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Monday, October 19, 2009

How Does the City Stop Activists? Price Them Out of Existence!

Tomorrow, the LA City Council will consider a controversial method to stop community activists in their tracks. The City Council will vote on whether or not to increase fees for filing an Appeal to land use decisions. Filing an Appeal to a Land Use decision by City Planning or Building & Safety is the key tool of community advocates to address bad decisions that negatively affect their neighborhoods. This right to do so was guaranteed by provisions made in the 1999 City Charter.

The successful effort to stop Home Depot from opening in Sunland-Tujunga was based, largely in part, on the legal arguments made in the Appeals filed by the No Home Depot Campaign.

This fee increase is not just a routine periodic adjustment. If the City Council approves this measure, an Appeal to a Building & Safety determination will increase from a few hundred dollars to over $5000.00.

This will essentially stifle the rights of individuals and organizations to challenge many decisions made by the downtown cogs who tend to rubber stamp any application put before them.

From Ron Kaye:

On Tuesday, the City Council intends -- having bungled its first attempt two months ago -- to take another stab at stripping ordinary citizens of their constitutional right to petition for redress of grievances, specifically planning decisions.

Under the ordinance adopted unanimously, of course, on Aug. 12, fees to appeal planning decisions and Building and Safety actions were supposed to skyrocket from nominal amounts to thousands of dollars except for developers of major projects. They would get a reduction on many of the appeals they file.

What was wrong with the ordinance, apart from many of the fees -- apart from various typos and fees being supposedly being incorrectly listed -- is that the public wasn't given proper notice that the fee schedule affected appeals. Most of the public discussion and the agenda notice only referred to application fees which were raised to guarantee developers speedy processing.


And from Daniel Wright:

The People may have voted for a right to appeal to Area Planning Commissions in the 1999 City Charter, but if the Council approves the ordinance tomorrow, the Area Planning Commissioners will not have much to do. The cost of prosecuting a land use appeal in the City of Los Angeles will skyrocket beyond the financial means of most households, small businesses, and community-based organizations. Only the wealthy and big corporations will be able to appeal land use decisions that affect them. The little guy, overwhelmingly in communities of lower income and racial minorities, will be squashed by the fee increases.

It is obvious that developers and downtown special interests are behind this ordinance in their never ending quest to quash community advocates.

From the emails I am receiving, if this goes through, the shit is going to hit the fan! We'll be watching the votes of the Councilmembers, and will report the results here tomorrow.

UPDATE: The CC has decided, after a couple of hours of debate, to hold action on this ordinance and will take up the matter again tomorrow.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Daniel Wright is a slimy snake who is one of those who will now make it difficult for the decent citizens too. Abuse, misuse and LOSE.

October 19, 2009 8:34 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

Would you care to elaborate 8:34, or do you just like throwing out smears?

October 19, 2009 8:40 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

8:34 pm really does not make much sense in their tirade.

Precisely how will defeating a 1500% increase in Land Use Appeal fees "make it difficult for the decent citizens too"? Would that be those fine, upstanding citizens known as "real estate developers"?

It is important that people realize that while Council is raising fees on regular people, the "decent real estate developer" appeal fees will be dropping by thousands of dollars. Nice. Did Gail Goldberg, on her knees again for the developers, think that up all on her own?

How Wright's ringing the alarm bell for the City is "abuse and misuse" is beyond me. It seems the ordinance is the "abuse and misuse" of the good people of this City.

October 19, 2009 9:24 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Damn straight! If I invest tens of thousands of dollar of my money in my property I shouldn't have that threatened by every piss-ant nuisance suit self appointed community crusader that comes along.

If the REAL community truly has an issue then they can raise some funds and have an investment in their agenda. Or they can go to their council member.

Otherwise every project will have tons of worthless protests driving out jobs and investment and further turn LA into a slum.

October 19, 2009 10:35 PM  

Blogger Michael Higby said:

1035 the people have a right to petition the government for redress without ONEROUS fees.

How does that jeopardize your investment?

October 19, 2009 10:44 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

10:35, before you invest all your tens of thousands of dollars into your project, it might be a good idea to see if that project complies with the specific plan of the community. You'll save yourself a lot of headache and wasted money.
Instead of calling residents "piss-ants", why don't you meet with them and explain what you are proposing?
You may find their suggestions helpful since they know the area better than anyone.

October 19, 2009 10:52 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Noone cares.

October 20, 2009 12:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

CHRIST ALMIGHTY JOE! I've been following city council for a goddamn long time and I've NEVER seen you there. So why are you bothering us about this here, especially on the blog where you CONSTANTLY trash Higby?

Trashing Higby is okay by you, but showing up to bitch at the city council people isn't?

You're always taking the fucking easy way out. Even Dumb-ar Galatzan is coming around to supporting Krikorian. Why don't you come around to coming to city hall instead of boring all of us mayor samers?????

October 20, 2009 12:30 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

10:35 Joe B and Michael H. are right on. You are just the kind of person the public has to defend themselves against. It's obvious you don't have a R.A. about anyone but yourself.

October 20, 2009 1:23 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

12:00 a.m. - Gail Goldberg

October 20, 2009 3:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Despite what one of my relatives may have posted here before, I really don't care.

-- Signed,
Michael P. Noone
"If he can't do it, noone can!"

October 20, 2009 7:08 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Neighborhood councils can oppose land use decisions, and do so as entities of the City of L.A., without appeals fees of any kind.

