"The wall went up in a day. I went away in the morning, and I came back later and couldn't see the city."
So says 16th Place Neighborhood Association member Robert Portillo, who's now fighting L.A. City Hall with his neighbors to somehow stop the construction of a huge wall that has blocked their views of the Hollywood Hills:
"We saw all the landmarks: the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign," says Portillo. "It's like we lost a friend."
The community activist can thank Lowe's Home Improvement for that, which is now constructing one of its large stores right next to his neighbor's home and Portillo's home in Mid-City near Venice Boulevard.
The locals, understandably, are outraged.
Portillo says the 16th Place Neighborhood Association worked with the Planning Department and L.A. City Council years ago to create a document that would prevent such a monstrosity in case a developer came in and wanted to build on the former site of a Sears Roebuck store.
This language, which the City Council approved, says,"None of the proposed buildings will interfere with any existing scenic views."
In the first week of June, though, Lowe's constructed a huge wall that did exactly just that.
Portillo and his neighborhood association have sent letters to Lowe's chairman Robert Niblock, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Eric Garcetti, and many other officials, including their own city councilman, Herb Wesson Jr.
They haven't heard a peep from Niblock, Villaraigosa, and Garcetti, but Wesson had aides call the neighborhood association, and, according to Portillo, the councilman appears to be taking a look at the situation.
"We're hoping he'll support us," says Portillo. "[Wesson] has a history of being able to get things done, if he so chooses."
In the meantime, Portillo and his neighbors are scrambling and considering litigation.
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"It's a grotesque, slab of a wall," says Portillo. "It's blight in our neighborhood, and it's very offensive and imposing.'
When the neighborhood association brought the wall to the attention of the Planning Department, officials there referred them to the Department of Building and Safety. Building and Safety then referred them back to the Planning Department, which is now looking into the matter.
Portillo adds, "We feel like we've been let down. We were intimately involved with the planning [of that site]."
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.