Tuesday

Rally to Celebrate Elephant Hills

Today we celebrate the next step in the permanent preservation of our beloved Elephant Hills with a rally for our Honorable Councilman Jose Huizar. Join us Tuesday February 17th 2015 at 10:00 AM at the foot of the hills where Harriman Ave meets Pullman Street (see flyer)

Wednesday

Open Space not Condo's for Elephant Hills

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
City Council Agrees to Buy Elephant Hill from Developer and Preserve It As Open Space
by Damien Newton on November 4, 2009

Open space not condos for Elephant Hills.

Yesterday, a twenty-five year battle between the Los Angeles City Council and the development group Monterey Hills Investors may have reached the end of the road. The Council agreed to pay a settlement of $9 million for the land known as Elephant Hills. Instead of housing a 24-home subdivision as MHI planned, this twenty acres of green hillside in El Sereno will be preserved as open space.

At issue was the quality of the environmental documents for the project, that were consistently opposed by residents, environmental groups and city leaders. When the project was first proposed in 1984, it was a 13-acre project. As time passed, the project continued to grow to its current 24-acre size. The complaints against the project alleged that the developer's plan to strip existing ridges down to bedrock followed by extensive fill would endanger both the El Sereno community and workers constructing the site. The ridges rest on seemingly unstable geography and an underground stream. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that in 2006, workers installing fencing on Elephant Hill created a large sinkhole. In 2005, a worker was buried in a hillside slide in El Sereno.


For those opposed to the Elephant Hill Development the settlement is a clear victory for the city's efforts to preserve this land as open space. The settlement comes after the Council voted in August of 2008 to require the developers to undergo an extensive environmental review, despite advice from the City Attorney that they did not have the power to do that. In January of this year a judge agreed with the developers that the Council over-stepped its powers. The developers counter-sued the city alleging that the lawsuit caused a delay which caused MHI to lose $8 million dollars while the city appealed the decision.

All of that may have come to an end yesterday. While an attorney for MHI notes that the agreement wasn't finalized, yesterday's decision by the Council was hailed as a victory by all opposing the development and fighting for their community and open space.


Elva Yanez, the Elephant Hill Campaign Coordinator, released a statement hailing the settlement. Via the Latino Urban Forum:


This is a huge victory for the residents of El Sereno and the coalition of community and environmental organizations that waged a long and hard fought struggle. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Councilmember Jose Huizar for his steadfast leadership as he championing residents' public safety and environmental concerns related to this development.

The residents of El Sereno have been afforded the environmental protections that are rightfully theirs. We are thrilled that this poorly planned project is not moving forward and environmental justice has prevailed!

Environmental Justice was also a theme of a quote by local Councilman Jose Huizar that appeared in today's Times. Meanwhile, the NRDC senior attorney David Pettit praised the El Sereno Community for their role in this long-coming victory:

Collective efforts of residents, community-based organizations and elected officials to protect public safety and require developer accountability succeeded in preserving one of LA's few remaining open spaces benefiting public health and the environment for years to come.

While it's a good day for El Sereno and supporters of Open Space, I can't help but note that it's a good thing that Monterey Hills Investment didn't have a Governor and Legislature in its back pocket.

EGP Article 'Battleground to Playground'

‘Elephant Hill’ Battleground Turns Into Playground
By Paul Aranda Jr., EGP Staff Writer

El Sereno residents have won a 25-year-long effort to halt the development of 24 luxury homes in the local hillside property known as “Elephant Hill” after the City Council voted Tuesday to approve a settlement that will allow the city to acquire the 19-acre site for $9 million. There were plenty of applauses and salutes during a small gathering at the hillside Wednesday morning as Councilman Jose Huizar (CD-14) and local residents and supporters celebrated the settlement.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Huizar. For the residents they can keep this beautiful open space, the city gets prime land and the developer gets money back on their investment he said.

The legal settlement puts an end to a lawsuit filed after the developer, Monterey Hills Investors, contested the city’s 2007 request for a supplemental environmental impact report (EIR). The request followed a 10-month long examination of the issue by the council after residents raised concerns over unstable geology, an underground stream and other environmental impacts not covered in the developer’s original EIR completed in 1993.

One resident on hand at Wednesday’s hillside ceremony received much accolades. Huizar called Elva Yanez, “a hero among heroes,” for her efforts that included a two-hour Elephant Hill debriefing of a then-city council candidate Huizar in 2005.

“This settlement vindicates every resident, activist and politician who called for a supplemental EIR,” Yanez said.

Originally proposed in 1984, the Elephant Hill project drew immediate concerns from residents when a similar large-scale development project in nearby Monterey Hills caused widespread subsidence and property damage, according to a Huizar press release. The Eaton Crest project triggered a 10-month trail that ended when the city paid $65 million to settle with approximately 700 property owners.

The 19-acre allotment acquired by the city is a small portion of the larger 110 acres that makes the area known as Elephant Hill. The hillside is geographically part of the Repetto Hills, a low but steep range that extends from the Los Angeles River to the Montebello Hills.

For now the property will remain as open space. Huizar said the site could eventually become a city park. He said he plans to work with State Assembleyman Kevin De Leon’s office to secure state funds to build the park.

If a park never develops, that will be just fine with local residents. One local woman who has lived at the base of hillside for the past 48 years was at the ceremony. She said she loves the hillside as it is and would not mind if it remained that way. The 85-year-old said everything is good now. “We like the hills,” she said. “I could sit on the patio and just look at the hills all day.”

Tuesday

CITY BUYS ELEPHANT HILLS !!!

Subject: City of LA Acquires Elephant Hill property as part of settlement


On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, the Los Angeles City Council voted to settle a lawsuit filed by developer Monterey Hills Investors (MHI) in 2007 after being required to undertake additional environmental review of a controversial development of 24 luxury homes on Elephant Hill in El Sereno. As part of the settlement, the City agreed to pay MHI $9 million to acquire approximately 20 acres of hillside open space.



This is a huge victory for the residents of El Sereno and the coalition of community and environmental organizations that waged a long and hard fought struggle. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Councilmember Jose Huizar for his steadfast leadership as he championing residents’ public safety and environmental concerns related to this development.



The residents of El Sereno have been afforded the environmental protections that are rightfully theirs. We are thrilled that this poorly planned project is not moving forward and environmental justice has prevailed!



Councilmember Huizar will be holding press conference on this victory at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, November 4th at the foot of Elephant Hill (near the intersection of Pullman and Harriman Ave., off of Collis Avenue). Please attend.



Additional thanks are in order – first to the hundreds of residents and allies who took action to demand equal environmental protections for our community. To Doug Carstens of Chatten-Brown & Carstens and Tim Grabiel and David Pettit of NRDC for their exceptional, pro-bono legal services. To the board of the Latino Urban Forum and the four residents who intervened in the lawsuit filed by the developer against the City: Hugo Garcia, Casey Reagan, Geneece Perez and Vanessa Yanez. To the more than 60 leaders of environmental, community-based and EJ organizations that lent their good names to our efforts during the 10 month legislative phase of this campaign in 2007. To the LA-32 Neighborhood Council that took an early stand against this development in 2004. To Martin Krammerer, PhD, for his awesome hydrological study. To the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for its technical expertise. And, last--but certainly not least—to the entire City Council that voted not once, but two times to require additional environmental review on this flawed project and again today to acquire this property.



Please stay tuned for more details on the settlement as they emerge. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!