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Belmont Hearing Notes

Written by Robin Nelson of BelmontArtPark.com

What follows is a description of events from the public appeal hearing this wednesday Dec. 8th at City Hall, before the Planning and Land Use Commission for the appeal of the Belmont Art Park:

After listening to many thoughtful statements from the community, Councilmember Ed Reyes dismissed the appeal without having a discussion with his board members. He read a pre-written statement and did not address many of the important issues that were raised by speakers. The case now goes to the full City Council on Wed. Dec. 15th at 10am.

Mr. Reyes, who is the chairperson of the commission, was the only member of the board that sat through the whole hearing. Cardenas left after 10 minutes and Weiss text messaged on his cell phone throughout. The only contribution Weiss made was afterward, when he eulogized Ed Reyes and gushed about how grateful he feels to be able to support his good decisions.

During the hearing, Reyes asked the developers only one question... if the 20% "affordable" housing would be accessible to people in our neighborhood. The Meta Housing rep couldn't answer directly and gave a very weak response... saying they have been building this kind of housing for many years, that they are doing good things for the city of LA, and that Mayor Hahn supports them.

Councilmember Reyes completely failed to address our appeal of the Negative Mitigated Declaration. We believe a full EIR needs to be performed to ensure that the land is safe to build on. It is adjacent to the Belmont Learning Complex, and has all of the same land issues. We submitted the public soil tests for the site stating that the land is "over a hazardous Earthquake zone," that it has "liquifaction" issues, and is on top of the Los Angeles oilfield. Reyes totally ignored this portion of the appeal document.

A representative from the Greater Echo Park/Elysian Neighborhood Council spoke as well. He stated that the board had not been given due notice of the project and would not support it without the EIR. GEPENC turned in a letter of support for us and made a strong statement that this project is not in the best interest of our community or the City of LA.

We informed Reyes that Meta Housing Developers had illegally removed gas tanks without any permits or city supervision. We also testified that the gas tanks had leaked... apparently into the ground water. We had been given this information by the contractors at the site, and the
developers did not deny it. Meta had also demolished the train ramp and Tarasca field
without permits... but Reyes did not seem to mind. Instead, he rewarded them by supporting their building variance requests.

Interestingly, the developers did not have many people present to speak. They usually bring a crew of attorneys and representatives. It felt like they had been guaranteed that the appeal would be denied, and so they didn't have their full arsenal of paid supporters. Amusingly, one
of their speakers actually changed her mind during the hearing and said that she wouldn't support the apartment project unless the safety concerns were looked into.

In his closing statement, Mr. Reyes said that the neighborhood is improving on it's own and that he needs to build housing to accommodate this. He said that all the new schools that are finally being built will make this area nicer to live in. The irony here is that these schools were supposed to be for all the kids that have been overcrowded at the current Belmont High. Seems like these families will be pushed out and the schools will be attended by more affluent students.

Reyes also said that we shouldn't lament the loss of our 80 year-old park because there is a new park planned for the empty land across the street. A few years ago this land had houses on it, but they were demolished and families were displaced to make room for the Belmont Learning Center... the high school that was supposed to relieve dense overcrowding at nearby schools. When the BLC project was halted, LA Unified tried to save some face (and $) by considering the site for a park. Ironically, this portion of the BLC is actually solid bedrock... and would be well suited for an apartment complex.

So, the head of the Planning and Land Use Commission, Councilmember Ed Reyes, says he'll allow the destruction of our historic park and replace it with with a new park across the street where homes were torn down to make room for a school that was never completed. Now that's good planning...

Robin Nelson
Belmont Art Park
www.belmontartpark.com


Posted 12.11.04 by Unit







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