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City Council vote is a win for Playa Vista

February 28, 2007|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

In a victory for the massive Playa Vista housing complex, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday not to require the builders to perform a costly, time-consuming environmental review on the first phase of the project.

The 12-1 vote was somewhat unusual because the councilman who represents the area, Bill Rosendahl, wanted more analysis done. It was the second time the council had spurned Rosendahl's wishes on the matter.

At issue was the adequacy of Playa Vista's methane mitigation system and the groundwater it removes. Foes say that the system has never been studied properly and that it could cause the ground under Playa Vista's buildings to sink or help spread plumes of contaminated groundwater near the project.

Rosendahl said he was acting out of concern for the safety of present and future Playa Vista residents. "Let's hope it's safe, because I don't have the votes around the council to move forward with" further analysis, said Rosendahl, who in 2005 campaigned on slowing down or halting Phase II of Playa Vista.

Steve Soboroff, president of the firm that oversees the development, hailed the council vote, which was applauded by Playa Vista residents in attendance.

"This wasn't about safety," Soboroff said, contending that the dispute was about Playa Vista opponents' "getting a councilman to say things he doesn't understand."

The council did a report on Playa Vista's groundwater removal program in 2001, but the group Environmentalism Through Inspiration and Non-Violent Action subsequently sued, and the courts ordered the city to reconsider that report.

Last year, under heavy lobbying by Playa Vista, the council decided to ask its chief legislative analyst to conduct an independent review of the water removal system. That report, approved by the council Tuesday, found that the system works and that no further study is needed under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Marcia Hanscom of the Wetlands Action Network said she doubts that the city's report will satisfy the court. "The court said that a chief legislative analyst report in 2001 didn't comply with" the act, "so why did the council do it again?" she asked.

There will be more court hearings over the next three months to determine whether the city's report passes muster.

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steve.hymon@latimes.com

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