Wednesday, November 4, 2009
This morning I gathered with El Sereno residents to celebrate a victory 25 years in the making. The long-contested battle to protect homes from potentially dangerous development in Elephant Hill in El Sereno will soon be over. At my urging, my colleagues on the City Council voted unanimously yesterday to support a settlement with a developer that will allow the City to buy the original 15 acres of contested land, plus four more acres for $9 million. Our court battle was about an old Environmental Impact Report putting our residents and hillsides at risk. Although a judge initially ruled against the City in this matter, he did not compel the City to issue the final permit necessary for the developer to start construction on the 24 luxury homes on Elephant Hill. At the end of the day, this is good for everyone involved. For El Sereno residents, it's environmental justice. Somebody said today that the Westside has its beaches and we in the Northeast have our hills. Having grown up in Boyle Heights, environmental justice issues resonate with me. I have made it a priority to fight polluters in my district, taking them to court (Shamrock, ISOCI, Vernon). And I have fought for better policies like the Northeast LA Hillside Ordinance, to make sure that hillside lots are developed in a way that is sensitive to the hillside and existing homes. And now that the residents of El Sereno have 19 acres of their beloved Elephant Hill back, they can start thinking about what they want to do with it. At the very least, it will be protected open space that people can enjoy now and in the future. Congratulations to all, especially Elva Yanez, who spearheaded the battle and sat me down in her living room for two hours when I was running for City Council to tell me the problems with this proposed development. Also thanks to Vanessa Yanez, Geneece Perez, Casey Reagan, Hugo Garcia, the National Resource Defense Council and the Latino Urban Forum. There are many others to thank. Unfortunately, some people involved in this struggle didn’t live long enough to see this through. They are people who used to enjoy the hills of El Sereno at one time and beyond the concerns over potentially unsafe development, they wanted future generations to enjoy those same hills and ravines. We honor them and we will not forget their contributions to this noble effort.