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Elaine Brown's Forbidden Comments


Of the last century: Foothill Jack in the Box, 1970, from DA90027 flickr stream.


Elaine Brown
, opponent to opening the controversial Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan, informs me that her comments on the Plan at the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council website are no longer available there.

As a public service to the people of Sunland Tujunga, they follow.

UPDATE: Comments restored to STNC Land Use Committee Library early Sunday morning.
______________________________________

May 31, 2011

To: Fellow Community Members

Subject: The Proposed Letter/Amending Ordinance/Memorandum to open the FBCSP

I have been told "Don't fight this, Elaine, we have the votes." Maybe so, but I am asking the STNC and STNC/LUC, please, do not open/amend the Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan not because I think the SP is perfect, but because I think it is the best we will ever have. This is written to my fellow Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee members, to family, friends and neighbors, and to those of you who have traveled this road along with me, including Councilmember Krekorian.

This response is long, but I hope that you will read it all the way to the end. I am asking you to think of all of us who live in not only Sunland-Tujunga but in this Community Plan District - one of the last agriculturally zoned places in the City of Los Angeles. There are bigger fish to fry. *See note below.

AS TO THE "LETTER" ITSELF:

To use the word "blighted" in this letter is to invite in the CRA. Been to NoHo lately?

Sunland-Tujunga is 100% better today than it was in 1995 thanks in many respects to the Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan and to the people who created it. The use of blight was attempted here approximately eight years in order to support “Vision 2020” and was soundly repudiated as false and it was defeated. It was an attempt by developers to bring in their “Smart Growth” philosophy under the guise of stopping pollution, "saving" Open Space”, and saying housing densification should be done along transit corridors. We did not have blight and we are not a transit corridor. Ever hear about the plan to bring a Metro Spur into Lake View Terrace? *See note below.

For the proposed letter to say that all the community is behind these Specific Plan Amendments is absolutely not true. There has been no outreach and no community input. I personally was completely unaware of this letter until the agenda was posted 72 hours before the May 16, 2011 LUC meeting, and I am a member of the LUC.

Who originated this letter besides Dean Sherer? Was it done in secret? If so, was that because many of us in the community are opposed to opening the plan? How did the subject come up at the recent meeting of selected community members with Councilmember Krekorian?

City Planning alway has the final word on exactly what goes into a Specific Plan. To believe that we can tell the city what to do in a rewrite is ludicrous. It’s ludicrous to request two sweeps by Code Enforcement a year along with other demands, particularly those that take discretionary control away from the Planning Department.

Unwanted variances and exceptions to the plan are not generated by the plan, but actually by developers via the Planning Department, the Council District, the APC, the CPC, PLUM and/or the City Council. These exceptions and variances even when opposed by the community tend to set precedents for future projects undermining the intent of the SP.

The Planning Class, taught last year in S-T by Dick Platkin and Tom Rath, was not supposed to be about rewriting the Specific Plan, it was to learn how to better understand the many new ordinances that are being proposed by Planning. Attendees came from the basin, LVT, and Granada Hills, however, as an element of the class steered the class towards a rewrite of the FBCSP, under the pretense of updating the Community Plan, the attendees outside of Sunland-Tujunga stopped attending as did many from within the community.

To assume, as Mr. Sherer remarked during his presentation, that we are smarter now than the actual writers of the FBCSP is a huge mistake. The author was past L.A. City Attorney, Clark Drane. He was assisted by Lloyd Hitt, Nina Royal, Ivan Cole and several other highly respected community activists including Sunland-Tujunga’s own Land Use Attorney, Sylvia Gross.

Specific Plans for communities are generally drawn up by local community members, who know what they want and need, not by consultants. Why is it necessary to pay a consultant?

How can we overcome the auto use problem without opening the plan? **Please see breaking news from Cindy Cleghorn below.

This community often mistakes a number of our problems as violations of the FBCSP when they are really violations of the LAMC and can only be corrected by city code enforcement from LA Department of Building and Safety, Public Works, Bureau of Street Services, the County, or the Air Quality Management District. Flags, banners, signage, sandwich boards, graffiti, hookah bars, illegal spray painting, homeless, etc. are not a result of the FBCSP.

THE MANY REASONS THIS "LETTER" SHOULD NOT BE SENT:

1. We must realize it is not as much the plan as the planners. Our first FBCSP Planner, Rita Shack, got the interpretation of the FBCSP exactly right. The next SP Planner, Tom Rath, politically determined, by accommodating the friend of members of the uncertified NC, that the 70% frontage retail requirement could be met by placing a lamp in the front window of a closed door business. He got the interpretation of the FBCSP exactly wrong. It took a while to undo that one as letters had to be obtained from several of the original authors as to their intent although it is quite obvious in the plan.

