Lakewood Village Neighborhood Ass'n Presses Legal Action Challenging City Hall's Approval Of Douglas Park EIR
(June 18, 2005) -- The Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association is pressing a legal action (Petition for Writ of Mandate) challenging the City Council's approval (8-1, Kell dissenting on housing) of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Douglas Park, a major mixed-use development planned on Boeing (formerly Douglas) property stretching from the SW corner of Lakewood Blvd. at Carson St. southward to roughly Conant St.
On June 16, the group's LB-based attorney, Charles Hokanson, fought off a City Hall effort to dismiss the legal action on grounds it was filed just outside a 30-day limit. Superior Court Judge David Yaffe said City Hall had not shown the suit should be dismissed on that ground but didn't rule on the merits of the case. City Hall will now have to file papers admitting or denying the petition's allegations as the case moves toward trial, currently set for October.
For reference, LBReport.com posts the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association's Petition for Writ of Mandate on a link at the conclusion of this article.
Mr. Hokanson said LB residents of Lakewood Village who live closest to the project "have been consistently isolated and ignored. None of their concerns have been addressed...A lawsuit was the residentsí last hope of making the City listen to them and the City tried even to avoid that...We look forward to shedding some light on the approval process and to trying the case on the merits."
Mr. Hokanson told LBReport.com that he now plans to seek City Hall documents as part of the discovery process.
The action stems from a roughly six-hour December 2004 Council hearing, during which Boeing Realty announced it would provide an additional $1 million in infrastructure funds to be used at the City Council's discretion, and Boeing and City Hall announced an agreement to create a local Jobs Initiative on infrastructure and residential construction.
At the Dec. 2004 hearing, Boeing's announcement that it was putting $1 million in infrastructure funds on the table drew audible gasps from the audience. During Council discussion, 2d district Councilman Dan Baker said the sum shouldn't be a surprise. "That was asked for by the City Council. I specifically, in our last [public Council] study session [on the Douglas Park project] asked Boeing to come up with that money to help us with more infrastructure needs...That was part of the negotiation process...I think that's a good thing..."
The $1 million sum is in addition to $7 million in traffic improvements, roughly $40 million in other citywide items plus neighborhood road funds under a Development Agreement negotiated between Boeing and City Hall. Boeing Realty will also give the LB Unified School District roughly $8 million to construct a new school to serve Douglas Park residents, planned for a site on Redondo Ave. at Hill St.
The Council action approving the EIR overruled an appeal by Candace Robinson (owner of the LB Flying Club) and involved a series of votes. Fifth District Councilwoman Jackie Kell, in whose district the project is located, said that while she supported job-creation aspects of the project, she opposed inclusion of housing, producing some 8-1 votes, although other Council votes related to the project passed 9-0.
During the Dec. 2004 Council proceedings, Phyllis Ortman, president of the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association testified against inclusion of housing at Douglas Park, declaring that "houses and airplanes don't mix."
Ms. Ortman: 98% of our neighborhood is against the residential component...We are having a hard time understanding why anybody would want to put houses that close to the airport. We don't get it...
...We ask that you not let the spin on facts and attack on motives divert you from the fundamental fact that is proposing to put houses next to and directly under the flight path of the fifth busiest general aviation airport in the country. That doesn't make sense, regardless of whether it complies with minimum regulations,...it flies in the face of logic...
During the Council hearing, Boeing Realty cited a December 13, 2004 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) letter (separately reported by LBReport.com) indicating that the Douglas Park proposal technically meets FAA rules and despite caveats the agency does not consider it incompatible with LB airport operations.
Boeing also said Douglas Park meets regulations set by other applicable airport-related government agencies...and indicated that roughly eight in ten responses to its opinion postcards and emailed questionnaires showed community support for Douglas Park.
Representing the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association and appellant Robinson at the Dec 2004 Council hearing, Mr. Hokanson challenged the project's EIR. "There are facts that should have been in the EIR that weren't there," he said at the time. Referring to a power point presentation by CSULB Economics Prof. Joseph Maggadino backing the project's housing component and asserting its ability to bring jobs, Mr. Hokanson asked, "Where's the data? Where's the statistics? How do you reach these numbers?" He said a SCAG report showed there is no additional need for housing...and added "unsubstantiated conclusions are simply unsubstantiated conclusions."
A number of LB residents, including LB realtor and LBHUSH2 supporter Joe Sopo, supported the project. Mr. Sopo, who served on a citizens task force that met with Boeing representatives for roughly two years, told the Council:
Mr. Sopo: [At] one of the...initial meetings two years ago, Boeing people took us to the construction site and asked each one of us, "Do you think the jet noise is too loud for housing? Would you live here?" And we stood there, and I could not believe how quiet it was where they're constructing homes. I watched commercial planes land and takeoff and I could barely hear their plane noise. It's not like the airplane noise in the 4th and 8th districts...
John Royce, a member of the Cal Hts. Neighborhood Association and a member of the western neighborhood task force, also testified in support of the project:
Mr. Royce: There's no doubt in my mind that a 100% commercial build out will have much more impact on the local community, negative impact from traffic and noise...I certainly don't want to live across the street from 200 acres of warehouse units and parking lots...Residents in a mixed-use neighborhood...will have a vested interest in the community that's being created here versus people that will be visiting as workers or shoppers alone. Run of the mill business parks are a dime a dozen in southern California.
As approved, Douglas Park will include 11 acres of park land amid mixed uses combining light industrial, commercial, retail and 1,400 housing units (most for sale, not rental) on the northern half of the former Douglas aircraft plant site west of Lakewood Blvd. between Conant St. and Carson St. The project was strongly supported by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce.
City staff supported the project and indicated it that without a residential component, the project would likely not be economically feasible. Boeing Realty also indicated that it would be willing to allocate a portion of the housing component to senior housing, reducing the number of apartments from 400 to 250 to produce approximately 120 age-restricted (at least one person 55+) units.
City Hall project manager Amy Bodek said the $800,000 Jobs Initiative announced at the hearing (half the sum from Boeing, half from City Hall) would create a "first source" hiring program for contractor job openings on infrastructure and residential construction on the Douglas Park project.
To view the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association's Petition for Writ of Mandate in pdf form, click here.
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