Balloon Parties

The “Up” Balloon Movement Against Overdevelopment Spreads from Silver Lake to Venice

In Archive by Jill Stewart

Recently, TheEastsiderLA published a story about an artist-led movement in Silver Lake, where homes threatened by the L.A. City Council’s support of runaway overdevelopment show their opposition with giant “Up” balloon displays on the rooftops. We hope to end the need for Up Balloon Parties, through the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative heading for the March 2017 Los Angeles city ballot (read it here.)

As TheEastsider reported:

… the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council has approved spending up to $200 to tie bouquets of helium-filled balloons to the roofs of homes that are to be torn down for small-lot developments … inspired by the 2009 animated film Up and the the story of Edith Macefield, an elderly Seattle resident who refused to sell her cottage to real estate developers.

Far on the other end of Los Angeles, Katherine Conway and her husband, residents of a quiet and narrow street of mostly cottages in Venice, did everything they could to not join the “Up” Balloon Club.

But despite their pleas to disinterested city officials and a long court battle, a developer was allowed to build an I-beam-and-glass giant box of a house — the size of a bank, in fact — that now looms over their modest home. “I can’t imagine doing this to a lovely community like ours,” says Katherine Conway.

Among other creepy things, the huge glass box monster is equipped with special peekaboo room screens that allow the new buyers, as yet unknown, to peer down unseen into Conway’s back yard and side windows.

Venice has become a hotbed of development wars, with a recent lawsuit filed by environmental attorney Sabrina Venskus on behalf of an entire, sprawling Venice neighborhood. The lawsuit says that City Hall, now fully in the grip of developers who shower Mayor Eric Garcetti and the L.A. City Council with money for election campaigns and pet projects, has thrown out the planning and zoning rules in Venice.

Venice is hardly alone. Livable communities in Van Nuys, Mar Vista, Palms, West Adams, Boyle Heights, Highland Park, Hollywood, Miracle Mile, Atwater Village, Koreatown, Los Feliz, Skid Row, Studio City and Sherman Oaks are just a few neighborhoods developers hope to pave over.

The L.A. City Council has refused to update the city’s 20-year old General Plan and dragged its feet for years on writing sensible new Community Plans — the framework, visions and zoning rules that are supposed to be hammered out for 35 areas of Los Angeles. By not doing its job, the City Council argues that these plans are too old — then approves whatever their rich developer friends want.

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will end this broken and dysfunctional system at City Hall. The initiative will force the backroom-loving City Council to hold highly public hearings for all of L.A.’s 35 Community Plans. The ballot measure requires that these hearings be held only at night and on weekends, and in the communities not Downtown, so that the public, not lobbyists, can fill the hearing rooms.

Your support for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative heading for the March 2017 ballot is key. Join our movement by donating $17 in protest of the 17 City Hall politicians who accept developers’ cash, gifts and funding for pet projects.

Not long ago, Katherine Conway threw a Balloon Party at her charming Venice home, in the shadow of the luxury big box that looms like a bank next door. A huge bunch of balloons floated in the sky above her roof, and friends and neighbors talked about how wrong things have gone inside City Hall.

“I’m voting for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative because they haven’t got the right to do what they’re doing to Venice,” says Katherine Conway. “No community in L.A. should have to fight for its life against big money that doesn’t believe in rules.”

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