Make use of them, and gut the City's attempt to turn this into a cash cow, or to stifle dissent.

The planning department is already set up to include NCs in the process, and people filing for variances, etc. are told at the permit counters that they should contact their local NC for input. But few NCs make use of the slight advance notice they receive, or encourage neighbors to use them as the cost-free entre' to the system.

The more people make use of these oficial advisory boards -- the better for the credibility of the appeal and that of the NCs, and the less the City can ignore either one.

October 20, 2009 7:16 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Don't pass this off to NC's. Shutting down avenues of redress is not permissible. NC's have agenda requirements before actions can be taken, most have lead times per Brown Act notice periods that further extend ability to act.

Serial polling outside of official meetings is prohibited and limited outside activity on matters can tie up an NC, not to mention that the matters slide by (intentionally, by Council's actios) without ability of many, if not most, NC's to act at all on votes, not to mention review matters.

In the end, the NC's still are only advisory and are treated as such, even though CMs try to stroke them while they minimize NC imput.

Most NC's meet once a month- an agenda set and posted in the week before, then action may be taken at a meeting. Committees similarly run.

Expecting CMs to keep NCs apprised or with any "head up" is wishful thinking and such news on things is passed along irregularly, usually needing a little investigation to get info. Often the blogs or even L.A. TIMES preceeds any news from a CM as a source.

NO, this is a bad move and another step to relieving homeowners of a meaningful opportunity to have their already weakened voice heard in city government. Things were different when home owners were the majority, but that's changed, and renters are the majority, which is why lots of things happened that wouldn't have before that shift in proportions.

In cd-14

October 20, 2009 9:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

From what I've experienced, it seems both the individual and corporate developer, if they are well versed or well lawyered, can easily game the city system to their advantage, often to skirt the intention of the laws and at the expense of the surrounding neighborhoods. Some would say, hey that's life, that's business. Ok, so then us, individuals, lean on our politians. But wait... Our city reps represent both businesses and individual citizens who sometimes have conflicting values. Most citizens would like to think that everyone will do the "right" thing and would rather take time playing with their kids rather than to spend hours of time filing appeals, and donating money to afford legal representation. Given this is method by which we petition the govt, it is a fundamental right which should not be defacto taken away by the use of an onerous fees. If developers, large and small, really considered the community, and did their research on what was legal AND how this would affect people, we wouldn't have to resort to this.

October 20, 2009 11:18 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

This is so effing shady. It has Villar, Garcetti an Reyes written all over it. We already know Essel loves this. WHERE DOES KREKORIAN STAND???

October 20, 2009 11:42 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Wright plays dirty and uses threat of blackmail of personal private issues as "leverage" so he's the worst "champion" for this or any cause.

On a general note, some people and HOA's file frilovous appeals like those who file frivolous lawsuits, BECAUSE it costs them nothing. So they're now ruining it for those who have a legit grievance with some next-door neighbor impinging on their own property rights, especially if the neighbor/ developer has deep pockets.

I'd suggest a lower fee for the FIRST such appeal if it's by an individual; then to go up on a sliding scale and greater if it's an HOA or Assn. or some group that opposes everything: I think in particular of those in a couple of districts who are NO TO EVERYTHING but have NOTHING positive to put in its place.

October 20, 2009 12:48 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

This works for me.

Next, let's charge $1,000 to address the City Council during public comment.

Ought to speed up the procedings, I'd say.

All in favor say "Aye"!!

Opposed, say "Nay".

Hearing no oppositon, it is passed and hereafter, it will cost $1,000 for each public comment limited to three (3) minutes.

October 20, 2009 1:13 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

1:13 p.m. Funny you should mention that, there's already another motion along those lines moving through Council.

I think it's File # 09-666-BR549-FU, but you can look it up. And, it's not $1,000, that would be wrong (and would deter people from commenting, which helps with the budget deficit). I think it starts at 50 bucks a minute, for now, but that only guarantees that the time-keeper is actually listening. If you want a full quorum paying attention, you better take a second job. (Or, a "first" job in the case of the BANNED one, who name may not be spoken here, world without end, amen).

But there's good news for the Council's 8-10 constant gadflies. Right after this thing kicks in, they're going to unveil a "frequent kvetcher" plan, where you can not only get your minutes at a discounted rate, but you can earn valuable "prizes" like leftover "Call 3-1-1" refrigerator magnets and dead "Million Trees" seedlings.

Can't travel downtown or to the Valley for public comment? Not a problem, each 1 minute increment of "public comment" time is equal to 3 minutes of City Council staff callback time.

October 20, 2009 2:26 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

October 19, 2009 8:34 pm and October 20, 2009 12:48 pm seems to be the same person. Grind your personal attack axe.

Anyway, on Channel 35 today, Councilmembers overwhelmingly agreed that a new look needs to be made at appeal fees. Glad this was brought up by someone, because my homeowners group knew nothing about these proposed appeal fee increases until alerts went out over the weekend.

October 20, 2009 3:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

3:17 = Daniel Wright

October 20, 2009 3:29 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

3:29 = Joe B.

October 20, 2009 7:23 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Daniel Wright has been a knowledgeable and tireless advocate for the Southwest museum and against the Autry cowboys. I don't know what is wrong with 8:34 Oct.19,but something is.

We should all be on the phone to our CMs to protest this fee increase.

October 20, 2009 8:34 PM  

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