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Westside Gets Robbed of Public Hearing into Hated Martin Cadillac Mega-Project

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

A purported City Hall screwup has sent the hotly disputed Martin Expo Town Center mega-project to the L.A. City Council for approval, killing Tuesday’s required public hearing at which Westside residents were waiting to slam the project’s expected extreme gridlock and murky history.

In a surprise move, the Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) Committee, made up of City Council members, sent home a large group of Westside residents fighting the widely opposed project planned for the Martin Cadillac site at Bundy and Olympic, which is supported by only 12% of area residents. Before the dust settled, shocked Westsiders had made an unannounced visit to the City Hall doorsteps of Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin, demanding their right to be heard.

Xochitl Gonzalez, a West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council board member, said after being told the public hearing was being permanently canceled, “This is incredible, unbelievable. How do elected leaders kill a public hearing on a project that will effect much of the Westside?”

How does Los Angeles kill a required public hearing — forever?

City officials alleged that a City Hall error — by city officials themselves — crept into the wording of a public “notice” about Martin Expo Town Center and somehow prohibited the PLUM committee from hearing from the public. An ironic twist, since it is widely accepted that the Martin Cadillac developers have been granted hours of backroom meetings with City Council members and officials.

The strange proceedings began when PLUM committee chair and Council member Jose Huizar informed the sizable contingent of Westside residents they could not speak, and the mega-project would move forward to the City Council for approval on September 20.

Things got even more strange when District 11 City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the angry residents opposing the towering luxury rental complex and huge grocery store, agreed with Huizar.

Martin Town Expo Center -- image from environmental impact report

Martin Town Expo Center — image from environmental impact report

At the PLUM meeting, Huizar said the public would get to speak to the full Council next week. Huizar did not mention the fact that huge developments that make it all the way to the full City Council are considered a done deal.

Distressed Westsiders went to the offices of Council members Bonin and Huizar, demanding that a public hearing be held on the Martin Expo Town Center before it goes to City Council. They received no commitments from their offices.

Under the current system, widely viewed as rigged for developers, Los Angeles City Council members accept campaign money or gifts for their pet projects from a developer seeking a way around the zoning rules, then give that developer the go-ahead. The bigger the building, the more profit for the developer. This system is widely ignored by the local media.

A frenzy of such money-greased approvals has resulted in a visible luxury rental housing glut in Los Angeles, as multinational and global investors seek a safe harbor in real estate. In the most recent year available, city housing officials say, the City Council approved 150% of the demand for luxury rental units, and widespread vacancies have formed in the unwanted units.

Westside residents questioned how the oversized Martin Cadillac development, with 500+ luxury rental units and a sprawling grocery store, could skip over a key stage in L.A.’s planning and land-use approval process.

Miki Jackson, a representative of the Coalition to Preserve L.A. who attended the PLUM meeting, says, “They rush things through and there’s no room for a mistake — and the public does not get due process. They also don’t get a say in what happens to their communities. It happens time and again.”

An extensive survey of Westside residents, funded by the Coalition to Preserve LA, found that they strongly oppose the gigantic project. Local elected leaders had made the unsupported claim that most residents liked the idea of a mega-development at Olympic and Bundy.

An environmental impact report (a report written by a consultant chosen by the developer) shows the outsized project will create street gridlock up to one mile away, affecting 16 intersections. Those traffic numbers are widely viewed as a serious underestimate.

Through a company called Philena Properties, Martin Automotive Group is seeking to badly bend and break the rules to build a structure that is prohibited by the land zoning. Many developers see zoning  in Los Angeles as meaningless, since elected leaders routinely agree to ignore the rules that protect communities and infrastructure from becoming overwhelmed.

In this case, the developers, who grew rich selling Cadillacs, want a “Zone Change” and a more radical “General Plan Amendment,” which is in direct violation of the Los Angeles City Charter.

Citizens were effectively penalized Tuesday for a purported City Hall error — an example of how L.A.’s broken planning and land-use system is rigged against residents, with the developer getting a major break in the end.

What’s going on here?

Since 2012, Martin Automotive Group and its representatives have contributed $3,650 to the campaigns of City Council and mayoral candidates, according to the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Since 2012, Philena Properties has paid $759,121 to politically connected City Hall lobbyists to woo  politicians and bureaucrats. That’s a grand total of $762,771.

Apparently, that campaign and lobbyist money worked magic at L.A. City Hall. 

It’s why residents across Los Angeles are supporting the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a reform aimed at altering the behavior of the Los Angeles City Council. The citizen initiative, which will appear on the March 2017 ballot, requires the City Council to engage in real planning, and ends the pay-to-play backroom deals.

Join the Coalition to Preserve L.A. by clicking here right now to donate any amount you wish, and follow and cheer our efforts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at neighborhoodintegrity@gmail.com for more information.

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