2. To believe that changes to the plan will bring the city into line is ridiculous. No matter what we do, so long as the current mentality exists, we will be undermined on most if not all interpretations. Unfortunately this will continue with or without a rewrite so long as the present planning hierarchy is in charge of our SP. It is the city and its planners not the plan.

3. We have been told by Councilmembers, their staff, Zoning Administrators and City Planners that the city wants to discontinue all the specific plans (the not-so-secret city planning policy). Amending the plan with one or many, and in this case it is many, amendments is to open the plan and most probably to kiss it good-bye. But no matter how the plan is changed, it will still be interpreted as the city wishes. *See list below.

4. The City Attorney hacked up both of our Specific Plans after they were approved. The entire point of the Scenic Corridor Specific Plan was to preserve the unobstructed viewshed looking up from the Right of Way and Scenic Corridor at the prominent ridge lines. The point of the plan was tested by the proposed development of the Oro Vista 4 3/4 acres and the Scenic Corridor failed because the city had destroyed the basic meaning of the plan in their final rewrite after its approval on September 18, 2002.

5. It is the zoning not the plan. Think about it; C2 is the zone for boutiques and for Home Depots.

6. It is the lack of code enforcement not the plan. Bureau of Street Services, Public Works, Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and the Los Angeles County Health Department each enforce different LAMCs - why not one efficient force? When has the Air Quality Management District last been called regarding the illegal spray painting? Hookah bars are controlled by the new smoking ordinance - code enforcement is done by the county. In some cases the individual is cited along with the business. In other cases the property owner is cited which makes little sense as the business does the violation and the property owner may not even be aware of the infraction. The system is illogical. It's what needs fixing.

7. It is the plan checkers and inspectors not the plan. As a rule they do not understand the Specific Plan and don't care. (Remember it took years to require that the SP be triggered in the Zimas Profile.)

8. It is lack of a Specific Plan trigger at City Licensing including no punitive effort against those who do not obtain a license the plan. This trigger should be used to obtain Change of Use when required.

9. It is city/developer inter-corruption, power, influence, and money not the plan.

SOLUTIONS OTHER THAN RISKING THE FBCSP BY OPENING IT:

1. If CEQA requirements are missing from the plan, they can be amended. The city can do it as they have in the past for other SPs. So far, research has only turned up city generated Specific Plan Amendments for major CRA or transportation projects or to update CEQA requirements.

2. Continue to encourage the city to use a trigger notifying the clerk that there is a Specific Plan affecting the property when obtaining a City License, which sends the applicant to the Specific Plan Planner. Levy a high fine for not obtaining a city license. This should also generate a review of whether a Change of Use needs to be obtained.

3. Form a separate Design Review Board committee that works on nothing but Foothill Corridor issues and starts making a record that sets precedents for the FBCSP. That is what Tom Rath recommended we do when we started the Design Advisory Committee prior to Ken McAlpine talking Tom into requiring that the DAC be part of the NC. Let the DAC or DRB be a separate entity from the LUC so that it does not get bogged down by other land use issues. Other SPs have DRBs separate from their NCs.

4. One of the ways to continue filing required appeals is to form a new 501C and get volunteers to sit on its board and take over the appeal process. It could not be a committee of the NC, but I am quite sure it could be manned by NC people in a non-official capacity. Anyone can learn to appeal. Take it out of the hands of the STA that have been pushing to open the plan for several years expecting "pie in the sky".

5. Do a Design Overlay prepared by a group of three or four people who are artistic, knowledgeable, classy, and in love with our eclectic community.

6. Help CD2 shop for grant writers who would volunteer to file for grants to beautify and provide other amenities such as facade upgrades. CM Krekorian is working on this; however, we surely have grant writers in our community who can help.

7. Hold planning classes that do what ours were supposed to do - teach us to find our way around the city better and to understand the numerous proposed city ordinances they are throwing at us.

8. Attempt to get a working committee to share attendance at the city's zoning meetings as the city goes forward and see if we can get input. Get other NCs to do the same. See if we can change the city's zoning such as C2a for a Clothes Boutique and C2x, y, and z for Big Box stores by increasing size. This can be done; developers may or may not like it, but the city might. (Or might not.)

9. A 501C could fundraise in order to sue the city for inadequate interpretation of the plan. Think of the number of appeals we have won. It may have taken a great deal of effort to force them to interpret the plan properly, but we have succeeded innumerable times. *See below. Put our money where our mouth is. Let them know that if they do not interpret the plan as intended, we will sue. Look at what Marlene Rader, et al, accomplished regarding Lopez Canyon.
10. Using $95,000 to risk taking on the developers and city hall at this time just when the LAFD for lack of city funds is removing 500 gallons of water capacity to fight grass fires in a direct personal risk to our residents is folly. That money would certainly get our CP started once more particularly if we eliminated an Environment Impact Report and did a Mitigated Negative Declaration instead. That money would bring Katie Peterson back for a year and we would not lose all that precious taxpayer's money from the first year. Perhaps with community pressure we can undo the agriculture upzone. ***See Dick Platkin's remarks below.

