Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Smoking gun" documents show that Ballona Wetlands developer dealt away their rights to build more

Should a 55,000 car a day project by the Ballona Wetlands get to expand with another 24,000 cars a day?

No. In fact. Playa Vista traded away the right to develop more condos, BEEP’s lawsuit will show.


CONTACT: Rex Frankel, director, Ballona Ecosystem Education Project

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August 17, 2010

Dear Supporters of saving all of the Ballona natural open spaces:

Should we allow the Playa Vista development to increase its impacts by another 50%?

3 years ago we beat Playa Vista and its owners, the notorious Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs, in a landmark case over their 24,000 cars a day, 111 acre “Village at Playa Vista” proposed city which is located nearby the Ballona Wetlands next to historical Centinela Creek. We proved, despite the denials of city officials, that Playa Vista had no rights to build the project, and had falsified their environmental impact report to claim that they instead had massive long-ago-approved development rights and thus, their project was creating no new impact.

The Los Angeles Appeals Court saw through this smoke-screen and agreed with us, slamming the project in a 100 page opinion and issuing an injunction to halt all construction of the proposed mini-city of 2600 condos and a shopping center.

Since that victory, this developer returned to city hall, seeking to get around the Appeals Court’s ruling, and not surprisingly, the L.A. City Council members gave away the store again earlier this year. That leads us to our new lawsuit, for which the opening brief was filed on August 16th..

What our first lawsuit showed was that Playa Vista has no massive development rights on this land. What our new lawsuit shows is WHY Playa Vista has no massive development rights and why the L.A. City Council cannot simply change a few phrases in an environmental impact report and again hand over $300 million in massive development rights to them.

Simply put, the approval of the first 350 acre part of the Playa Vista project in 1993 included the promised benefit to the surrounding community that if the developer in the first phase could build 3200 condos and 3.2 million square feet of office and retail space, and the city gave Playa Vista several hundred million of dollars in tax exempt housing and infrastructure bonds and discounts on city fees, plus $30 million to build and widen roads for Playa Vista’s benefit, that PV would give up the right to build just under another 2 million square feet of office and retail space. This trade-off, described as a part of the benefits of the PV 1993 project, was not well-publicized at the time but we found it in the City’s approval documents.

This trade off is like a contractual exchange between the developer and the residents of Los Angeles. Every first year law student knows that when two parties make a contract, and one side (the residents of Los Angeles) fully performs (PV gets to build what they want and gets all the taxpayer subsidized handouts), it is a breach of contract when Playa Vista refuses to perform their part of the bargain back to us (the agreement not to try to build even more).

What Goldman Sachs and their lawyers are attempting to do is convert these allegedly “unused” and “available” rights to build 2 million square feet of office and retail into 2600 condominiums and a shopping center. The crux of their argument is that when they said “eliminate” 2 million square feet, they meant “relocate” the 2 million square feet to the rest of their land near Centinela Avenue, which they call the “Village” site.

What this means to residents of Los Angeles who sit every day in traffic jams is that when Playa Vista was allowed in the 1990’s to build a massive city on L.A.’s last flat privately-owned open space and also given huge-taxpayer funded handouts by our City Council, this developer made promises to get this deal. Our lawsuit seeks to enforce those promises.


To read the lawsuit brief:
https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B5SGRAMv8RXuYmVlYmM3ZjgtODBmMS00YzJkLWI4YTItYTc2MjhiZWMwOTdk&hl=en


To see the city approval document from 1993 in which the future development rights were traded away:
https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B5SGRAMv8RXuYjdmZDBkZjctNGJiYy00ZWM3LTg5ZWItM2U2MDNhOThkZjlh&hl=en

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