By John Davis

It has been about 16 years since the Playa Vista Development was plopped into the wetlands by a giant bird called the City Council of Los Angeles in two phases.

The Phase Two Environmental Impact Report (EIR) certified in 2004 by the Los Angeles City Council was shut down by the Court of Appeal. It was euphemistically named the Village at Playa Vista. A more accurate description would be the Village of the Damned.

Lawsuits have endured since 2001 when local environmentalists, myself included, filed suit to protect human health and safety. The development sits atop a former oil and gas production field, adjacent to the Southern California Gas Company’s underground natural gas storage facility. Methane which is highly flammable migrates from deep underground to the surface where it escapes into the atmosphere after passing through three separate underground aquifers (underground water reservoirs) and is sometimes accompanied by other dangerous oil field gasses such as hydrogen sulfide, a deadly neurotoxin dangerous to the brain in extremely small concentrations. The young and elderly are the most susceptible. Add to this mess the fact the area is subject to tsunami, liquefaction (like shaking wet mud with buildings floating on top), and periodic floods of Ballona Creek. This is a disaster in the making and represents a massive public liability. The public has already paid enough for government mistakes lately.

The City is up to its old EIR tricks again. The Second Phase EIR was entirely demolished by the Court of Appeal on certain issues, but demolished nonetheless as no valid EIR withstood legal challenge, even partially. The City pretends one did stand just because they certified, (approved) it. By its Bush era logic, the City is now trying to force stakeholders, you and me, to watch what we say and only speak to the parts of the defeated EIR the Court of Appeal did not like.

However, application of CEQA (The California Environmental Quality Act) was ordered by the Court of Appeal and it is CEQA the people shall have. The City must now consider the project in real time and not pretend time froze in 2004 when the City Council certified their first failed attempt.

Current circumstances must now be considered such as our new understanding of earthquake threat potential, increased building and population already taxing our roads and neighborhoods to their limit. The City Council now wants us all to inhale gagging air pollution from tens of thousands more cars trips daily so their money masters can make can turn a dime on Wall Street by sacrificing our legal right to public health and safety.

The First Phase lawsuit filed in 2001 was denied in Los Angeles Superior Court and reversed on Appeal. The California Court of Appeal ordered the methane systems at the project VACATED. These are public safety measures designed to keep explosive gases out of homes and buildings. While the City Council did this by motion it met nothing because City Departments continued to employ the existing methane mitigations (prevention measures) and continued to install and approve new systems at their own legal peril issuing certificates of occupancy in contradiction of a court order, hoping we would go away. As a result the people have been callous lily tossed into harms way, thousands of them, men, women, and children.

Well, we are still here and that should teach City Hall not to mess with people from Venice. Local Sailor Dan Cohen who enjoys a rough and windy sea is co-plaintiff. His Aunt Dorothy Greene was an environmental leader with Heal the Bay. Along with Dan and myself are Grassroots Coalition and Environmentalism through Non-Violent Action, both local non-profit Environmental organizations. Patricia McPherson from Venice is the Executive Director of Grassroots. Leave it to locals to take care of their own. As a non-profit Grassroots accepts donations which are used to promote a healthy local environment.

Vacate met the City was to STOP using the methane mitigations at Phase One if and until the Court order was lifted. Furthermore the City employed a study not undertaken pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, called it a “Peer Review,” and then proceeded to pretend the City Council decision was based on CEQA, freezing the public. The City limited the scope of the study to ask only the questions the City wanted answered, not what CEQA required the City to consider. CEQA commands that all potential adverse affects to the Environment be considered not jut the one which co-pleasured the City Council Members and Developers.

The Phase One lawsuit was tied up in Superior Court the second time, after the Court of Appeal ruled on the absolute vacation of the methane mitigations and sent it back downstairs to be fixed. Several Judges, about seven, rescued (stepped aside to due conflicts) leaving the Phase One Lawsuit in limbo for well over a year denying a speedy trial.

