Westside residents are demanding that the L.A. City Council follow the usual planning and land-use approval process and give them a public hearing for the proposed Martin Expo Town Center mega-project in front of the powerful Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) committee. Earlier this week, the PLUM committee made a surprise move by waiving a public hearing for the oversized development and sending it directly to Council for approval — a highly unusual, possibly illegal action.
Martin Expo Town Center, which consists of 516 residential units and is proposed for the gridlocked intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Bundy Drive at the current site of Martin Cadillac, is a massive project that will seriously impact the already traffic-jammed Westside. On Tuesday, residents and activists were not allowed to voice their concerns in front of the PLUM committee due to a technicality — a City Hall employee did not properly write a pubic hearing notice for the mega-project.
Scores of Westside residents who went to City Hall on Tuesday to testify were shocked and caught by surprise. City Councilman Mike Bonin of District 11, where the proposed Martin Expo Town Center is located, didn’t know about City Hall’s hearing notice screwup until 30 minutes before the start of the PLUM meeting. Martin Automotive Group is the cash-rich developer behind the mega-project.
Westside residents were further shocked when they found out that the L.A. City Council was scheduled to consider Martin Expo Town Center this Friday, although Councilman and PLUM chair Jose Huizar and a deputy city attorney repeatedly said on Tuesday that the Council would take up the mega-project on Tuesday, September 20.
Getting conflicting information from City Hall, residents and neighborhood activists were left scrambling to find out what was happening — and, along with the Coalition to Preserve L.A., applied pressure on Council members to make sure Martin Expo Town Center would not be considered for approval on Friday, September 16. The City Council eventually assured the activists and the Coalition that a vote would not take place today.
But Westside residents and the Coalition still insist that the City Council return the Martin Expo Town Center to the PLUM committee, especially since a City Hall error — not an error by citizens — prevented a public hearing in front of PLUM.
“It’s the largest project to hit the Westside in years, with massive traffic impacts,” says Xochitl Gonzalez, a West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council board member. “The community wants every opportunity given to have their voices be heard. We deserve to have the project go properly through the process.”
Once again, City Hall is playing games with Gonzalez and other Westside residents.
Gonzalez contacted her representative on the Council, Mike Bonin, to insist he move the Martin Expo Town Center mega-project back to PLUM. Bonin’s senior planner, Ezra Gale, said he was waiting for a decision from the City Attorney’s Office, according to Gonzalez. That decision, though, has still not come.
“We want answers,” says Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has spoken with two expert land-use consultants who said the mega-project can be moved back to PLUM. But Bonin and the City Council appear hesitant to do that — there’s massive community opposition to Martin Expo Town Center.
City Hall’s handling of the mega-project, which needs the Council’s approval, only underscores the need to reform L.A.’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system that consistently favors deep-pocketed, politically connected developers.
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