A few months ago Mars Melnicoff chronicled the on-going saga surrounding the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) created blight of a Lowes Home Improvement Center in Mid City. The newly erected 70-foot south wall of the building ruined the once glorious view of the Hollywood hills for residents on 16th place and decimated the property values of the homes.
When The Neighborhood News (TNN), a community paper in Mid City, demanded answers from Councilmember Herb Wesson...
... they were met with deflection or outright denial.
Originally, the edifice was promised to be placed along Pico Boulevard, but for reasons
unexplainable not explained by anyone in City Hall, the contract was modified four years later and the building was moved more than 200 feet south and planted on Venice Boulevard. No neighborhood member was ever informed of this change.
In an email exchange provided to the Weekly, Wesson told TNN that neither he nor the council could do anything to help them. He said he is "sensitive to the community's concerns and in particular to the aesthetic issues for the property owners along the north side of 16th Place, [but] the Council does not have any legal recourse on this issue."
That savvy, political 'I feel sorry, but not sorry enough to do anything' statement aside, Wesson continued to deflect concerns and even deny some issues brought forth by the Mid City community paper.
TNN wanted to know what the councilmember's plans were to counteract any traffic noise generated from busy Venice Boulevard that is now reverberating off the concrete wall and into citizens' homes.
Here is Wesson's response to the noise complaint:
"According to all of the documents that have been researched, all on-site noise was dealt with by a variety of mitigation measures. The documents did not identify any significant increase in noise coming from Venice Boulevard."
Wesson continues to cite this document, the same document that allowed the building to be moved without notifying residents, to deny the claim that the new building's white walls will generate more heat hitting the houses on 16th place. He said the document "did not identify any significant increase in heat coming from the project."
TNN pushed Wesson some more and he elaborated:
"Once again, the developer is not required to provide any mitigations related to heat. The entitlement documents did not identify any significant impacts in this area. There is nothing the City can do except to enforce the mitigations listed in the entitlement documents."
Dianne Lawrence, editor of TNN, is frustrated with the lack of accountability of councilmembers like Wesson. Lawrence added "it is clear that [Wesson] does not want to upset the developers he courts, in order to champion a small handful of residents. Leaving people to wonder who he works for."
She started her community paper when an issue in her community revealed the laziness, duplicity and fundamental sense of entitlement the councilmember exhibited.
Lawrence even has an "Eye on Wesson" section in the paper. The title is a satiric take on Wesson's own glossy promo magazine, "Eye on the 10th," which is referring to the district Wesson controls.
"The least we can do is shine a light on these issues," said Lawrence.
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Lastly, TNN asked Wesson if he is planning on doing anything to help the residents reclaim their view. He responded by saying "at this point, I am not in a position to be able to change the project dramatically."
In a follow-up story, the Weekly reported that the only way to avoid development disasters like the one in Mid City is to sue the City of Los Angeles.
As of now, the residents are looking for a lawyer to do just that, but cannot afford one.
Any kick-ass lawyers looking for some pro bono work?