Finally, to my expectations the lower Court finely ruled against us. In doing so the Judge on the case at a calendared hearing, ordered the Court Reporter to take no records. Then the Judge took the City Attorneys and Playa Capital Attorneys into private chambers where a private conservation was established. Plaintiffs (us) were left standing outside and muted by the Court, a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The other side had failed to meet court order to produce records and was excused from that violation in the secret meeting.

It went on. I filed documents that showed that the 16 year old EIR for Phase One and Two (Master EIR) was never completed. Neither were other Subsequent or Supplemental EIRs which would have modified a real EIR. If this were not enough the City admitted that it had not recertified the Master EIR to keep it alive as recertifications must by law take place every five years. So in my opinion the City never completed an EIR and even if it did it would now be expired. The City has suppressed this information from the Court of Appeal. When presented with the Official Records of the State Office of Planning and Research which validates if EIRs are complete, the facts were ignored. The Judges logic was challenges should have been made to an incomplete EIR in 1993, which is impossible.

In the Phase One Lawsuit City Council members, except for Dennis Zine, were accused of taking bribes in violation of the Fair Political Reform Act of 1972. That law requires if you are voting on a project and you took money from the owners, you must rescue yourself (not vote) until a year had passed. Otherwise it would appear that City Council votes are for sale.

City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo also failed to rescue, even though he took money in his bid for Attorney General while advising the City Council on project decisions without waiting for a one year period to first pass.

The City could never produce the body of the EIR at trial. They hid it. There was no body before the Judge as Habis Corpus (Bring forth the body!) legally requires.

The City said the body was filed in another lawsuit. Playa Capital said it was in the record as a picture of a CD. The Superior Court Judge did not have the body but only a single piece of paper as a symbolic representation of the body. The Judge held a trial with no body which is legally impossible.

Two appeals have now been filed moving the Phase One lawsuit back up to the Court of Appeals.

Recently, the sneaky City Attorney has tried by slight of hand to get the EIR (body) into the record, after the Superior Judge had already ruled. In papers filed by the City Attorney on appeal it admits the Judge only had a copy of the CD purportedly containing the body on trial. Submission of this after the fact evidence and  the City Attorneys self admission of sneakery is shameful. The Court of Appeal will not consider evidence not considered before the Superior Court bench. In the United States the body must be present at trial.

Our local environment can only be protected by good people who raise their voice. The environmental process for the Village at Playa Vista is now open for comment.

If you do not like the idea of breathing even more air pollution in your lungs, please comment on the EIR for Phase Two before April 30th.

• Email –  [email protected]

• Mail – David Somers, City Planning Department Room 750, City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012

• View EIR – Venice Library and other Local Libraries or online at CityPlanning.lacity.org

• GrassRoots Coalition Website – SaveBallona.Org.

also failed to rescue, even though he took money in his bid for Attorney General while advising the City Council on project decisions without waiting for a one year period to first pass.

The City could never produce the Body of the EIR at trial. They hid it. There was no body before the Judge as Habis Corpus (Bring forth the Body!) legally requires. The City said the body was filed in another lawsuit. Playa Capital said it was in the record as a picture of a CD. The Superior Court Judge did not have the body but only a single piece of paper as a symbolic representation of the body. The Judge held a trial with no body which is legally impossible.

Two appeals have now been filed moving the Phase One Lawsuit back up to the Court of Appeals.

Recently, the sneaky City Attorney has tried by slight of hand to get the EIR (Body) into the record, after the Superior Judge had already ruled. In papers filed by the City Attorney on appeal it admits the Judge only had a Xerox Copy of the CD purportedly containing the body on trial. Submission of this after the fact evidence and the City Attorneys self admission of sneakery is shameful. The Court of Appeal will not consider evidence not considered before the Superior Court Bench. In the United States the Body must be present at trial.

Our local environment can only be protected by good people who raise their voice. The environmental process for the Village at Playa Vista is now open for comment.

If you do not like the idea of breathing even more air pollution in your lungs, please comment on the EIR for Phase Two before April 30th.

• Email[email protected]

• Mail – David Somers, City Planning Department Room 750, City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012

• View EIR – Venice Library and other Local Libraries or online at CityPlanning.lacity.org

• GrassRoots Coalition Website – SaveBallona.Org.

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