A Firestorm On Stanley Hills
Posted by Staff on Aug 24, 2012 - 5:49:15 PM
LOS ANGELES—It’s a knock down, drag out fight, with no clear winner – yet. The battle for the Wildlife Corridor through Laurel Canyon and Mulholland as spelled out by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) is on the chopping block.
The dispute between locals and an interloping developer proposing to cram 3 large houses on three lots at 2234, 2240, and 2244 Stanley Hills has set off a firestorm. Laurel Canyon residents have a reputation for their rabid compassion for the creatures with which they share the hillside. They feel they owe a duty to the local wildlife. They act on their commitment, even when no one else is looking. This time, however, everyone is looking, watching, and waiting with baited breath to see who steps up to the plate.
It’s not unusual for developers to come into the hillsides trying to make a fast buck. They plunk down money without doing their homework. They look at the land and focus exclusively on how to maximize the dollar return, without any consideration for other local interests. They’re speculators. In this instance, the community is fighting to have the buildings’ square footage give way to a Wildlife Corridor which has been in place for years. The community feels that city administrators should side with the SMMC Wildlife Corridor, which bisects the property. They claim that an interrupted corridor effectively extinguishes the value of the entire corridor.
This debate, cradled in the heart of a movie industry community, is relying on its technical know-how to manage a campaign to save the canyons from “greedy developers.” The Canyon Defenders have linked arms with www.docuprotest.com/ (DocYouProtest) which has taken its lead from the Occupy Movement. “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it !” practically shouts at you when you watch their youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvePqGGltXA
At the heart of this issue is whether the work of various citizen advisory boards can be summarily dismissed in the city’s formal decision making process. The advisory boards are set up by agencies, City Council members, or the Mayor. The politicians are seeking guidance on how to meet the needs of the electorate. The citizen advisory boards usually make recommendations by consensus, collaborating with departmental advisors. It’s a mechanism to avoid spending valuable public dollars and time over and over again on a case-by-case basis which revisit the same issues.
Canyon Defenders are frustrated by public agency employees who grant developers the right to skirt rules in a willy-nilly fashion, especially in the area of planning and zoning which governs private and commercial development in Los Angeles. Exemptions and exceptions should be just that: rarely given rather than handed out blithely and without articulated benchmarks. “It will cost me a fortune to comply,” from the developer just shouldn’t cut it. They are speculators. They know the risk, they just want to unload it onto the community, which they city should not sanction.
It is equally frustrating to the community when only 1% of Angelinos live in the hills. Those imposing their visions for the city usually have no concept of the unique challenges life in the hills presents. “Do you know where your emergency evacuation route is?” “Do you know what to do on a Red Flag Day?”
The unique characteristics of the hills surrounding Los Angeles are part of the allure for millions of tourist dollars. So let’s just make them look like any other big city in the U.S. Sound like a plan?