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Las Lomas project facing more hurdles

Posted: March 18, 2008 2:04 a.m.
Updated: May 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Las Lomas developer Dan S. Palmer faces two possible roadblocks this week as Los Angeles city officials meet to discuss his proposed mini-community in the Newhall Pass.

This afternoon, the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Management Committee meets to review, among other land issues, whether to stop the Las Lomas project.

Then on Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council meets in full session to consider the committee's recommendation on the motion.

That motion reads: "Requesting that all work on the proposed Las Lomas project stop until policy decisions are made by the City Council, and related matters."

"We're not going to answer a hypothetical question," said Las Lomas spokesman Matt Klink in response to a question about Palmer's plans if the Los Angeles City Council stops the project.

Today, before council votes on the "stop Las Lomas" motion, members of the committee are scheduled to meet with lawyers behind closed doors.

The committee wants to confer with its legal team about a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by the Las Lomas Land Company LLC against the city of Santa Clarita and LAFCO.

What they're concerned about, according to an explanation contained in a brief outlining today's agenda, is "significant exposure to the City based on facts and circumstances relating to the possible Las Lomas Supplemental Fee Agreement transaction and the processing of the pre-zoning Ordinance and associated Environmental Impact Report."

The Supplemental Fee Agreement calls for the developer to pay the city for the manpower devoted to processing such fundamental land development documents as the Environmental Impact Report. Although the developer pays for the cost of the service, he gets his plan expedited by city staff.

Richard Alarcon, Los Angeles City Council member for District Seven, set the fee agreement in play when he made the motion asking the developer to pay the city for any permit-processing costs.

Last month, Alarcon wrote a letter to the editor of The Signal reiterating his opposition to the Las Lomas project.

In the letter, he said: "I introduced a motion to the L.A.City Council asking the developer to pay permit processing cots because the City Attorney has twice opined that the City is legally required to process these permits and to not do so could put Los Angeles in a liability situation.

"My motion simply ensures that tax payers are not saddled with the processing costs."

Mitchell Englander, chief of staff for staunch Las Lomas opponent Councilman Greig Smith, said the fee agreement is a way of adding legitimacy to the project and a way of making the project a reality when, in fact, it is in the planning stage.

Smith will vote against Las Lomas on Wednesday, Englander said.

"We want City Council to make the actual legislative decision to stop this project once and for all and say clearly that they don't want this project," he said.

Asked about Alarcon's argument that not pursuing the fee agreement could result in a lawsuit against the city, Englander said: "We don't make legislative decisions based on lawsuits. We don't make policy decisions based on lawsuits. If we did, we wouldn't have any laws at all in the City of Los Angeles."

Today, city lawyers are expected to address specific concerns over liability.


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