In an action that pits the state of California against the city of Los Angeles, the California attorney general has joined the Friends of Westwood in an attempt to halt construction of a Wilshire Boulevard high-rise until an environmental impact report has been filed.
The Sierra Club, the Planning and Conservation League and the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns. have joined in the request for a preliminary injunction. The request was denied last summer in Superior Court and is before the Court of Appeal.
The brief was filed by the attorney general's office Sept. 19. It charges that under the California Environmental Quality Act, the city should have prepared an environmental impact report before granting a building permit to Wilshire Glendon Associates. The firm plans to construct a 26-story building on the old Ship's restaurant site at Wilshire Boulevard and Glendon Avenue.
The city and the builders argue that Los Angeles building permits are not subject to the state requirements unless a zoning change is requested. If such changes are not involved, the city does not have the authority to ask for an environmental impact report, they contend.
Assistant City Atty. Anthony Alperin said if a project meets all the requirements of the law, the city does not have the authority to refuse a building permit or to set special conditions, such as an impact report.
But Susan Goodkin of the attorney general's office in Los Angeles said, "We decided that the appellant's argument was compelling. Basically, the city has issued a permit for a 26-story high-rise in Westwood. The estimate is it will triple or quadruple the former use of the site. . . .
"The project will have a major impact on the environment. If the city prepares an (environmental impact report) before the project is constructed it can then implement mitigation measures, before the structure becomes a burden on an area that is already overbuilt."
Attorney Steve Volker, representing the environmental organizations, has filed a brief on their behalf. Volker said the Conservation League is made up of 100 environmental organizations. The Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns. is composed of 49 Los Angeles homeowners' associations.
Volker said the Friends' case could go to the state Supreme Court.
"There are many thousands of building permits issued each year in Los Angeles, many involving high-rise offices," he said. "The impact should be subject to the environmental quality act and the public advised on potential adverse impact. The outcome will affect building permits across the state."
But Kenneth Bley, an attorney for Wilshire Glendon Associates, responded, "I understand the Friends of Westwood. They are unhappy that the City Council has allowed construction in Westwood. They are unhappy with the idea that anybody can build in Westwood. They challenged our permit at the administrative level and lost. (Now) they are trying to get through the court what they couldn't get through the City Council.
"The Friends of Westwood have lost at every turn and I think they will lose at this one."