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The Pinball Wizard of Samoa Ave.



The flackage at Curbed LA couldn't have been better for newly-minted Councilman Paul Krekorian last year:
On his very first day in office last month, new City Councilmember Paul Krekorian asked that the City Council review a density bonus the Planning Commission had given to a proposed Valley Village condo project. Neighbors have been fighting the development for years, and last week the City Council reviewed the matter and granted their appeal. Now the developer has to either go back to the drawing board or drop the project entirely.
So Krekorian came out early and strong against SB 1818, the notorious State legislation, which inspired a copycat City of LA Ordinance that was mostly gutted by a Superior Court judge a year and a half ago.

But while the law itself has lost much of its teeth, it lives on in LA, thanks to Council theater, and, in the words of one activist, "still entitles developers to rape the city as they see fit."

While Krekorian bought some early confidence in Studio City, his district has also been entertaining a 64-unit 1818-styled project in Sunland Tujunga for three years now. The Councilman has been far softer on that one, thus far content to listen rather than to lead.

Going back to Krekorian's first crush with his district as documented by Curbed, there was this key caveat:
A rep for Krekorian tells us that rather than trying to change the city ordinance that governs SB 1818, he'll look at "each project on a case-by-case basis, judging them on how best they fit in with community guidelines," and that he'll look to residents to guide his decisions.
So be it, amen, &c. In fact, what that "rep" for Krekorian's office told Curbed LA runs parallel to what Krekorian's communications director Jeremy Oberstein told me when I profiled Krekorian in April--but the implications are quite different now:
And this is how he's been able to keep the pitchfork people in his district at bay on a 64-unit 1818 development on Samoa in the City's density-despising ground zero, Sunland Tujunga. Krekorian hasn't overtly endorsed the project, but after suggesting during his campaign that elements of SB 1818 were flawed, he has sent a letter to the City's Housing Department encouraging tax-exempt status and funding. The building "isn't the typical 1818 project Paul railed against," Krekorian's communication director Jeremy Oberstein tells me, reflecting Krekorian's own sotto voce, flip-it style on thorny political matters.
The Samoa project has become big news in Sunland Tujunga. The community is solidly against it; the sentiment is unmistakeable. The neighborhood council Land Use Committee has rallied against; chair Tomi Lyn Bowling even has a YouTube video drive-by (above) demonstrating how out of synch and out of scale the project is with Sunland Tujunga.

Now there's an ad hoc committee also working against. Even local DONE darling Cindy Cleghorn, who has recused herself on the matter, is said to be privately against it.

But the City itself is highly defensive of the project--I heard that even a rep at the City Attorney's office recently implied to a community activist that resistance was unwise. If true, that would certainly be a departure from this comment of Jane Usher's a while back...




PLUM did its usual rubber stamp in April, and the project will soon come before Council. Absent an 1818-based legal challenge, the Samoa project appears to be on a fast track to get in the ground, despite the community's nearly complete objection.

Wendy Greuel used to play this Kabuki game with this community too: she would say, "I'm listening," and then when Council ultimately voted (with her protesting furiously), she would shrug, "What can I do, my hands are tied?" No, it won't be Paul Krekorian who votes for Samoa. It will be twelve other Council members, and Krekorian opposing--and that's the game they all play for each other.

If Krekorian is truly looking to "residents to guide his decisions," as someone in his office told Curbed in February of last year, he'd have to be a pinball wizard to miss the community's sentiment on this one. More likely, the Council office is hedging its bets on the Samoa project in a way it didn't on the Valley Village project, as best it can and for an unknown reason the community needs to continue to explore. If you're outside the neighborhood, grab some popcorn--this should be fun to watch.