CA Supreme Court declines to take our case--so our legal battle over the last phase of Playa Vista has ended
We are sad to report that the California Supreme Court has declined to take our case over the second and final 111 acre phase of the Playa Vista development in the Ballona wetlands area. Our case over this last phase was filed in 2004, and in 2007 we were successful in overturning the plan which totaled 2600 condos and 300,000 square feet of shopping center and offices. The state’s Appeals court called the developer’s environmental impact disclosure documents “dishonest” numerous times. This is because Playa Vista’s lawyer and these documents covered up the true nature of the project: to award a massive $300 million gift of development rights for land upon which this developer had traded away their development rights in order to build their first mega city in their Phase 1 project.
The City’s own 1993 approval documents for Phase 1 specified that one of the “benefits” to the public from approval of Phase 1 was the “elimination” of the remaining development rights on the rest of their land. Unfortunately, in the opinion of this court, our state’s environmental laws allow the developer to fix the huge errors we discovered with a little paperwork correction, and they allow the City Council to then ignore the impacts of the actual project once they are revealed.
So, Playa Vista has been awarded the rights to build on the rest of their land. BEEP has challenged their development plans since 1985 and, despite this court loss, our work has resulted in 70% of the original 1000 acre site being saved as wetlands, wildlife habitat and parks. The original car traffic totals from their project have been reduced from over 200,000 more cars a day to under 80,000. The total amount of condos has been reduced from over 13,000 to 6100.
A project that was seen as a “done deal” has been made a lot less offensive through our work and that of our partners.
Some of L.A.’s biggest developers have wracked up hundreds of millions in losses (at least $600 million) in trying to get around the community opposition. As the president of the Playa Vista company said in 2004, "Would these guys get together in a room and do it again? They would say 'No.'"
We at BEEP are proud of our work, and, yes, we would fight this battle again.
We will continue watching over the future restoration plans for the saved Ballona Wetlands preserve, by the new owners, the State of California Department of fish and game, and we urge you to visit the wetlands sometime, or attend the Wednesday evening hikes at local nature spots led by our president, Rex Frankel, which are listed here: http://lameetuphikes.blogspot.com
BEEP’s next project is posting our massive environmental research and local history library on the internet so future developers looking to wreck natural treasures in Los Angeles will see the battle they face.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND:
Los Angeles Business Journal, Jan 19, 2004 by Danny King
Will Playa Vista's big-time investment group, made up of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital Management, finally make any money on this deal? Playa Vista President Steve Soboroff expects the return to be modest on what's estimated to be a $1.2 billion investment by the time construction wraps, probably no sooner than 2010.
"Would these guys get together in a room and do it again? They would say 'No,'" said Soboroff. "Will they get any sort of return on their money? De minimis, but that's because everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong."
Playa Vista: Wetlands Development is a Financial Quagmire... for the developer
July 13, 2006
The head of Playa Vista, Steve Soborrof says his project has lost $600 million for its investors...see the last paragraph in this story from the Santa Monica Mirror in 2006:
"Panel moderator David Abel put the key question: Can Playa Vista serve as a model for other developments? Can it be replicated? Soboroff said that the project had produced $600 million in losses to three companies and taken 20 years, all because people thought of it as a real estate project instead of a public policy project.