Friday, November 21, 2008

Odds and Ends 92

Downtown Baldwin Park Redevelopment

At the City Council meeting of November 20, 2008, Mayor Manuel Lozano made the following statement on behalf of the City Council, regarding the proposed downtown redevelopment project:

“Bisno Development Company has informed the City it is no longer able to pursue the downtown Baldwin Park revitalization project due to current market conditions.

While disappointing, this news is not a surprise given the condition of today’s economy. The unprecedented economic meltdown has adversely impacted countries, financial institutions, state and local governments, as well as industries and businesses large and small and has frozen the capital markets. As a result, the Bisno Company has advised us our Baldwin Park downtown revitalization project is no longer feasible at this time, based on the deterioration in the housing, commercial and financial markets."

The full text of Mayor Lozano's comments can be found by visiting www.baldwinpark.com.

"Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!" (Some lyrics from an old song).
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The Baldwin Park Redevelopment Project envisioned by Bob and some government and business leaders in the city of Baldwin Park could have eventually seen the right of eminent domain used to clear lower-income residents and businesses from the downtown Baldwin Park area to be replaced by up to 8,000 residential units, 130,000 feet of retail space, a 1,000-seat Charter K-12 school, a 300-room Hotel, and many other amenities that most of the residents of Baldwin Park could not necessarily afford to use, rent, or buy into.

Well that is all gone now and the good folks can get back to dealing with their own lives and not worry about their out-of-town developer creating about 17-years worth of changes that many residents of that area didn't want in the first place.
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The more I read the following line, the more I am amused, confused, perplexed, and smiling.

"Many Ponte Vista opponents insist that Bob Bisno knew that the property was zoned as R1."

That line is from a post authored by "I" from the Ponte Vista Outreach Team. It can be found on a site supportive of Bob's plans, whatever they are.

The fact of the matter is that Bob did know what the zoning on the property he eventually bought was and still is. Why would anyone even think he didn't know.

The statement above did not state that Bob didn't know that the property was zoned as R1.
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I regularly read the blog supportive of Ponte Vista at San Pedro and it seems our blogs 'debate' each other.

I use "Ponte Vista" in this blog's URL because it was the name provided by an agency contracted by the Federal Government to deal with marketing and selling the property in northwest San Pedro. "Ponte vista" or "bridge view", "scaffolding view" or "crane view" in the Italian language was not created by anyone at Bisno Development Co., LLC.
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Can you tell I am trying to stall while we wait for the Staff Report to be released?
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I am now trying to work with Ms. Elise Swanson from the Ponte Vista Outreach Team, every single supporter of Bob's plans, and every single opponent of Bob's current plans to join together and strongly request that the December 11 meeting by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission meet in San Pedro!

I encourage EVERYONE to send Emails to: planning@lacity.org and, using your own wording, positively request that the upcoming meeting that is very important to the future of the Project and the whole community be held IN the community that the Project is located.

There are many seniors who support Bob's plans and there are many seniors who don't. There are many workers who support or oppose Bob' plans, and there are parents on all sides who have children attending schools in the community.

We would all have a harder time getting large groups to downtown Los Angeles. The members of the City Planning Commission and their staffs are fewer in number than we are and San Pedro can offer them free parking at a meeting site closer to our neighborhoods and the Project.
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'Hot off the presses' is an article just published on www.citywatch.com. It is written by San Pedro's own Doug Epperhart and here it is.
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What Happens When a Lobbyist has a Commissioner for Lunch?
Ethics

By Doug Epperhart

Since ethics is the topic du jour for neighborhood councils, here’s a story illustrating the real problem facing city officials—the cozy relationships between government and the people who want something from government.

There’s no Form 700 or 52 or 53 that discloses what happens when a lobbyist has lunch with a commissioner. In fact, most commissioners aren’t required to tell anyone about these outside communications.

Even when commissioners have obvious conflicts, they tend to be overlooked or deliberately ignored. But not always. A Century City-based developer, Robert Bisno, wants to put nearly 2,000 condos on Western Avenue in San Pedro. The three nearest neighborhood councils—Northwest San Pedro, Coastal San Pedro, and Harbor City—are on record opposing the project known as Ponte Vista.

