Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ponte Vista Tries to Build Support

Here is an article from the Tuesday February 10 edition of The Daily Breeze.

Ponte Vista tries to build support

Facilitator offers stakeholders a chance to see new plans and voice their concerns.
By Donna Littlejohn, Staff Writer

With former frontman Bob Bisno now out of the picture, developers of the controversial Ponte Vista housing project in San Pedro this week are relaunching efforts to strike a community compromise.

A series of private meetings with more than 60 stakeholders will begin today with Jim Oswald, a facilitator who has been hired by the developers to get the project back on track in time for a Los Angeles Planning Commission hearing on April 9.

A community open house to unveil project plans, expected to be scaled back from the 1,950 homes currently proposed, is tentatively scheduled for 4to8p.m. March 12 at Peck Park Community Center.

"I think it's fair to say we know it's going to be a smaller project," said Tim McOsker, who is serving as an adviser to the developer.

Oswald said he has a "cursory" knowledge of the development and intends mostly to listen to those he interviews.

"I'm going out on behalf of the developer to talk to the community and find out more about what the specific concerns are and what the developer needs to do to make changes," Oswald said.

The private meetings -- with individuals or small groups -- will continue through February and possibly into early March.

Among those to be interviewed today is John Greenwood, who served as the chairman of the Ponte Vista Community Advisory Committee appointed by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

"They have to start over with a new application,"

Greenwood said, calling the earlier application "fatally flawed."

Oswald said he anticipates traffic on Western Avenue and housing density to be the key issues raised in his sessions.

Los Angeles city planners recommended that 775 to 1,200 condominiums should be built on the site.

While many opponents remain staunch supporters of holding the line at the site's current single-family home zoning -- limiting the number of homes to just over 500 -- Hahn said she's supportive of the city's recommendations.

"That's a lot more than what some people would like to see there, but it's over 50 percent less than what was originally proposed," Hahn said.

Hahn said the developers appear willing to "go through a process of listening to the community and starting over to design a project that San Pedro can be proud of."

Developers, however, have indicated they believe the existing environmental report should still be usable.

Hahn said she's requesting a list of people the developer wants to meet with to ensure a broad spectrum is included.

"I just want to make sure they handpick people from all viewpoints," Hahn said. "One of the things I stressed to Jim Oswald was that he was coming into a very sophisticated community. This is a community that has spent a lot of time studying this project."

Participants have been selected largely by Ponte Vista spokeswoman Elise Swanson, and come from neighborhood councils, the community advisory committee and other stakeholders.

The 30- to 45-minute interviews will include some formal questions, Oswald said, but also some open-ended discussion.

Oswald said his goal is to identify what most of the concerns are and where the developer can make changes to better satisfy those concerns.

"I'm not going in with an agenda," Oswald said. "My agenda is their (the community's) agenda."
Whether a consensus is possible, though, remains to be seen.

"A lobbyist's dream is to be able to go to the City Council and Planning Commission and say everybody likes our project," said Ponte Vista spokesman Steve Arr. "I'm probably not going to be able to say that."

In the end, he said, "We'll probably have new supporters and new opponents."

Hahn said the project, first proposed in 2006, fell off course when the developer failed to listen to community concerns during the process in which a formal advisory committee tried to work toward a solution.

"They met for a year and it was a good group of people," Hahn said. "They were really open-minded and sat down with Bob Bisno for what was really to be a give-and-take. But that never happened."

Bisno finally agreed to lower housing numbers, but only from 2,300 to 1,950.

"That was the point when it went bad," Hahn said of the process. "That that group had been so disrespected that he came down only a couple hundred units was an insult. At that point the community lost trust."

Bisno was ousted from the project's development team in December.

But the same core developer -- DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse -- remains in place.

The poor economy in some ways is an asset, developers said, noting that by the time anything is ready to be built the nation's financial picture should be better.

I have been given some information that Mr. Oswald seems to be a fair person, willing to listen to all sides. This is encouraging, finally.

I do feel that all the 'formal question' Mr. Oswald poses should be placed on the Ponte Vista Web site, Your Ponte Vista.com, on my blog so the largest number of stakeholders have a chance to respond to those questions.

60 interviews out of a great number of residents of San Pedro, Rancho Palos Verdes, Harbor City, Lomita, Wilmington, and other communities seem like too small of a number, in my opinion.

I would also like to see Ms. Swanson offer a way for any and all of us to write our opinions that could be forwarded to Mr. Oswald.

Ms. Swanson already has a copy of my 'dream' proposal for the Ponte Vista at San Pedro site and there really should be thousands of 'dream' proposals that Mr. Oswald and the Outreach Team can review.

I still contend that there are no longer 'supporters' and 'opponents' regarding Ponte Vista. We all get a do-over where we should be able to voice our own ideas, without being placed into a category.

The one thing that really needs to be accomplished soon is the removal from consideration of the current application and that there is no reasonable way to amend that application to find approval of anything that may come out of Mr. Oswald's interviews and future plans.

OUR community and the Ponte Vista at San Pedro team have the opportunity to start from scratch and find ways to provide the best new project for OUR community.

Let's work with everyone to achieve that result.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

mmm, still not sure if they get it over there at Ponte Vista HQ. the article makes it sound like they do not want to resubmit and to keep the EIR. i can understand why, especially since it probably cost millions of dollars to produce. but as Mr. Greenwood said, it's fatally flawed.

unless they recognize that, it's not going to get very far. all the talking in the world isn't going to accomplish anything.