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Beverly Hills News – Don’t Sign it ‘Till You Read It! Update on the Fight for Local Control at Loma Linda Drive

Corrected: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 – 4:32 PM

By Victoria Talbot

Following the original post of this article last week regarding the efforts of an anonymous person to gather signatures on a petition for a referendum on the November ballot to rescind the new Basement Ordinance, the Courier received a letter from an attorney representing Francesco Aquilini threatening a defamation lawsuit and demanding a retraction. 

Since then, the Courier has learned that some extremely motivated signature gatherers are having trouble getting residents to sign their document. They are motivated by a double-the-rate pay-off of $10/signature. Residents who have spoken to them report that they have been told that if there are not enough signatures before the time for gathering them is close (must be done by April 10), the payee may offer a whopping $50/signature.

It is yet another way that the anonymous person behind the effort to thwart the community and rescind the landmark Hillside/Basement Ordinance, which was enacted to prevent overdevelopment in the hillsides, is trying to undermine the will of the community of  Beverly Hills residents. Transparency in the political process, it appears, is not available to the funder of the petition, who may not be aware of United States election rules. 

If you have signed the petition, you can RESCIND your signature if you choose, by emailing City Clerk Byron Pope at BPope@beverlyhills.org

Petition-gatherers have been seen at Pavilions Market, at Whole Foods, at the Farmers’ Market and even – on Lago Vista Drive, where residents successfully fought the development at 1260 Lago Vista Drive.

Opposition to the referendum effort is taking shape throughout the City. 

“As you may be aware, hillside developers are circulating a petition to place a referendum on the ballot that would overturn the recently enacted ‘basement ordinance,'” wrote one resident in a letter reaching out to homeowners associations. “This new ordinance, among other things, sensibly restricts  hillside basements, curtails the use of a series of retaining walls and limits land form alteration. If the petition gatherers are successful in obtaining approximately 2100 valid signatures, the new ordinance will be suspended until an election can be held, likely in November. The basement ordinance was enacted with the unanimous support of the BH Planning Commission and City Council.  Our processes are sensible and sound.  Land use planning by referendum or initiative is a meat axe approach and generally a bad idea.  In this instance specifically, it is awful.” 

Residents, it seems, are protesting from all over the City. The following is being emailed from another group of residents:

BEWARE !! CONTROL OF LAND USE DEVELOPMENT IS UNDER THREAT !!

It has come to our attention that a petition is circulating that seeks to stall the recently passed Basement Ordinance from being effective until November by putting it on the Ballot for the voters to decide. This is being run by a law firm who will not disclose who their client is. We have reason to believe it is the Loma Linda developer who does not want to abide by the Basement Ordinance. Who else would it be? That is the logical inference, but whomever it is, this ordinance will allow more cut and fill, with potential subterranean damage to the structures or support systems of adjacent landowners, and additional over-development not consistent with the nature of the neighborhood.

Please do NOT sign this petition:

  • if you want to keep our city safe from unscrupulous, deep pocketed, litigious developers whose main objective is profit at any cost to our city
  • If you believe in responsible development
  • If you believe decision on our city’s development should reside with residents through our elected officials, not a foreign entity who wants to rewrite our city’s laws

If you already have signed this petition, and wish to have your name removed, simply call Byron Pope at 310 285 2401, our very nice City Clerk, and let him know. 

The hillside residents have fought long and hard to try to protect our hillsides from overdevelopment. The new Basement Ordinance was approved by City Council unanimously and would achieve two important goals:

  1. Reduce the number of layers of retaining walls on new projects in the hillside.
  2. Put a stop to lower levels that are visible downslope being considered basements so they are exempt from maximum floor area calculations. This is a very important step to stop oversized projects being proposed in inappropriate hillside locations.

     

THIS IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST THE BASEMENT ORDINANCE. THIS IS ABOUT OUR CITY’S  ability to have control over our land. The Basement Ordinance will not have a significant effect on those of you who live in the flats, but it is so important to the hillside residents. Please support us.

We also have reason to believe that the signature gatherers are not being fully forthcoming with what the Basement Ordinance is about and therefore could be getting signatures under incorrect pretenses. As someone at the City put it to me- “they are paid by the signature, so they might say whatever it is they need to say to get the petition signed.”