A community advisory committee created by Councilwoman Janice Hahn spent nearly a year looking at the project and voted to oppose it. Recently, the planning department rejected Bisno’s tract map.

The developer created an “advisory board” whose primary function seems to be cheerleading for the project. He has lavished money on advertising, made donations to local charities, and hired an army of lobbyists.

Despite this, Bisno has not had a lot of success. So far.

Enter the Harbor Area Planning Commission (HAPC). Because Ponte Vista is too big to fall within the group’s jurisdiction, they are not part of the legal process involved in creating the specific plan that guides the project.

However, the Harbor Area planning commissioners asked that Ponte Vista be put on their agenda. The planning department agreed to allow “review and comment” by the HAPC because a specific plan is involved.

Two of the commissioners run chambers of commerce that have endorsed Bisno’s project. Their organizations have taken thousands in sponsorship money from Ponte Vista. The board chairman of one of these chambers is a paid lobbyist for Bisno. A third commissioner is in charge of a nonprofit that has received thousands in contributions from Ponte Vista. This commissioner has also publicly testified at a planning department hearing on behalf of the project.

Commissioners’ pro-developer bias seems clear to many of us. Even though this commission has no authority in this case, their opinion becomes part of the record and may carry added weight with the decision-makers downtown.

An added bonus for Bisno would be a press release probably headlined “Commission approves Ponte Vista.”

The HAPC put Ponte Vista on their agenda for November 18.

The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council passed a resolution asking the city attorney to rule on whether the three commissioners in question had conflicts of interest. A second letter questioning the commissioners’ potential conflicts was sent by several individual members of the Northwest San Pedro, Central San Pedro, and Harbor City neighborhood councils.

We have yet to receive a reply from the city attorney’s office. However, our city attorney liaison told us the matter was being acted on. Subsequent conversations with Councilwoman Hahn’s staff, the planning department, and at least one HAPC commissioner confirmed that the two commissioners who manage chambers of commerce were informed they should recuse themselves.

We have heard the third commissioner is being given a pass because the HAPC won’t have a quorum if this individual can’t participate.

I’ve had numerous discussions regarding ethics and conflicts of interest with city attorneys advising our neighborhood council during the past six years. I’ve also had talks with staff at the city ethics commission. I have no doubt that all three HAPC commissioners would have been told in no uncertain terms they should recuse themselves if they were serving as neighborhood council board members, even if it would kill the quorum.

If there’s a different standard for commissioners, I’d like someone to explain it to me.

The most distressing thing is that it apparently never occurred to the HAPC commissioners their participation might violate the city’s ethics rules, particularly since L.A. claims to adhere to an “appearance of conflict standard” that says if it looks like a conflict, it is a conflict.

By the way, the November 18 meeting of the Harbor Area Planning Commission was canceled. It has tentatively been rescheduled for December 2, only one week before the city planning commission will be meeting to vote on Ponte Vista.
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Well, it is 11:53 AM on November 21, 2008. Is anybody surprised that no Staff Report has been released to the public regarding Ponte Vista yet?

Perhaps we should all donate to buy refrigeration units to be sent to that fiery place where the Devil lives so we can speed up the freezing process to try and get something from the Planning Department, sooner.

2 comments:

spsenior said...

The Baldwin Park was fairly early in the process is very different development that was to occur over a 15 year period. You are comparing apples to oranges here.

M Richards said...

Thank you spsenior.

The Baldwin Park project was vastly different than the project in northwest San Pedro, everyone should have known that.

Ponte Vista and Baldwin Park were both very different than Bob's City Place Santa Ana, too.

The fact that Bob had originally planned to place 8,000 residential units and more than 130,000 sq. feet of retail space on land just only about twice the size at Ponte Vista is, is remarkable in itself.

Ponte Vista would have required no use of the right of eminent domain to evict anyone.

I hope everyone takes the opportunity to read pages S1-S4 of the Planning Department's Recommendation Report for the Ponte Vista project. It provides some usefull information about what can be brought to northwest San Pedro and it is a very far cry from what Bob was attempting to do to us.

You can find those pages by visiting: www.rneighborhoodsare1.blogspot.com
MW