"Elva Yanez and environmentalists win costly victory for El Sereno's Elephant Hill"
Environmental justice victory or suspicious dealings?
One can't blame El Sereno activist Elva Yanez for being thrill with today's City Council vote to pay $9,000,000 for the El Sereno hillside parcel known as Elephant Hill. But what started years ago as an grass-roots effort to preserve one of the last open space areas in Northeast LA, has been corrupted with political intrigue and suspicious dealings.
The Los Angeles City Council voted today to settle a lawsuit over a contested 24-home subdivision planned for El Sereno, agreeing to buy the property for $9 million so it can be converted into a park.
The developers of the property, Monterey Hills Investors, sued the city last year after the council demanded more environmental review of the project, planned for a site known as Elephant Hill.
Councilman Jose Huizar said the city would borrow money in the short term to pay for the purchase of the 19-acre site. Over the long term the city will seek state funding to help defray the cost, he said.
"This is an environmental justice victory because proper environmental review was not conducted" on the planned subdivision, said Huizar, whose district includes El Sereno.
A Superior Court judge had a different view, ruling in January that the council had no authority to order Monterey Hills Investors to perform a new environmental impact report on the project.
In the wake of that ruling, attorney Ben Reznik, a City Hall lobbyist who represents the developer, vowed to seek damages of at least $8 million, saying the city's actions postponed completion of his client's project until after the collapse of the region's real estate market.
Can you see the political rats running for cover? Smell the onerous stench of political deceit?
Not too long in the past, El Sereno and CD 14 activists can remember an certain "CD 14 public official" who was heard telling the concern Elephant Hills activists that he thought that losing this lawsuit was possible, but moving forward was the "right" course of action. That when the cost of the 14 acre parcel was around $6,000,000 dollars.
But was doing the right thing the only consideration for Huizar? Consider these facts.
Reznik, who has held campaign fundraisers for Huizar and other city elected officials, had no comment on today's vote, saying the settlement had not been finalized. As he prepared for the damages phase of the case, Reznik gave notice that his client intended to depose Huizar, Councilman Ed Reyes and possibly employees in the mayor's office, according to a report obtained by The Times.
Hmmm, maybe the likes of Huizar, Reyes with the possible Mayor Villaraigosa's staffers in the mix, use the city treasury to "cry uncle" or was this part of an grand charade to improve the profit margin on devalue property, to help a political donor?
This deal reminds me of a microscopic version of the failed "Las Lomas Project".
Replace Dan Palmer with Ben Reznik, Councilman Richard Alarcon with Councilman Huizar and David Hernandez with Elva Yanez. But sadly, there is no local version of Councilman Greig Smith
to cry foul over this blantant misuse of public dollars. Then I seem to remember that the likes of Councilman Reyes and Huizar were supporters of the Las Lomas Project, as this passage reminds us.
"Our city attorney has said that if we fail to move forward, he believes we are in great jeopardy of being sued," said Councilman Richard Alarcon, whose San Fernando Valley district borders the Las Lomas site.
Alarcon voted to keep the project alive, along with council members Ed Reyes, Jose Huizar, Herb Wesson and Bernard C. Parks.
Strange how Alarcon, in his support of the Las Lomas Project, sounds so much like Councilman Huizar in his support of the Elephant Hill settlement.
Then there is this simple fact for CD 14 open space advocates to ponder. With the $9,000,000 dollars that Huizar is proposing to give his campaign contributors for the Elephant Hill acreage, you could have an completed Ascot Hills Passive Park and Hazard Park Wetlands Restoration, with money left over for some of the Elephant Hills property. But then I don't have to answer to contributors and Mayor Villaraigosa.
Labels: "COUNCILMAN LAST SEEN AS JOSE HUIZAR", Councilman Ed Reyes, Elephant Hill, Elva Yanez, las lomas, mayor antonio villaraigosa