LA32NC and beyond

I can't tell the story of Elephant Hills without including a chapter about the neighborhood councils and their part in the attempt to have further review of the development of EH.. The Save Elephant Hills grassroots group courted the LA 32 NC for months starting in mid 2003 when they were led to believe that the NC was the first step in the long process of taking on a cash fat high rolling developer who literally had this project signed sealed and delivered .
The ensuing interest in the LA 32 Neighborhood Council by the local community was unprecedented and resulted in the highest meeting attendance to date. Everytime Elephant Hills was on the NC agenda meeting attendance multiplied x 10 or more, the NC elections which took place while the Elephant Hills issue was at NC level had more turnout per capita than the most recent mayoral election. Two of the members of the Save Elephant Hills group were elected to Neighborhood Council Seats.
There is a certain procedure one must follow to get a message heard and taken seriously at City Hall. Theoretically a person or group must start at the NC level, where they attend a scheduled meeting and present their idea, complaint or objection to the NC and have the item agendized. Once the NC has heard the comments of community members, they decide the merit of whatever has been presented and if they feel it is warranted a motion will be put forward then must be seconded at which time the item is put on the agenda for consideration by the council to determine what recommendation the NC as a whole will submit to the City Council. That and three bucks'll get you an espresso at Papa Don's, but doesn't guarantee much more than that. I won't beat up the NC's because they're going to be an essential cog in the machine that is Los Angeles city politics and I mean it when I say GOING TO BE, unfortunately Elephant Hills or any other of the few remaining open spaces in LA have the luxury of time
to wait while this new layer of bureaucracy gets situated.
Although many individuals are heard at almost every meeting of the City Council, not many have an impact on the decisions made by the Council. Much like now, when a NC makes a recommendation, the City Council listens (those members who don't have anything better to do that day) for two minutes then votes exactly as they were predisposed to before anyone started talking from the public or almost any other group or entity.
In other words the NC acts as a sounding board for community members and it's recommendations are supposed to carry more weight with the City Council than any single member of the community.
The intention being to take some of the burden off of the City Council and to insure that the people of the community don't waste precious City Council hours with frivolous requests and complaints, and, more importantly to provide the common man an audible voice in the hallowed City Council chambers.
The NC also has a certain amount of financial backing (25k per at last check) to allow them to solve some issues at their level and avoid the City Council altogether. They are supposed to act as a pipeline to the City Council when appropriate and a buffer between the community and the CC when necessary.
SEH spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours making their case to the LA32NC with extensive research data, DVD presentations and by mobilizing the community to attend the NC meetings to show the huge amount of local interest in our cause.
Like I said the number of people that turned out to the meetings was unprecedented in LA 32 NC history and was enough to get the attention of then CD14 Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa who after seeing the response started to take action to gain the support of what he surely saw as a large voting block (undoubtedly looking forward to his run for Mayor).
The Planning Dept. hasn't exactly embraced the NC's or really given their input much consideration at all. After all, were talking about a group who has to be ordered by a City Council motion to let the public in on what they're doing in our own back yards, This is to be expected from a group of people who are as arrogant and apparently above the law as our City Planners.
In response to no less than three NC's pleas to further review tract 35022 the Planning Department has not only approved and signed off on numerous conditions set forth early in the process without any additional documentation or testing but they have given expedited approval of street dedications and realignments which I can only interpret as a slap
in the face of the NC's, not to mention the close to 1000 residents who signed petitions calling for further environmental review of tract 35022.
In a nutshell...the Neighborhood Councils ref. Elephant Hills are a little too little and a little too late. But stay tuned, if this effort to get a supplemental EIR is successful we will all see our Local Neighborhood Council again and we'll be able to see the progress they've made in a few short years.

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