Days Before Critical Council Hearing, City Mgm't Releases Report Claiming 3701 Pacific Place Infeasible For Open Space; Councilman Austin Embraces Report And Its Other Advised Sites; Appellant Riverpark Coalition Calls It A Sham, Charges It Contains False/Misleading Statements, Urges Its Rejection
|(April 10, 2021, 3:15 p.m.) -- A city management prepared report invited in early February by CD 8 Councilman Al Austin and two other LA river adjacent LB incumbents -- and released just days before a critical April 13 decisional Council hearing -- cites locations for green space along L.A. river areas but contends the subject of the Council hearing -- a parcel at 3701 Pacific Place -- is infeasible for use as park/open space.
On April 7, CD 8 Councilman Austin sent a mass emailed Constant Contact message supporting City Hall's report and said he's now working several area elected officials to pursue its recommendation for an 11 acre parcel of publicly owned land north of the 405 Freeway. Re-elected to a third term in November 2020, Austin's email cited his own record on smaller projects and made no explicit mention of the 3701 Pacific Place parcel except to say in a single sentence: "Some private property sites were not recommended for parkland for multiple reasons."
LB's grassroots Riverpark Coalition -- which in March 2021 released its own study citing reasons why site IS feasible for park/open space -- issued an April 8 release calling City Hall's report a "sham and cover-up" and charged it includes factual errors and false or misleading statements. It said City Hall's report "reveals itself as nothing more than a political weapon, a weapon against the activism of residents to save their river for parks and open space."
[Scroll down for further.] .
[City Hall report, p. 25]...This privately-owned property [3701 Pacific Place] is encumbered (currently in escrow) and has an active entitlement in progress. On February 25, 2020, an entitlement application was filed for 3701 N Pacific Place for a development project to construct a self-storage and recreational vehicle parking facility. The project also includes approve. .64 acres for a public access easement and public trailhead to the LA River and a native plant preserve.
[Aril 8 release] We very much hoped for a legitimate study, and thanked Councilman Austin for this proposal at the time, though we feared the worst -- that the City would use this study as a disingenuous brief to defend its own betrayal of the community up to this point (having already greenlit initial stages of commercial development).
The Riverpark Coalition release concludes:"This report must be rejected, and the City Council must refuse the request to rezone and commercially develop 3701 Pacific Place when this report is presented and a hearing is held on Tuesday, April 13th."
The issue is a political hot button in LA river-adjacent park-poor WLB, given years of greenspace lipservice by area politicians with relatively few results. Incumbent Councilmembers, including neighboring 9th district Councilman/Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, along with CD 1 incumbents Mary Zendejas and CD 7 Roberto Uranga, have stressed equity on other issues but now face a city-staff favored commercial development that would prevent the parcel's use as park/open space.
On April 13, the Council faces appeals of LB's non-elected Planning Commission approval by the well organized Riverpark Coalition, along with Ann Cantrell and Anna Christensen representing the Sierra Club Los Cerritos Wetlands Task Force; Corliss Lee representing Citizens About Responsible Planning; Juan Ovalle representing the Riverpark Coalition; Renee Lawler representing the Historic Equestrian Trail Association of So Cal; and Robert Gill representing the Los Cerritos Neighborhood Association.
The Riverpark Coalition ultimately aims to use public funds (including grants and the like) to purchase the parcel at 3701 Pacific Place for use as park open space. A Council vote to overrule their appeal would effectively slap back the grassroots equity efforts and facilitate the parcel's use as a commercial/personal storage facility with parking for RVs, trailers, campers, boats, trucks.)
Park open space was the parcel's land use designation until the Council quietly changed its underlying land to enable neo-industrial uses. Incumbent Austin was re-elected in November 2020 (after narrowly outpolling Reform Ticket candidate Juan Ovalle in March 2020.) But increasingly visible social network agitation from the Riverpark Coalition led safely-re-elected Austin (joined by Uranga and Zendejas facing re-election in 2022) to agendize a Feb. 2, 2021 Council item asking city management "to study feasibility of acquiring open space for public park development along LA River consistent with the Long Beach RiverLink plan and the Lower LA River Master Plan" and report back within 60 days.
But Austin included a key ambiguity in his Council agenda item: omitting mention of what "open space" he sought to include or exclude from possible acquisition...opening the door for city staff to exclude the 3701 Pacific Place parcel.
The Riverpark Coalition's position on acquiring the property is supported by retired 8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich (2004-2012). But in letters to the Riverpark Coalition, LB area incumbents -- including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblyman Patrick O' Donnell, and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (all Democrats) -- have said that they support the group's general goals of more green and open space along the LA River but stop short of directly supporting a future park/open space for the 3701 Pacific Place parcel.
The Riverpark Coalition has publicly called on LB Mayor Robert Garcia (who has no vote but can veto Council actions subject to an override by six Councilmembers) to support a future park at 3701 Pacific Place. He has not done so.
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