An Open Letter to City Zoning Administrator Fernando Tovar
Dear Mr. Tovar,
As a resident of Sunset Square and a neighbor of the the Gardner Street Elementary School, I read your August 30 decision on the proposed shopping mall/grocery store at 7445 W. Sunset Boulevard with keen interest. Despite hundreds of emails, letters, phone calls and in-person visits by concerned parents, students and local residents, and despite nearly 60-pages of documentation outlining the project’s flaws and poor planning, you decided that building a massive retail center directly next to the children’s playground and beside a residential street filled with pedestrians is a good idea, something that will be a net benefit to our neighborhood and the City of Los Angeles.
The question everyone who lives and works around here is asking: why?
In your 43-page decision, you list 28 different objections the community raised, including the project’s fraudulent traffic study, the project’s unstudied impact on emergency response times from Fire Station 41 across the street from the site, and the project’s impact on the educational environment of our children. At the public hearing on May 24th, an attorney for the developer opened his presentation by asserting that the public’s complaints about 7445 were utterly without merit and should be disregarded. Based on your decision, you appear to agree. The attorney was right: everything that the people who live around here think is a big problem isn’t really a problem at all.
We apologize for wasting everyone’s time on much ado about nothing. Child safety and quality-of-life apparently aren’t that important.
Unfortunately, Mr. Tovar, we don’t understand your reasoning, since your decision is devoid of any. In 43 detailed pages, you recount the facts and the correspondence opposing the project and the relevant ordinances, but you neglect to explain your logic for determining the irrelevance of the community’s concerns. Maybe you’re not required to. Maybe your job is to be a kind of human rubber stamp. But the absence of explanation — having not studied how this building will affect ambulances and fire engines getting to citizens in need really isn’t anything to worry about, because. . .
Even establishment cheerleaders like the Los Angeles Times have declared in print that the City’s Department of Planning appears to be broken and corrupted. Your dutiful approval of a deeply flawed project that the vast majority of locals residents don’t want does nothing to dispel that notion. At the hearing you conducted at City Hall, only those on the developer’s payroll spoke in favor of the project. Even a representative from Gelson’s, allegedly the planned anchor tenant, did not speak in favor of going ahead with construction. The only demographic that supports this intensive development are the builders and their silent partners in City government, including our Councilmember-in-Absentia, David E. Ryu, who has been too busy declaring himself an advocate for children and public safety to actually oppose the 7445 project and fight for the safety of our children.
Let us be charitable and assume that we the people who live and work and go to school here are simply a bunch of poorly informed bumpkins, and folks like the Colorado-based real estate flipper who owns 7445 and folks like you and your colleagues in government are the ones who really know what’s best for our neighborhood. Even so, in the interest of educating the plebes, you might help us understand how this project conforms with Vision Zero, with the Mobility Plan, with Safe Routes to School, and every other guideline meant to foster responsible development.
Alas, maybe the only way to get those kind of answers is to hire a lawyer.
Michael Konik, 26-year-resident of Sunset Square