to talk about the ones on the broader scope, right? Things like US Immigration, US Labor, The President and his administration, and so on.

But, even though we all want to make the world a better place, the question is “What can we do in order to change the things we don’t like?”  Let’s be honest: There is nothing we can do besides go and demonstrate, write letters, and so on, but in the end, it barely makes a dent into something we have no control over.

But, what if we can actually make a difference when it comes to politics right here in our own backyards? No, not the ones with the Birds and the Trees, Silly. I am talking about the politics within our reach, you know: The Local Ones!

Just in case you missed it simply because you are too pooped from last year’s Election experience, there are City elections heading our way, and yes, they are on March, 7, 2017.

Voters across Los Angeles have options from sticking with the same-old business, or they can go out and vote the incumbents out of office.

I guess by now you are wondering who would you replace them with, right?

Well, there are a number of candidates running against the City Insider’s Wheel of Fortune.

The City Ethics Commission’s website has them all listed. From Mayor, City Controller and City Attorney, to all hopefuls for the uneven numbered City Council Districts. Here is a link to the Commission’s website:

https://ethics.lacity.org/disclosure/campaign/totals/public_election.cfm?election_id=53

However, instead of taking on the entire world of elect-hopefuls and their incumbents, I will stick with those that are near to my heart.

Even though I am now a Westside resident, I am still very much interested in the wellbeing of my former area of residency: Council District 13.

I used to live in Hollywood, which is part of CD 13, and which is currently represented by Council Member Mitch O’Farrell.

Mr. O’Farrell has been around since the good old days when he worked under then Council President Eric Garcetti.

Mitch O’Farrell claims that he has brought nothing but good things to the neighborhoods he represents, but from articles and conversations as well as listening to City Council Meetings I learned that there are a lot of people who will disagree with that.

One of these people is Douglas “Doug” Haines, a longtime resident of Hollywood and a First-Time Candidate for Council District 13.

Doug Haines has earned his recognition in City Hall by speaking up against big developments that threaten the character of a neighborhood, and these neighborhoods don’t necessarily have to be around the corner from him.

Haines has fought and won in and out of court as a member of the La Mirada Neighborhood Association, and he has voiced his concerns multiple times during meetings of the LA Planning Commission, LA Planning and Land Use Committee, as well as before City Council.

Perhaps that is why he is so very familiar with the way the big-money-machine works, yet he is not one of those who greases the wheel when it starts squeaking. Instead, Haines goes and starts speaking and as the last resort, is heard by the Judges of the California Courts.

He’s been speaking to and with anyone who wants to listen, and he has proven that a lot of talk can actually make a difference.

His experience with politics started when he got himself involved with saving the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd, a treasured structure and icon that wouldn’t be standing there today if it wasn’t for Doug Haines and his interest in preserving history in Los Angeles.

Haines also took part in the early stages of forming the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, and still serves on its board as well as on the board of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council.

Living in a community that has been deprived of new park land for decades, Mr. Haines made it another goal of his to bring a new park to the neighborhood. It might not be the biggest park created within the last 50 years, but it sure is a great start for the community surrounding it.

Mr. Haines knows that he cannot resolve homelessness, and problems with gangs and crime, all by himself, but he started working on these issues with the LAPD in the Hollywood area.

Candidate Haines has walked his immediate neighborhood almost every day, cleaning up the streets, speaking with neighbors, reaching out to shop keepers and helping those who feel that they have no voice in the city.

Still, what does a successful film editor, who spent most of his time in closed dark rooms working on major movies, have to offer when it comes to working with people? My answer is: Everything!

He is smart, he knows building codes and regulations, he is charismatic and engaging, he listens to people, brings concerns to the front and fights city hall from the outside in.

Candidate Haines said that he is not accepting money from Developers during his campaign, and he will not accept it at any stage when in office.

Mr. Haines is ready to spend the next 12 years, give or take, with his constituents, work on the right development for the neighborhoods by keeping an eye on City Codes and Regulations. This time however, he will be doing this from the inside out.

And let’s not forget that he is a big supporter of Measure S, the initiative that is promising to put a moratorium on overdevelopment throughout the City of Los Angeles.

If you like to find out more about this candidate, please check out the web page supporters of Doug Haines have created at www.votedoughaiens.com.

Many candidates stepped up to the plate to run against the incumbents of today’s city hall, but now it is up to You, dear Voters, to decide who will be voted in, who will be voted out and who will remain in office.

Do yourselves a HUGE favor, take a look at the candidates that are on the March 7, 2017 ballot and decide for yourself who is worthy of your vote.