The Laurel Grove Neighborhood Association has sent stinging letters to L.A. City Council member Paul Krekorian of District 2 and City Planning Commission president David Ambroz, charging that they acted inappropriately during a recent public hearing for the controversial NoHo West mega-project. At Krekorian’s urging, the planning commission approved the massive development.
“Your complete support of the developer at the Planning Commission meeting on September 22, 2016, was deeply troubling to us,” Laurel Grove Neighborhood Association president Diann Corral wrote in a letter to Krekorian. “It merely re-emphasized that the fix was in and that the City planning process and protocols are hardly given even lip service.”
Developers Merlone Geier Partners and Goldstein Planting Investments have proposed a gigantic mixed-use project with 642 luxury apartments at 6150 Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood, which Krekorian represents. The wealthy developers stand to make $25.2 million annually from the housing complex — and millions more from retail and office space.
Yet city officials have refused to provide substantive traffic mitigation measures to nearby residents in a low-slung, middle-class neighborhood, which will be overwhelmed by traffic caused by NoHo West. In addition, Krekorian has yet to use his tremendous power and influence within City Hall to seriously address the community’s concerns.
Instead, Krekorian showed up at a City Planning Commission hearing on September 22 and spoke for more than 20 minutes about the need to approve the NoHo West mega-project. The Council member’s appearance was highly unusual — planning commission president David Ambroz said he hadn’t seen a Council member at a City Planning Commission meeting in the past three years.
Ambroz appeared more than flattered that Krekorian wanted to testify in person — which disturbed Laurel Grove Neighborhood Association members and other residents who live next to the NoHo West site and attended the public hearing.
“The Councilman’s presence at the meeting and the courtesies he was given turns the planning process on its head and delegitimizes it,” wrote Diann Corral in a letter to Ambroz on the behalf of the Laurel Grove Neighborhood Association. “Frankly, we found your fawning over Councilman Krekorian embarrassing and totally inappropriate.”
Ambroz is known to give city officials extended time to talk during planning commission meetings, but suddenly becomes a stickler for not allowing citizens to speak even one word more when their allotted time runs out during public comment period.
The planning commissioner also has a reputation for directing comments towards citizens in ways that are considered rude and condescending. Ambroz was appointed to the powerful City Planning Commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
In a letter to Krekorian, Corral noted that his “presence at the meeting, your 25-minute monologue, and your letter to the Commission defeats the process as created by the [City] Charter and makes even the most trusting of us cynics. The community was limited to a mere one minute per speaker, yet they gave you carte blanche to speak as long as you wished and then some.”
She added, “Your remarks watered down neighborhood input, serving to negate our demonstrated and legitimate concerns… There is a reason why City Council members do not attend these [planning commission] hearings and it is because it is not appropriate, especially during a time when the City and developers are under scrutiny for back-scene dealings. Your appearance merely served to support the developer, not your constituents in this community.”
Citizens across Los Angeles, in fact, have complained for years that Council members manipulate the City Hall’s planning and land-use system, favoring wealthy developers over longtime residents — developers are major campaign contributors to L.A. politicians. Out of that citywide outrage, the Coalition to Preserve L.A., a citizen-driven, reform movement that sponsors the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, has been born.
In the two letters, Corral and the Laurel Grove Neighborhood Association also noted concerns about proposed digital billboards on the site and that the tall, 642-unit apartment complex will be built directly across the street from single-family homes.
The NoHo West project is now headed to the City Council’s Planning and Land-Use Management Committee.
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