Court Halts Highland Park Housing Project

City must conduct EIR before project can move forward.

By Stacey Arevalo, Exclusive to EGP

A controversial housing development planned for Highland Park has been stopped by an Appeals Court panel’s reversal of a lower court’s ruling on a lawsuit opposing the project, announced the Friends of Highland Park — backers of the lawsuit — at a press conference last week.

First introduced in 2008, the proposed Highland Park Transit Village calls for the building of 80 housing units on three city-owned surface parking lots located between Avenue 56 and Avenue 59, adjacent to the Metro Highland Park Gold Line Station on East Marmion Way.
Opponents to the development worry it will increase density and rob the area of valuable public parking.

However, according to Fredy Ceja, communications director for the local councilman, Gil Cedillo, the 221 parking spaces in question “would be replaced on a one-to-one basis in subterranean parking garages spread over the three sites.”

The project would include 20 condominiums for sale as well as rental housing units.

“Projects like the Highland Park Transit Village will provide affordable units, alleviating some of the concerns that people are being displaced,” Ceja said.

Lisa Durado, a local resident and one of the opposition leaders, expressed her group’s support of the Appeal Court’s ruling blocking the project during a Nov. 30 press conference held at one of the parking lots in question.

“There were a lot of factors that the city and the developer did not take into account when they decided to come up with this bad piece of planningand not follow the California Environmental Quality Act,” said Durado.

Backers of the lawsuit claim the city of Los Angeles has “ignored the environmental consequences of the proposed project by refusing to do the Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, which is required by law.” They claim the project would “spew particulate matter into the air, increase density in this tranquil neighborhood of Los Angeles, strain local infrastructure and utilities, and spoil historic Route 66 vistas.”

An Appeals Court panel agreed, reversing a trial court judgment dismissing the Friends of Highland Park’s CEQA lawsuit. The reversal means the city must set aside its Mitigated Negative Declaration and Notice of Determination and prepare an EIR that complies with CEQA requirements before the project can be built.

Durado also disputes claims by the city and the developer, McCormack Barron Salazar, that the project will offer much needed affordable housing, instead calling it part of the growing wave of gentrification in Highland Park.

“Many rents have gone up because many of the apartment buildings had clauses when they were built in the 80’s” allowing rent control restrictions to sunset, Durado said. “Those 30 years were up and now people came in and took over because there isn’t a law that protects those people anymore.”

Cedillo continues to support the project, however, and rejects the idea that the project will cause gentrification, Ceja told EGP.
“The City is in a housing crisis,” he said. “Affordable projects are much needed, especially when rents and housing prices are at record levels; The project is 100% affordable,” he assured.

The targeted household income for the project is 30%-60% of the area’s median income, Ceja said. This includes working families earning $10-$25/hour or roughly $20-$50K per year for a family of four.

Durado further claims the project‘s structural design will negatively impact the area.

“When you get a four story impermeable structure on three blocks, in the summer time the residences on the opposite side will be dying from heat due to the heat island effect,” Durado said.

“We may not live in Malibu with an ocean vista, but the vista we have here is important and worth saving,” Durado said.

 

A woman expresses her suppport of the Appeal’s Court ruling during a press conference in Highland Park Nov. 30. (Photo by Stacey Aravelo)

A woman expresses her suppport of the Appeal’s Court ruling during a press conference in Highland Park Nov. 30. (Photo by Stacey Aravelo)

Miguel Hernandez, owner of Antigua Bread, a bakery and restaurant in the Highland Park community for about eight years, said he was torn on whether or not to support the project.

“When the film industry comes here, at least twice every quarter, they take all the parking and they don’t care about us.” Hernandez said. “Having a building here would have kicked them out of here, but [it would have] also taken away all the parking spaces, the view we have here; I’m happy this didn’t go through.”

Antigua’s back entrance borders one of the parking lots that would have been razed, but Hernandez says the city never consulted him about their plans. The business owner said he’s never received support from the city.

“The city and the community should work together more. The city tries to push us down at every level. When I did the construction for my building, they prolonged it so much and made it difficult,” he complained last week.

Carlos Lopez, owner of “Las Cazuelas Restaurant,” which also borders the parking lot, supports the court’s decision, even though the Transit Village would have probably brought him more customers.

“I am not against gentrification; it’s change and you have to embrace change,” Lopez said. “But I love my community. That is the reason why I am here. I am a ‘Highland-Parqueño,’”

The “Friends of Highland Park,” as these concerned residents were named in the lawsuit against the City, raised about $40,000 through art sales, fundraisers and donations to fund the work against the project, Durado said.

“Another development might start in the future so we need to stay on top of this. This is a great victory but we have to be prepared as a community,” she said.

The city and developer appear to be considering an appeal to the California State Supreme Court, the group speculated.
Meanwhile, Cedillo’s office says they will continue to work with the community and listen to their concerns.
“We have been working with small businesses and residents to let them know their rights,” said Ceja. “We will continue to hold renters rights town hall and continue working with small businesses through the City’s Business Source Center.”

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December 10, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

One Response to “Court Halts Highland Park Housing Project”

  1. Highland Park Transit Village hits a major snag - Emily Sang on August 17th, 2016 4:22 pm

    […] Park sued the city for failing to require the more in-depth environmental review, and ultimately, the court ruled that the city and developer had to throw out the former and conduct an environmental impact report […]

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