UPDATE, 4:45 p.m.: After continuous pressure applied on City Council members by Westside activist Xochitl Gonzalez and the Coalition to Preserve L.A., City Council President Herb Wesson now says the Council will take up the Martin Expo Town Center project on Tuesday, September 20. Gonzalez and other Westside residents, however, still want the Planning and Land-Use Management Committee to hold a public hearing before the full Council considers the mega-project for approval. See details below.
As more proof that L.A.’s planning and land-use system is terribly broken, Westside residents do not know if the City Council will consider the controversial Martin Expo Town Center mega-project for approval this week or next due to conflicting information from City Hall. The City Council has already pulled one highly questionable move this week by not holding a key public hearing for the oversized development.
Martin Expo Town Center is widely opposed by residents and neighborhood groups, who are concerned that the mega-project will only worsen the Westside’s horribly gridlocked streets.
On Tuesday, September 13, at the Planning and Land-Use Management Committee meeting, City Councilman Jose Huizar waived a public hearing for Martin Expo Town Center and sent the oversized development to the City Council for approval — a possibly illegal maneuver that prevented neighborhood activists from publicly testifying on the matter. Huizar and a deputy city attorney said the Council would consider the mega-project next week on September 20.
But a recently released City Council agenda says the Council will take up the mega-project this Friday, September 16, giving Westside residents almost no time to organize themselves and testify at City Hall.
“The community has been left scrambling,” says Xochitl Gonzalez, a West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council board member. “We’ve been left on our own to figure out what’s going to take place. We’re getting conflicting information [from City Hall].”
Today, Gonzalez talked with the office of City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents District 11. The proposed site of Martin Expo Town Center is located in Bonin’s district at the gridlocked intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Bundy Drive. Ezra Gale, Bonin’s senior planner, said the Council would not take up the development on Friday, even though the project is still scheduled to be heard on that day.
“”I’m still going to act as if the Friday meeting is happening,” says Gonzalez.
The confusion, whether intentional or not, started on September 13 when Councilman Huizar and deputy city attorney Kaufmann told Westside residents at the PLUM meeting that the committee could not take up Martin Expo Town Center due to a faulty hearing notice, which was written by a City Hall employee.
Incredibly, Councilman Bonin was only notified of the screwup until 30 minutes before the PLUM meeting — and residents were never notified beforehand. Huizar and Kaufmann then repeatedly said the City Council will consider Martin Expo Town Center for approval on September 20 — when residents can finally testify at a public hearing.
But now a City Council agenda states that Martin Expo Town Center will be heard this Friday, September 16.
The below transcript from the September 13 PLUM meeting shows just how messy L.A.’s planning and land-use system has become, with Huizar saying he was “not happy” about the hearing notice screwup and wanted a written report sent to his office:
Councilman and PLUM chair Jose Huizar: Per the advice of the City Attorney’s Office, we are going to waive item number 5 and 6 [on the PLUM committee agenda] to [City] Council without a hearing in this committee today. I understand there’s an addendum missing from the EIR?
Deputy City Attorney Terry Kaufman: From the agenda description.
Huizar: From the agenda description. Okay.
Kaufman: So my understanding is this [Martin Expo Town Center] item will have a public hearing in Council on [September] 20th.
Huizar: Yes. Who just spoke?
Kaufman: Terry Kaufman, the City Attorney’s Office.
Huizar: Thank you. And that’s on the 20th, correct?
Kaufman: That’s correct.
Huizar: Is there a representative here from CD 11? Just on the procedure matters without hearing this matter today, you are okay with us moving forward to the 20th and waiving it out of committee?
Council District 11 representative (Male voice, no name given): That is correct. We were under the assumption that there would be an opportunity for public testimony today given that we didn’t find out about this hearing notice issue until approximately 30 minutes ago.
Huizar: And our City Attorney advises us that since we’re waiving it out, we cannot hear public testimony today, correct?
Kaufman: That is correct.
Huizar: Okay. So I’m certainly not happy with how we were put into this situation. Primarily the committees are a place for us to discuss and dialogue about the specifics about a project, and given the fact that it’s a time-sensitive matter that it has to be heard by a time certain, which is when? The 20th? I will waive it out of committee and have the hearing at full Council on the 20th. Okay? That is the direction will go in. Anything else from the City Attorney?
Kaufmann: You’re speaking about [agenda items] five and six.
Huizar: Five and six, yes. We want to keep the two matters together. Okay. Thank you. So items five and six waived out of committee. And if somebody could give my office, my planning director, a explanation as to how this happened and how we will prevent this from happening again in the future. City Clerk, can you please make sure my office receives that in writing? Thank you.
With Westside residents not knowing which end is up, all of the recent City Hall screwups clearly favor the developer of Martin Expo Town Center — Martin Automative Group. With developers in L.A. shelling out millions in lobbyists fees and campaign contributions to city politicians, it’s not the first time that a developer catches all the breaks.
It’s time to reform L.A.’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system, which is what the community-driven Neighborhood Integrity Initiative seeks to do.
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