SAVE VV … A SIT DOWN--Save Valley Village is an unincorporated association of concerned residents who are taking action … and other groups are taking notice. In an unprecedented move, sVV is suing all 15 LA City Council members, setting the standard for recall efforts in other SoCal communities. The group is also collecting signatures from Council District 2 voters for a petition to recall Councilmember Paul Krekorian.
I sat down with a sVV member to get the backstory. All members have a policy of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Valley Village has been in the forefront of slash and burn development that leads to demolition of historic properties at the cusp of receiving protective status, over-densification of neighborhoods, and the erosion of neighborhood character. The City Council has been cozy with developers, approving developer-initiated zone changing. The dedicated members of sVV are aiming to put an end to that.
“Everybody’s jaw dropped that they’re getting away with it. Nobody can wrap their head around what we have,” the sVV member explains. “We are supposed to bring our concerns to City Hall and our concerns to Krekorian when all they do is rubber stamp projects. There’s no enforcement. Nobody checks. If the developers do a demolition, they just pay the demolition fee. It’s unbelievable!”
“It’s a sensitive subject. What the media has grabbed onto is the application for the property. The media was so intrigued by the information that was found about the back bungalow where Marilyn Monroe once lived. The front property turned out to the last and oldest building, built in 1903. The architecture of the house included stone and represented everything from the time period, an excellent example of that period,” she says. “It wasn’t so much what happened but how Krekorian handled it. Once that (demolition) happened, we’d go to other neighborhood council meetings and see another family with a piece of paper, crying about what is happening as a result of the property next door to them, how the family’s life was completely turned upside down as a result.”
“Planning Deputy Karo Torossian was at one meeting when a woman was crying about her son, who had gotten sick during an illegal demolition. That’s what did it for me. Nobody blinked an eye. This illegal demolition released asbestos, killing the neighbors’ landscaping, and knocked down a fence that separated the two properties. A Caterpillar was halfway parked in their yard! We sent pictures to Krekorian every day but he didn’t respond once.”
“We started going to neighborhood council meetings and connected with others with similar stories. The meetings were more and more crowded, with more stories. Nobody was saying anything and they wouldn’t let us talk for more than a minute. There was no dialogue back and forth to say, ‘Here is the problem and here is the proposed solution. How do we get the family and their son safe again?’”
The concerned neighbors started to hold meetings by themselves. The sVV representative says as the stories kept coming, they did more research about Krekorian, from campaign contributions to land use entitlements. The information was buried in websites. The group spent almost a third of a year, day and night, going through data to make sure it was consistent with census data and helping neighbors who had nowhere to go. The sVV representative says Krekorian was non-responsive to a series of construction and developments approvals that were harmful to residents.
Another issue resulting from the rash of development is the lack of affordable housing resulting from gentrification. “These places aren’t even for sale but people are coming to doors, harassing the owners and offering cash. They aren’t selling to families as single family homes, although there’s also the McMansion issue. Our group is a collaborative effort of homeowners and renters,” she says. “It’s all the same battle about subdivisions that are incompatible with the general plan.”
“Look at all demolitions. We have the highest demolition rate of all other districts. Why is that?” she questions. “Krekorian allows every project. Karo shows up at all the hearings and gives full support to developers, even when there are forty people there opposing. We realized this guy we put where he is to serve the community is not looking out for our best interests. The neighborhood is going through pure identity theft!”
For more information on how you can support Save Valley Village, visit the website.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.