***Please EMAIL THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW IN BEVERLY HILLS***

 If you are considering signing it, please make sure to read the petition carefully and we suggest you ask- “who is funding this?” and get a specific name of a real person- and to not accept the name of generic sounding group

The Basement Ordinance received overwhelming support from the Residents when it passed last month. The Residents have worked hard to protect the safety of our families and the beauty of our hillsides from overdevelopment. Please let’s not have that be undone!!

Here is the article that was published in Friday’s edition of the Beverly Hills Courier:

Don’t sign any petition until you’ve read it very carefully –  because it may be used to force the City of Beverly Hills into letting Loma Linda Ltd. build their projects on Loma Linda Drive.

A petition is being circulated by signature gatherers throughout the City to rescind the Basement Ordinance, which was unanimously approved by both the City Council and the Planning Commission and is set to go into effect on April 6.

The petition is for a referendum that would appear on the November ballot to recall the Basement Ordinance. If the signature gatherers are successful in collecting 10 percent, or 2,049 signatures, from registered voters, they will have blocked the ordinance, paving the way not only for the Loma Linda development, but for the continued despoliation of the City’s hillsides with oversized “basements,” removing wildlife habitat, destroying neighborhoods, and further degrading the natural landforms that are at risk of disappearing beneath steel and cement forever.

If they get the signatures by April 5, “the Basement Ordinance will not go into effect on April 6,” wrote City Clerk Byron Pope in his Declaration. If the petitions are filed April 6-10, then the Ordinance will be suspended. Either way, the Basement Ordinance would be rendered ineffective, and residents will lose their opportunity to save whatever hillsides are left forever.

Petition gatherers have 30 days from March 12 to get the signatures, which is April 10. After April 10 time is up.

The City Council may either voluntarily repeal the Basement Ordinance or set it for an election if the requisite number of signatures are collected and validated by the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder. Then the Ordinance would not be effective until it received a majority of the vote.

The Council made a unanimous decision in favor of the Ordinance this month, voting 4-0 in support of it, with Mayor Lili Bosse recusing herself due to conflicts. After years of work and months of hearings in the Council and the Planning Commission to bring the Ordinance to fruition, some residents and City leaders have expressed their suspicion that one man is trying to block the Basement Ordinance through a referendum petition -Francesco Aquilini, the Canadian billionaire who visited City Council members Robert Wunderlich and then-Mayor Lili Bosse last December.

On Monday, March 19, Loma Linda Holdings, LTD, the entity that represents Aquilini for the projects at 1193 and 1184 Loma Linda Drive, also sought a request for a peremptory writ of mandate for ex parte relief to prevent the Basement Ordinance from being applied to 1184 Loma Linda Drive. On the morning March 20, Judge James Chalfant denied that injunction request and set a trial date for Nov. 6.

“Loma Linda Holdings, Ltd, and attorneys for Aquilini consistently think American courts are there to give them special status,” said Ronald Richards, a City resident and attorney for several residents who oppose the Loma Linda projects. “They had the legal chutzpah to ask a judge to issue a mandatory injunction compelling the City to give them their permit before the City finished its review and to exempt them from the basement ordinance.  Wisely, the judge rejected such an overreaching and unprecedented request that would interfere with a City’s legislative agenda and would violate 100 years of California law against mandatory injunctions.”

Beverly Hills City Attorney Larry Wiener argued that Loma Linda Holdings, Ltd., the petitioner, is not entitled to ex parte relief, or a writ of mandate and injunctive relief because there is no immediate threat to their project. “The Planning Commission and the City Council worked very hard to come up with a fair Hillside/Basement ordinance and to accommodate 1184 Loma Linda Drive. Therefore, today’s result was not surprising.”

In fact, he said, the City Council approved a motion exempting the project from the Basement Ordinance last week, should it be found that the project complies with lot line, bond and construction management plan requirements. The Basement Ordinance will be effective April 6, and the City Council does not meet again until April 10, thus the project has been given a special status – granting them until April 10 to comply with these requirements, when City Council meets again and they can present the findings of the reviews.

That motion exempts the project, “retrospectively from the Basement Ordinance should the 1184 project comply with the lot-line, bond and construction management plan requirements, which are currently under review by the City.”

Residents report that petitioners have been going door-to-door, collecting signatures on this petition.

In a letter to the Courier, Aquilini’s attorney Jerry Kay stated, “Our clients…  are acting ethically and legally.”

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