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Setback for Home Depot

The city of L.A. erred in issuing a building permit, a panel says.

August 08, 2007|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles City Council committee voted Tuesday to demand more environmental review before a hotly contested Home Depot can open in Sunland-Tujunga, ignoring accusations that the opposition campaign is being funded by Do it Center, a hardware competitor.

On a 2-0 vote, the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee sided with critics of the project who said that the city erred in issuing a building permit to Home Depot, which hopes to move into a 93,000-square-foot building on Foothill Boulevard that once was occupied by Kmart.

The panel took its vote despite criticism from Home Depot lobbyist Lucinda Starrett, who said the opposition campaign was part of a larger effort by Do it Center against her client's expansion plans.

"The process abused here is largely funded and energized by this competitor," she said.

Abby Diamond, a leader of the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance, agreed that her group had split the cost of its lawyer with Do it Center but insisted that it hired an attorney only after the opposition had reached critical mass.

"This [movement] genuinely came from community opposition to Home Depot," she said.

Opponents of the project successfully challenged Home Depot's building permit last year, persuading a zoning administrator that the company's proposed renovations were so extensive that the project needed a more thorough review. Home Depot said the review would have a chilling effect on the city's business climate; opponents said Home Depot wanted to circumvent the city's planning rules.

Home Depot real estate manager Richard Greene said the final battle would be waged before the full council, which could discuss the issue as soon as Aug. 15.

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