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Panel nixes effort to stop Las Lomas

Posted: March 18, 2008 11:36 p.m.
Updated: May 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.
LOS ANGELES - Las Lomas lives to fight another day.

Members of the Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use Management Committee Tuesday rejected a motion to stop all work on the Las Lomas housing project.

Committee member Jose Huizar, councilman for the 14th District, summed up an afternoon of debate at Los Angeles City Hall by reminding the committee that the city has invested too much to pull the plug on the project now.

"I haven't made up my mind about the project because I haven't seen the project, but I think we should recoup (city money already invested) and we should charge them for all costs," he said. "Enough has been invested in time and resources to let that process continue."

The motion requesting that "all work on the proposed Las Lomas project stop until policy decisions are made by the City Council, and other matters," was put forward by District 12 Councilman Greig Smith, a staunch Las Lomas opponent.

About a dozen people, including Los Angeles councilman Richard Alarcon for District Seven, told the committee how important it was to allow Las Lomas to continue working with city staff to complete its environmental impact report.

"I oppose Mr. Smith's motion," Alarcon told the committee. "It puts taxpayers at great jeopardy to lose in the lawsuit."

Alarcon has argued in the past, and again Tuesday, that since Los Angeles city staffers have processed some of the paperwork required to develop Las Lomas, to stop doing so now would prompt a lawsuit against the city.

Alarcon, who set the wheels for Las Lomas in motion in February last year when he put forward a motion to City Council asking the developer to pay permit processing costs in order to develop key documents such as the environmental impact report needed for the 5,553-unit project.

Alarcon repeated those concerns yesterday but not until he took a stab at Santa Clarita and the 21,000-unit Newhall Ranch project.

"It's all right for Santa Clarita to approve 21,000 new homes, without any (identified) jobs, and show complete disrespect for the city downstream," he said, referring to Los Angeles.

"This issue has been back and forth," he said Tuesday. "The issue is fundamentally this - whether or not it is incumbent on the city to keep processing the EIR or that we put ourselves in great jeopardy and potential litigation."

R.J. Comer, a lobbyist for Las Lomas, told the committee: "The city has already committed to act as lead agency in processing this project."

He said if the committee upheld Smith's motion, the message to other developers would be: "Don't come to Los Angeles because your project won't proceed."

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote on the same motion today.

Hillary Norton Orozco, executive vice president of the Las Lomas Land Co., LLC, told the committee: "The city has already made its policy to move forward in processing this project. ... You and your committee supported the supplemental fee agreement."

After the committee voted to reject Smith's motion to stop Las Lomas, Norton Orozco talked with reporters at the back of the meeting room.

"We thought this is a reasonable decision," she said.

About City Council's plan to vote on the same motion today, she said: "We certainly hope they will continue to support their previous decisions.

"We have faith in the city council."


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