Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 – 12:49 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 – 6:38 PM
By Victoria Talbot
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 James Kay stated, “Our clients… are acting ethically and legally.”