Land Use Challenge Unites Residents; Local Council Agrees

Suburban land-use policy is being challenged throughout California, where citizen led protests and referendums are making an impact on the landscape of the Golden State. Residents of one city in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area recently claimed just such a victory when they were able to persuade city officials to overturn a development project planned for their neighborhood. Hundreds turned out for a January 5, 2016 City Council meeting on the agenda item, prompting police and fire officials to restrict council chambers to the maximum occupant capacity.

The applicant had planning commission approval for a 12,285 square foot business facility and sought two variances: one that would allow for development of a business larger than the 10,000 square feet allowed by the city’s general plan, and another to reduce the required number of parking spaces by 20 percent.

Under the guidance of Sullivan Workman & Dee Partner Charles D. Cummings, approximately 100 neighbors and business owners built the case to discredit a parking study, which concluded that the proposed project would pose a minimal impact to its neighbors. Another primary concern centered on the project’s proposed operating hours, from 4:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Working with residents who took photos of the nearly full parking lot at the applicant’s other facility (which was larger than the parking lot at the proposed second site), and providing evidence that the parking study had been manipulated, Cummings convinced the local city council to rescind the approved development on a 4-1 vote.

“We suspected that employees of the facility parked on the street, rather than the lot, during the week that the parking study was conducted,” said Cummings. “The city council was concerned enough about the integrity of the data to overturn the project.”

The majority vote was also based upon a vigorous and thorough vetting of each conditional use permit, which led to a determination that the proposed project was not consistent with the city’s general plan goals, nor was it a good fit for the site and the surrounding neighborhood.