3 Big Victories: Playa Vista Sinks

By John Davis

Multi-national corporations and their local lackeys have been trying to build the largest development ever foisted on the City of Angels in the Ballona Wetlands. We have laws here. There are smart people here. The communities are galvanized to stop it, and now it is over.

The developers, led by a failed mayoral candidate, have met their match in the California Appellate Court. Apparently, this Court sees justice and cannot be bullied or bribed and has leveled two fatal decisions, bringing the project to its knees.

The most recent good news is that a band of environmental groups including Ballona Ecological Project (BEEP), Ballona Land Trust, Surf Rider, Gabrielino Tongva Native Peoples, and the City of Santa Monica proceeded to kick the living daylights out of Phase Two of the mammoth super-sized project. The Appeals Court shut Phase Two down flat.

Any sane person would prefer to have open space, clean sea air, roads that are not clogged, clean surface water and groundwater for the droughts ahead than to be at the mercy such a tyrannical development
First, here is a brief description of the two lawsuits that are drowning Playa Vista. The most recent suit filed by those mentioned above has had a whopping effect. The Court ordered Phase Two of the project to be stopped and the Environmental Impact Report tossed out. It said the City must start all over again on Phase Two based on fraudulent up-zoning, improper evaluation of native remains, and failure to prove the City Sewer System can handle all of the groundwater the Playa Vista residents have to pump out of their basements. To make things worse for the developers the water they have to discharge may be contaminated from a number of former industrial uses.

Permits to discharge waters to the surface or into the sewers and ultimately into waters of the United States require permits to comply with the U.S. Clean Water Act, and important State Environmental Acts that protect the public’s water.

We cannot flush toxic waste down our toilets into the sewer and neither can Playa Vista (legally), nor can they pour toxics down into the street drains or Ballona Creek.

Ground water is a big problem for the developers. How to get rid of it, especially the polluted water, is the primary Achilles heel of Playa Vista.

Well, the multi-nationals and their local lap dogs cheated and are now caught.

In the first lawsuit ground water was also the problem. The developers could not account for the effects of groundwater discharges on the environment or on the methane mitigation systems designed to keep people living at the project safe.

Since the Court of Appeals ordered the vacating of the methane approvals, the case has gone back down to the Superior Court for Enforcement. The city and developers were ordered to determine if a Subsequent or Supplemental Environmental Report was necessary and to proceed under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The city and developers are currently claiming that the Appeals Court created a third implied option which the court did not state, define or imply which would allow the city to not conduct an SEIR and not to proceed under CEQA. The city’s stance is, of course, absurd.

This case is winding its way back to the Court of Appeals which will no doubt rule against the city for not complying with its order. Currently those filing this suit, including myself, have claimed to the local enforcing court that the City Attorney could not advise the City Council and the City Council could not approve their recent actions because of violations of the State Political Reform Act of 1972. (See Beachhead Article: “On The Take, LA City Council and Attorney Accused of Taking Playa Vista Bribes” May 2007)

If the environmentalists win at this point in the lower court the city must start all over again on Phase One of the Project and properly vacate the methane mitigations under which Phase One is and can be occupied. Otherwise it is most likely that the Court of Appeals will shut Phase One down for good in regard to safety reasons when the case reaches their bench once again.

The Court of Appeals does not seem like it will go easy on the developers if the most recent shutdown is any indication. It would require the disapproval of the Certificates of Occupancy if and until it is safe. This will cause a mass evacuation of Playa Vista Phase One. And I feel sympathy for the people who have been duped into spending their money on a home that the seller knew had not been proven safe to live in under California law and was clouded by ongoing litigation.

The city has allowed thousands of people to live and work there now even though it has not complied with the court order. If anyone dies as a result of a methane explosion the City Council will have real blood on its hands, not only the blood of the exhumed ancestors.

My read is that is will be a short matter of time before real crimes will be revealed in this Chinatown (movie) like real life drama.

I predict this not only because of apparent intentional violations of the California Fair Political Reform Act of 1972 but also because the Controller of the city of Los Angeles recently conducted an audit of the project ending with conclusions that were not supported by her findings. The conclusions were favorable to the multi-nationals.

First Controller Laura Chic went on KNBC TV 4 news to describe the Playa Vista audit.

Then she went on again to explain that the President of the Playa Vista, Steven Soboroff, may have intimidated her and her staff in a strong arm attempt to put a favorable spin on the audit. I recommend readers view this footage on the KNBC website to draw their own independent conclusion of this extraordinary history making footage. Go to KNBC.com, type in Playa Vista and then push the search site button. Here are some of the more disturbing quotes. The entire exchange is also in text format.

Posted: Mon - October 1, 2007 at 08:18 PM