3/25/07 Elephant Hills, an editorial

Clearly demonstrated by the hundreds of supporters of the 'Save Elephant Hills' movement, numerous Neighborhood Councils, at least three City Councilmembers (two of which are on the PLUM Committee], Mayor Villaraigosa, Michael Cacciotti [SPCC], The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, The Natural Resources Defense Council, Northeast Trees, The Audubon Society,
The Northeast Los Angeles OpenSpace Coalition and countless others, we can conclude that this project is not in line with what this community wants or needs.
It is a shame that some profit driven short sighted developers weren't concerned enough about the community they were attempting to infect to do the right thing and update their environmental impact data using information gained from research and work done in the immediate area, and trust that there has been plenty of research done which was ignored by not only the current developer but all who have been involved in this from the start including Greenhills Investments Inc.
When the project was first introduced to the surrounding communities there was the initial knee jerk reaction by some who immediately opposed any development in Elephant Hills, as it turns out they were absolutely correct in their position, the details would later prove and the history of the area as it was developing would play an integral role in the determination by
most of the above stated entities to oppose this project, which, still has life 23 years later.
Southwest Diversified Inc. the current owner of the outdated plan has managed to keep this project alive and kicking many times using very unconventional methods, namely through threats of litigation but bribery and graft are not above or below this developer to use when mere threats were not enough. Having a collapsible planning department hasn't helped the effort to show the true facts and details of this mess either, when we think of our city planners some of us actually had a fair amount of respect for them and the job they were doing, that was of course until we looked at this specific project, tract 35022 to them, Elephant Hills to us and The Pueblo Avenue Sub Division to SWD Inc. more closely.
No matter what you call it, there are people lining up around the block who can tell you why it should have been stopped years ago when the Monterey Hills Condos started sinking into the void left by a poorly engineered landfill exactly like the one they're trying to get re approved now, using the same standards and grading guidelines from pre 1982 when the project was first designed,
SWD has bluffed bullied and bs'd the powers at City Hall into believing that this project is sound and that it presents no threat to the quality of life in and around the project area, when in actuality this project represents nothing BUT a threat to our lifestyle and quality of life. The only 'up' side to allowing this project won't be realized by any of the residents I'm speaking of, ever, but will to the City who will turn a financially non productive area of land and potential liability into a property tax generating housing project.The fact that it has priced local residents out of the possibility of ownership won't even be considered.
Never before have I seen a more deceptive campaign to gain the trust of innocent unknowing people for a plan that is destined to destroy their lifestyles and the harmony between them and what little bit of nature that's left.. Mesa Verde Developments (another conglomerate of the same developers namely SWD) has attempted to infiltrate the neighborhood and gain the trust of residents by showing us what great neighbors they'll be and how they will be outstanding stewards of our hills, last Halloween they invaded our 'Creepy Collis' event and set up a haunted house right in the midst of everything with their giant Mesa Verde banner flying high. If their haunted house scared you, just wait until the real horror begins, and mark my words, by then it will be too late to just fold up the banner and go home until next year.
Personally, for my interest in preserving the hills I've been called selfish, I like the open space and hiking in the hills is a pastime I've enjoyed since I learned to walk, when I was a kid we flew kites and had boxslide races and grassbomb wars, as teen's we rode our bikes, motorcycles and go carts where we were safe and not bothering anyone, we've seen hang gliders use the hills as a beginners place to practice before jumping off into dangerous terrain. The hills are ideal for kids to play with loud toys remote controlled planes, dune buggies and race cars where the most damage they can cause is to their own property, [this I know first hand, believe me] A place for kids to get in touch with nature where they don't have to ride a school bus for three hours to get to.
As a kid I saw gopher snakes and California king snakes, coyotes, rabbits, owls, hawks, blue jays, blackbirds, crows, sparrows, blue bellied lizards, alligator lizards, stink bugs, potato bugs [yech] and a bunch of wildlife that I couldn't tell the name if I tried, there were always sunflowers and mustard plants Black walnut, eucalyptus and giant oak trees to climb and the only thing to worry about was staying out after the street lights came on [rule number 1]. I wasn't the only kid who enjoyed these things, I remember when I was attending Luther Burbank Jr. High, there were kids from as far away as Eagle Rock and Glassell park
who would ride to 'Elephant' on their bikes to race with the group of us who were the envy of every bike riding kid in town because we lived so close to Elephant Hills. I want my grandchildren's grandchildren to have the same opportunity, call that selfish if you will, but that is my motivation. I could adopt the mindset like many others, "I'm done enjoying it so who cares" but that's just not me, or the responsible thing to do.
These hills have been the practice place of some great motorcycle racers too, although we wouldn't want to see the motorcycle activity escalate to what it has been in the past doesn't take away from the fact that world class riders have been known to pop up now and again to take a spin around their old stomping grounds, Jim West, a South Pasadena kid comes to mind when I
reminisce about the crazy days of motocross or whenever I bump into ex-wild man Gary Lunsford who had his share of pictures on Dirt Bike magazine covers. Jim was a certified professional motocrosser and Gary just taught Jim by example, both would have lived much different lives if not for these hills, of that fact, I'm absolutely positive.
Whether it's the crazy days of motorcycle madness or the peaceful place to escape to today, these hills are an essential part of this community that nobody no matter how many extensions, permits, variances or sub-divisions they get, have the right to build on. And that's just the way it should always be, deal with it.

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