SOLUTIONS TO OTHER LAND USE ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH SUNLAND TUJUNGA:

1. Respond with comments to the Hollywood CP's upzoning to increase density. The deadline is June 1, 2011.
***See Dick Platkin's remarks below.

2. Attempt to downzone those residential Sunland-Tujunga areas which have been upzoned in the past without any community input; overburdening an already dense area with poor-infrastructure including substandard streets, dismal parking, heavy traffic, severe flooding, and lack of transit. Use the 501C to raise funds for a legal assault if necessary.

3. Monitor and support the city's attempt to levy heavy fines for the multitude of infractions of developers working to see fines are levied for removing a protected tree or hauling dirt without a permit and so on.

4. Remind the city that the drought was declared "over" by the state months ago and that the ever rising rates for water, services and electricity are helping to drive residents out of the city just as is a lack of jobs leaving a huge number of homes and apartments vacant. Emphasize that industry is what is needed to provide jobs not more new housing.

5. Alert the community that the state bill AB32 is requiring the city to buy back alternative energy so it will soon be possible to generate solar/wind for profit.

6. Investigate the Federal Agriculture Program that guarantees that Agriculturally zoned lands remain agriculture. Look into conservation laws and grants to preserve open space and watershed.

7. Work to amend the Los Angeles Charter to require that Area Planning Commissioners be elected instead of appointed by the Mayor. We have had a pro-developer APC in the North Valley since I became an activist, which is over 25 years.

It is time to promote a realistic understanding of this isolated bedroom community and its FBCSP. The SP was created to improve the commercial corridors of Sunland-Tujunga by the people, for the people of Sunland-Tujunga, so they could go back to shopping and eating in their own community. It was not created to bring multitudes of people and vehicles to the community to shop. We cannot handle the traffic. Most of our commercial area is a long corridor. It is our only main thoroughfare. It is our only way-in and our only way-out. Foothill Boulevard in Sunland-Tujunga is almost five miles long and the secondary route for freeway traffic.

Have a truthful discussion about what is really going on in this time, in this economy, living inescapedly within Los Angeles. Do we care that the open space and rural lifestyle are under attack? Do we want a Metro Spur in LVT? Do we really want to risk opening our SP? Who is prepared to defend it for months or years?

*Note: I have recently learned that the city has upzoned agricultural properties within LVT, Sunland, and Shadow Hills in the General Plan Framework without any outreach or input. One of the primary purposes of Smart Growth/Elegant Density is to save Open Space and Tom Rath who taught at several of our planning classes with Dick Platkin last year never mentioned this upzoning which took place two years ago? Yet Tom Rath worked for some time as a consultant for a group aligned with the Valley Economic Alliance whose intent it was to tear down the stone houses in Stonehurst. Their goal was to bring a transit spur to LVT and to rezone our CP District from agriculture to housing, industrial, and commercial.

*City Planners and Administrators have, over the years, found the candor to tell the community that we should never open the Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan no matter how strongly we would like to upgrade and improve the Plan for fear of losing it. They include:

Rita Shack
Anita Cerna
Dick Platkin ***(See copy from recent emails below.)
Tom Rath (Rather than open the plan, Tom suggested a DRB as mentioned above.)
Jon Perica
Linn Wyatt
Katie Peterson
Noah McCoy

*Following is a list of 33 commercial proposals that have been stopped or received input from the planners/community which improved the result using the FBCSP:

New Building (Stopped) 10032 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Home Depot (Stopped Appeal) 8040 Foothill Blvd, Sunland
Arco Trophy Station (Stopped) 7200 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Arco at Mekhitarist (Stopped) 6470 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Mekhitarist Father's School of Vienna (Input) 6470 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Two Squeaky Clean (Different proposals) (Both Stopped) 6501 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Great Ceasars Banquet Hall (Expansion Stopped) 6723 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Auto Mall (Stopped) 8250 Foothill Blvd, Sunland
1-800-Autopsy (Stopped) 7245 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
CCC 10249 Plainview, Tujunga (Stopped/Appeal/Reapplication Current)
Family Discount Clothing Store (Expansion Stopped) 10011 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Tattoo Parlor (Stopped) 7947 Foothill Blvd, Sunland
Propane Gas (Stopped Appeal) 7937 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Arigato/Auto Sales (Stopped) 6736 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Check Cashing at Popeye's (Stopped) 8668 Foothill Blvd, Sunland
Pet Smart (Input Supported Exception) 6348 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Good Will (Input Supported Exception) 6545 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Foothill/Commerce Town Center (Input Supported Exception) 7200 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Vons (Remodel Input) 7789 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
YMCA (Expansion Input) 6840 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
C&M Printing (Input) 10034 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
American Art (Input) 10064 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Revolution Dance Center (Input) 10105 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Commerce Market (Input) 10047 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Albertson's (Input) 6240 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
IHOP Plaza (Input) 6520 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Stan's Porn Shop (Input) 7505 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Bonner's (Input) 6935 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga
Old Town Cafe (Input) 10024 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Wired Cafe (Input) 10045 Commerce Ave, Tujunga
Soccer Field (Input Appeal) 10178 Tujunga Canyon Blvd, Tujunga
Chevron Recycling (Current Appeal) 6737 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga

