City Council Reasserts Authority Over Elephant Hill Housing Project

Sprawling Development in NE LA Will Need New Environmental Impact Report

LOS ANGELES (October 24, 2007) – In a unanimous13-0 vote today, the Los Angeles City Council granted an appeal presented by a coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) challenging an earlier decision by the City’s Board of Public Works (BPW) that had issued a permit to a controversial housing development in northeast Los Angeles. The action guarantees that a new environmental impact report (EIR) will be required before the project can move forward.
“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.
In dispute are dozens of acres on the 110-acre 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.
The decision ensures that the residents of El Sereno, a densely populated, majority Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, will be protected under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“The LA City Council vote sends a clear message that our working-class community deserves, and now will receive, the same protection afforded to wealthier communities,” said Elva Yañez, an El Sereno community resident and executive director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park.
In early August, the BPW approved the development’s outstanding permit, even though this action contradicted an earlier City Council vote requiring a supplemental 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. The coalition has intervened in the lawsuit and is defending the City Council’s decision.