LOS ANGELES (September 10, 2007) – To ensure that the residents of El Sereno, a densely populated, majority Latino neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles, receive the same protection under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) extended to other areas of town, a coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) asked the court last week to join as defendants in a lawsuit brought against the City of Los Angeles by a real estate developer.
In dispute are the 110 acres of Elephant Hill, one of the last undeveloped hillsides in the region, where Monterey Hill Investors plans to build a sprawling housing development. Originally planned in the early 1990s as a luxury homes subdivision with 24 residences, the development’s footprint has since expanded over 600 percent.
“City agencies first turned a blind eye when the developer illegally expanded this luxury home development, and disregarded new evidence of unstable geological and hydrological conditions,” said James Rojas, president of the Latino Urban Forum (LUF). “Now they are thumbing their noses at City Council efforts to defend public safety and environmental protections.”
Tomorrow, the LA City Council will vote on overriding a recent decision by the City’s own Board of Public Works (BPW). In early August, the BPW approved the development’s building permits, even though this action contradicted an earlier City Council vote requiring a supplemental environmental impact report (EIR) prior to issuing the permits. In June, the City Council had voted 8 to 2 to demand a new EIR for the project, since the one being used by the developers was 17 years old, but the BPW issued the permits nonetheless.
The City Council’s request for a new EIR was what led the developers to sue the City of Los Angeles. NRDC and LUF’s motion to intervene affirms that the City’s authority to compel supplemental environmental review “is established by clear statutory terms under CEQA.”
“A real estate development as massive as this one will have a substantial impact on the local community and will cause significant damage to one of the last remaining undeveloped hillsides in Northeast Los Angeles,” said Tim Grabiel, environmental justice attorney with NRDC. “We want to make sure that the working-class community of El Sereno receives the same protections under CEQA granted to other neighborhoods.”