**Below are exerpts from a breaking news report by Cindy Cleghorn.

....meeting with LA Department of Building and Safety on 5-26-11 re: 6477 Foothill Blvd., Tujunga.... DBS Recommendation: That we initiate an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) right away to halt any future auto-related uses from opening. He identified the North Hollywood ICO as an example for us to follow. He said he recommended this to Dale Thrush five years ago. He emphasized that this is really important and we should do this now.... Thank you to Inspectors Dominguez and Zamperini for their time today.... We will also follow-up with Councilman Krekorian regarding the ICO recommendation.

(The emphasis in this report above is mine. eb)

***Below are recent statement's from Dick Platkin.

1. Opening up the Foothill Specific Plan to amendments could be OK as long as the community clearly knew what it wanted, had the amended language in place, had clear arguments to justify the changes, and was ready for a long-term political campaign to see it through and counter other groups with contradictory agendas.
As for these other groups, such as developers and their supporters at City Hall, they don't need the specific plan opened up to press their agenda. They can bootleg projects, as well as slide them through via slippery interpretations of the plan as the basis for declaring some projects exempt and other projects approved.

2. As for the alternative of depending on an update of the Community Plan to fix shortcomings of the Specific Plan, it is highly unlikely. Even if the plan update was prepared and adopted, the template for the community plan updates is Hollywood. Despite population decline, that proposed update has 105 pages of plan amendments and zone changes to increase density. The rationale is that the city will experience tremendous growth between 2011 and 2030, so we must increase zoning and plan designations to accommodate all these new comers. Even though this is a bogus argument (because LA is no longer a boomtown, and existing zoning could accommodate millions of new Angelenos if trends changed), it would still be rolled out all over the city, including Sunland-Tujunga. Bottom line is that I think you are better off with a stalled community plan update.

(The emphasis in Dick's statements above are mine. eb)

***These are additional remarks from Dick Platkin regarding the precedent that will be set by the Hollywood Community Plan.

My views are that the most immediate planning issue in Los Angeles is the inadequacy of the DEIR for the update of the Hollywood Community plan since its comment period closes on June 3, 2011. (The closing date is actually June 1, 2011. eb)

1. Most of the plan's policy language is irrelevant. No decision makers ever look at it in making budget or land use decisions, except for footnotes related to discretionary actions.

2. The focus of comments should be opposition to sections of the DEIR which sanction broad increases in density through general plan amendments and zone changes because:

-- These plan and LAMC amendments will become a template for dramatic increases in permitted densities in the remaining 34 community plans. Many private projects which now require discretionary actions will sail through as by-right projects.

-- There is no planning rationale for this up planning and up-zoning based on the "growth neutrality" intent of the Genera Plan Framework Element. The city, according to the Framework, has enormous untapped potential for population and housing expansion based on adopted plan designations and zones. To exceed local densities, you must have a clear rationale based on documented increases in population growth and housing demand which have outstripped locally permitted densities.

-- In fact, in the Hollywood Community Plan's implementation program of up-zoning and up-planning is proposing to encourage growth to meet secondary Framework goals, such as transit use. This is an approach which turn LA's growth neutral General Plan on its head and conflicts with Charter Sections 556 and 558, which require consistency with the intent and purposes of the General Plan. The role of transit is to serve the public's need for mobility, but calls to increase density as a tool to increase transit use absolutely conflict with the General Plan.

-- As far as we know, the city's infrastructure, which has not been monitored in over 11 years, cannot handle existing user demand, much less the demands of the larger population which might result from up-planning and up-zoning. Without demonstrated unused infrastructure capacity, there should be no increases in permitted density. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any proposal in the DEIR or the draft plan text to monitor local infrastructure conditions and the effectiveness of the updated Plan's policies and programs.

-- The DEIR uses year 2000 census data, even though current 2010 census is now available. This methodology conflicts with State of California General Plan guidelines for a city's general plan elements to be current and consistent.

(The emphasis on Dick's remarks are mine. eb }

Elaine Brown,
Member - Sunland Tujunga NC LUC