‘Elephant Hill’ Battleground Turns Into Playground

The City will buy the hillside property to preserve it as open space with a long-term goal of creating a park.

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.”

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November 5, 2009  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

6 Responses to “‘Elephant Hill’ Battleground Turns Into Playground”

  1. Scott Johnson on November 10th, 2009 1:01 pm

    To concern community members,

    Let me share several thoughts on this supposed environmental justice victory, as stated in the comment section of the LA Times story regard the Elephant Hill settlement.

    While I share with Elva Yanez, in her desire to see Elephant Hill preserved. I am dismay that these legal proceedings have driving up the price to $9 million dollars from the $6 million dollar price tag before the lawsuit.

    Then there is the question of the connections to campaign donations as arraigned by Ben Reznik. Something in these proceedings cause me to flashback to the controversial Las Lomas Project and how the threat of a lawsuit was used by an politically connected developer.

    Open space advocates within Northeast LA, during these depressed financial times, should take into consideration, the idea of getting more open space for a finite amount of dollars.

    Long before Elva Yanez moved into CD 14, there have been other open space proposals such as the Ascot Hill Project and the 40+ year effort to restore the Hazard Park Wetlands, that merit consideration and can move along faster, considering that they are both owned by the City of Los Angeles.

    In closing, while I support Councilman Huizar’s efforts, in principle, to conserve our remaining open spaces in CD 14, I would call upon the Councilman to release the details of the legal proceedings in the interest of openness and ethics.

    Scott Johnson
    Former Sierra Club Central Committee Conservation Chair.

    *my views are only my own and do not the represent Sierra Club

    Follow up thought.

    Councilman Huizar should also share with the community why $750,000 dollars earmark for the Hazard Park Wetlands as part of a storm drain mitigation settlement, via the Bureau of Sanitation, was taken away and transfare to a Northeast Trees project in Garvanza.

    Maybe, this has to do with Hazard Park being placed in the Adelante Redevelopment Zone?

    Scott Johnson
    “Friends of Henry T. Hazard Park and Community”

  2. casey on November 10th, 2009 6:51 pm

    All I can say is READ THE BLOG!! Every detail of this debate has been documented by ME. Get the facts at

    http://www.saveelephanthills.blogspot.com

    I recommend reading the blog entries titled “prehistoric elephant hills” as well as any of the post if you want to know how this whole thing happened.

  3. ANTHONY MANZANO on November 12th, 2009 12:49 pm

    I attended the event and support the decission to keep it open space, after reading many e-mails and stories about this location, I question if residents and other representatives actually know in what community ‘Elepahnt Hill’ is located. I have lived here for over 30 years and walked the hill many times. I have found archives that will be absolute, and prove that it is not in El Sereno.
    The best will come of it………………..

    Rose Hills Review,
    Anthony Manzano

  4. casey on November 25th, 2009 9:16 am

    Anthony, WHAT? I’ve lived in El Sereno for almost 50 years with these hills as my back yard. Did I miss something? The postal code for this area is 90032, as ‘El Sereno’ as it get’s. Why is there always a conspiracy theory when the facts are evident. Are you joking?

  5. Red Spot on December 8th, 2009 6:26 pm

    Scott – Why don’t you come clean and tell folks you are in competition with Elva and her groups? You claim to be an environmentalist, but you are not, and you are right, you do not represent the Sierra Club.

  6. Elephant Hill – The Beginnings | NELA Lives! on September 9th, 2011 9:34 am

    […] proudly declared that there would be “Open Space Not Condos for Elephant Hills” And the Eastern Group Newspaper echoed the sentiments.  There was even  passing mention of some $9 million dollars of taxpayer […]

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