Appeal notice with my two cents..

Groups Appeal Elephant Hill Ruling in LA

Hillside Development Exposes Local Community to Public Safety Risk

LOS ANGELES (March 3, 2009) – In a crucial attempt to protect a densely populated Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, today, environmental justice advocates and community residents filed an appeal in court, seeking to overturn a decision to build luxury homes on a fragile hillside in El Sereno. The development on Elephant Hill would endanger residents and strip the community of its last open space, according to experts*1 involved in the case.

“The community of El Sereno needs parks and open spaces, not McMansions,” said Tim Grabiel, project attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Elephant Hill is a greedy project pushed forward by developers at the risk of jeopardizing the health and safety of residents and the environment.”

Four El Sereno residents*2 and the Latino Urban Forum are represented by NRDC and Chatten-Brown & Carstens as intervenors in a lawsuit filed by Monterey Hills Investors against the City of Los Angeles in July 2007 for requiring additional environmental review of the development.

“This development is a recipe for disaster,” said James Rojas of the Latino Urban Forum.*3 [i said this in 1992] “It not only wreaks irreparable damage to the hillside and sensitive habitat areas, but seriously threatens public safety. We’ve already seen what development can to do to an already unstable hillside, just look at Monterey Hills condos*4 [i've been testifying before plum and city council since 2000 about this exact issue] and the millions in liability fees*5 [judgements] paid to residents when their houses crumbled.”*6 [they sank about a foot into unstable fill causing condemnation]

At issue is 110-acre Elephant Hill, one of the last undeveloped hillsides in the region,*7 [the largest remaining in the city] where Monterey Hills Investors is seeking to build two dozen 3,500-square-foot houses and extensive infrastructure. Originally planned in the mid-1980s to cover 13 acres, the project footprint has since doubled in size*8. [nearly tripled] The developer plans to strip existing ridges down to bedrock followed by extensive fill* [75,000 cubic yards]—on land with an underground stream and unstable geology.

“Under no circumstances should the City Council approve the building permit for this project,” said Hugo Garcia, El Sereno activist and intervenor.*10 [as has casey reagan also a named intervenor representing hundreds of el sereno residents with his group 'save elephant hills mr reagan has spent hundreds of hours researching this project and has closely followed it through the process since its inception in the 1980's attending countless plum and city council meetings distributing literature, documenting the entire process in writing on his blog and on video and speaking against the project before the south pasadena city council, los angeles city council and the planning and land use management {PLUM}Committee] “Two years ago, it was a backhoe that fell into a sinkhole.*11 [Three years ago next month a bulldozer sank into subsiding topsoil created by an underground spring not previously recognized by the city planning dept nor the developers but spoken of extensively during public hearings by mr reagan, as a concerned resident and organizer of the group 'save elephant hills] What if next time, instead of heavy equipment, it’s a car with a local family and kids in the back seat? The City can’t knowingly take that risk.”

The geology of the Northeast LA hillsides makes them prone to subsidence and landslides*12.[Official California Geological Survey Documents submitted to the city by mr reagan showing liquefaction hazard areas were submitted as early as 1999 to the BOE, Planning Dept, dept of Public Works city council and plum committee] 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*13 [caused by a broken water main].

Residents of Elephant Hill *14 [there are no residentsof elephant hills, it remains the largest area of UNDEVELOPED land in la] are concerned history could repeat itself if developers are allowed to cut and fill the hillside in a manner similar*15 [virtually identical] to what caused the Monterey Hills condos to collapse 25 years ago*16 [subside into the unstable landfill]. The slide cost the City more than $65 million*17 [the subsequent lawsuits cost the city almost 130 million dollars in damage claims and attorneys fees] in settlement costs to 700 homeowners, but they have a new opportunity to protect the public.

“There are plenty of models for creative solutions to problems like Elephant Hill,” said Doug Carstens of Chatten-Brown & Carstens. “The Cornfield and Taylor Yard are just two examples of the City’s heroic leadership in resolving land use conflicts in a manner that benefits the entire community and affirms Los Angeles as the greenest big city in the U.S. It is time to bring this leadership to bear in El Sereno.”

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