(Above left: The hillside on Allesandro Street, at El Moran, as it looked in late 2007. Right: The very same spot in mid-2012.)
If mayoral candidate and City Councilmember Eric Garcetti truly wants to make Los Angeles the greenest city in the country, he doesn't seem off to a very good start. Besides his failure to support the South Central Farm (see: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2011/11/249691.php
), he approved rezoning on a hillside in Echo Park from three to 15 homes, over the strong objections of surrounding neighbors--and earlier this year allowed 40 protected trees to be cut down (see: http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2012/02/tree-cutting-resumes-on-elysian-heights-housing-site
The affected area, long known as Semi-Tropical Spiritualist Tract, for having been a gathering place of transcendentalists as far back as 1905, was part of a wildlife corridor. Cheryl Parisi, a neighbor since the early 1980s, described the locale in 2007. “This is an uninterrupted space from Elysian Park all the way through to our hill. So all the wildlife is able to traverse from Elysian Park; up along the ridge, which you can see [from] Riverside; and they just come straight into this whole open area. So it’s really magnificent: there are hawks, owls. (We have an owl in the neighborhood.)” The protected trees included California Black Walnut , Coast Live Oak, the California sycamore, and the California bay laurel.
Cindy Ortiz, another long-time resident, said a fellow neighbor could hear coyotes being born every spring. She herself witnessed another spring phenomenon: “the carpet of morning doves as [they’re] feeding.”
Both Ortiz and Parisi fought this development for years. As noted, the area was zoned for three housing units, but Henry Nunez , a developer from Arcadia, had a “plan” for 15 two-story units and sought to get it rezoned. His “plans” were presented to an unreceptive audience of about 100 in January 2007. “The roar of opposition was deafening,” recalled Ortiz.
“[T]here were about 100 people there,” said long-time activist Jeb Brighouse(1). “Not one of them spoke in favor of this, not one. So any claim that this has been passed through the community and approved by the community, I say is just a flat out falsehood.”
Furthermore, “this developer promised to come back, and he has not done so,” Ortiz said.
Yet, Nunez got his desired rezoning for 15 units. When this decision was appealed at a PLUM hearing in early '09, Councilmember Ed Reyes sided with the developer, on the strength that he had devoted three years to developing his “plan.” This, despite Reyes being presented with a published article disclosing Nunez was already in the process of selling off plots of land.
In early 2012, people who lived several blocks away from the Spiritualist Tract noticed a lot more birds than usual around their houses—demolition of the trees had begun. (Pictures of affected birds can be found here: http://redcarproperty.blogspot.com/search/label/Semi%20Tropic
posted on July 6, 2012; June 13, 2012; and earlier.)
Garcetti—who has also annoyed his Hollywood constituents with his pro-development (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/06/hollywood-community-plan.html
), and who has taken money from people with links to Wal-Mart (see: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/27/local/la-me-garcetti-walmart-20120727
)--is a strong contender in the mayoral race. (His chief deputy, Mitch O'Farrell, who represented him during the battle over the Spiritualist Tract(2), is hoping to get Garcetti's seat on City Council.)
Twenty years ago, another City Councilman for district 13 who was pro-development, Michael Woo, lost his mayoral bid due in large part to a group called Citizens for Anyone but Woo (information about this group follows the article). This is one case where the past should be repeated.
(Some of this material previously appeared both on LA IndyMedia (see: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/11/209930.php
) and in the Epian Ways newsletter circa 2007.)
(1)As Brighouse explained, he “was appointed by Councilman John Ferraro to be the Chairman of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee in the Echo Park-Silverlake Community Plan during the cycle in which this property was dealt with.”
(2)Mitch O'Farrell was present at the January 2007 public meeting where Henry Nunez's proposed development got no positive response (“Go away,” an audience member exclaimed to Nunez, evoking applause). O'Farrell and the developer said there would be follow-up meetings for additional public input, and as noted earlier, that never happened.
Politicians can be stopped when enough pissed off citizens unite.