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New Trial on Hollywood Renewal Panel Denied : Redevelopment: Judge upholds Councilman Michael Woo's 1989 ouster of a citizens advisory group.


A Superior Court judge has rejected an attempt by Hollywood activists to reopen the legal fight over which group of citizens has the right to be the official advisers for the massive Hollywood redevelopment project.

In a ruling made public last week, Superior Court Judge Kurt J. Lewin determined that a neighborhood group called Endangered Property Owners of Hollywood had failed to present any "new, different or additional evidence" that would warrant overturning a 1989 court case on the issue of elected citizen participation.

The property owners group had sought a new trial based on evidence amassed during a yearlong investigation, which they contended would prove that Lewin ruled against a controversial group of elected citizen advisers because he didn't have all the pertinent facts.

The property owners intervened because they considered the citizens advisory group, the Project Area Committee, to be the "eyes and ears" of the public on the $922-million redevelopment project, which they have criticized as favoring major developers at the expense of local homeowners.

In particular, the property owners group claimed to have evidence to prove that the Project Area Committee should not have been disbanded by City Councilman Michael Woo in May, 1989. The property owners contended that the state-mandated committee had been empowered by the city to act as advisers for the entire 30-year life of the redevelopment effort.

Such issues were raised at the original trial, in which Lewin ruled that Woo and the council had the right to disband the Project Area Committee after three years and replace it with a group of advisers chosen by Woo, who represents Hollywood.

In ruling against the request for a new trial, Lewin said the proper time for the property owners group to intervene would have been before he issued his ruling in the initial case.

The Community Redevelopment Agency, which is coordinating the redevelopment effort, hailed Lewin's ruling. CRA officials and the agency's lawyers had argued that the property owners group's request for a new trial was frivolous and without merit.

The city and the CRA, in fact, are seeking more than $10,000 in sanctions against lawyers for the property owners group, saying the lawyers have wasted that much of taxpayers' money to rehash issues already decided by the court. Lewin has not ruled on whether he will demand such a penalty.

The judge noted during the hearing, however, that the Project Area Committee already has appealed his original ruling to the state Court of Appeal, and that the Endangered Property Owners of Hollywood could have simply joined in that appeal instead of seeking a new trial.

The president of the property owners group, Donald Lippman, and its lawyer, Dale Gronemeier, both said they plan to appeal Lewin's most recent ruling.

Woo disbanded the Project Area Committee over the strenuous objections of many of its members. He said the group was not doing its job as the citizens' watchdog group and had instead degenerated into a "forum for wacky behavior" that was impeding progress on the redevelopment project.

Members of the Project Area Committee, who continue to meet to this day, sued the city and the CRA, saying they were ousted by Woo for political reasons.

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