Massive Development in NE Los Angeles Challenged by City Council Vote

El Sereno Community Wins Fight Demanding Environmental Impact Review of Housing Project
LOS ANGELES (June 21, 2007) – As a result of critical challenges by three members of the Los Angeles City Council, the residents of El Sereno – a densely populated, majority Latino neighborhood in Northeast LA – won their fight to get an environmental review of a sprawling housing development that threatens one of the last undeveloped hillsides in the region.
The City Council voted 8 to 2 late yesterday to demand a supplemental environmental impact report (EIR) for a luxury housing project that would take up most of the 110-acre Elephant Hill, in El Sereno. Prior to the vote, City staff seemed inclined to push through the massive development project with less than the mandatory environmental review.
Based on the expert opinions of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Santa Monica Mountains Community (SMMC), and the law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the City Council ended up agreeing with the El Sereno community, and required City staff to study the project’s impacts.
“This huge project is going to have a considerable impact on our community and, as currently proposed, would have caused significant damage to one of the last remaining undeveloped hillsides in Northeast Los Angeles,” said Elva Yañez, an El Sereno community resident and Director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park. “The LA City Council voted to provide the same protections to our working-class community that it does to wealthier communities.”
A critical point of contention was whether the City could even request supplemental environmental review. The City Attorney’s office had stated that the City
was not empowered to do anything but approve the project. Council members José Huizar, Ed
Reyes and Tom LaBonge
challenged this conclusion, relying on the legal opinions provided by
NRDC, SMMC and Chatten-Brown & Associates.
“It would seem that the three council members were wearing capes under their suits by the way they swept in like heroes and debunked the myth that the City’s hands were tied,” said Tim Grabiel, environmental justice attorney with NRDC. “The LA City Council voted to empower El Sereno residents to decide the fate of their community.”
The City will now begin the process of reviewing the housing development to ensure that it does not unnecessarily impact Elephant Hill.