MAYWOOD — A Superior Court judge has cleared the way for construction of Maywood's first housing project for the elderly, ruling against three activists who accused the city of improperly demolishing part of a street to build the 55-unit complex.
Ronald E. Fick, Patrick R. Quiles and Louis Martinez filed the lawsuit in February. They alleged that the City Council violated state law by changing plans for taking over a portion of Heliotrope Circle.
The activists also argued that the city did not prepare an environmental impact study before demolishing 200 feet of the street for the $7-million housing project.
But Judge Miriam Vogel ruled last month that it was legal for the city to make the changes during a proper public hearing. She also agreed with the city's argument that a special environmental study was not required--in part because last year Maywood completed an extensive study of its commercial redevelopment area that includes the housing project site.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the city has closed the street and continued to prepare the 3/4-acre site for construction because the activists did not seek a restraining order to stop the building pending the outcome of the lawsuit, said Stanton Price, attorney for the Redevelopment Agency.
However, if the city had lost the lawsuit "it would have killed the project," said Ronald L. Lindsey, the city's director of building and planning.
Fick said the judge unfairly deduced that the activists were suing because they opposed the housing project on the southeast corner of Slauson and Mayflower avenues. "We're not against the project," Fick said. "It just wasn't done properly."
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, a city must take one of three steps before starting construction: declare that the project will not have a negative impact on the environment; declare the project to be of a type exempted from the law, such as street improvements, or conduct an environmental impact study.
The City Council passed a resolution stating that the project would not harm the environment, which Judge Vogel said was proper.
So far, Heliotrope Circle has been graded and new sidewalks and curbs have been installed. Construction of the housing project is expected to begin in September, when funding is received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lindsey said.
Price said no residents were displaced when the street was demolished, and "all that really happened was that residents would have to go a block out of their way" because of the project. The project forced the relocation of five businesses, all of which are expected to be moved within six weeks, Lindsey said.
Fick and Quiles unsuccessfully ran for City Council in April, and Lindsey said the lawsuit was intended to stir up election publicity, although they had spoken against the project at City Council meetings for about the last two years. Fick denied that the lawsuit was politically motivated, and said the activists may appeal Vogel's ruling.
Price said the lawsuit cost Maywood about $11,000 in legal fees, and said the city may try to recover that money from the activists.
The majority of space in the federally subsidized project will house moderate- and low-income people age 62 and older. To be eligible, a single person could earn no more than about $13,000 a year, and a couple no more than about $15,000. Tenants pay about one-third of their income for housing.
Five or six apartments will be set aside for the physically handicapped older than 18.
Applications for housing will be available in about six months and the project is scheduled to open in about a year.