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Weiss gives tart advice to L.A. City Council on his way out

June 3, 2009 |  2:30 pm


The Los Angeles City Council voted today to approve La Brea Gateway, a hotly contested seven-story apartment building planned for La Brea Avenue and backed by Councilman Jack Weiss.

But there were some fireworks leading up to that unanimous vote. Weiss, who will soon leave the council after a bruising and unsuccessful bid for city attorney, offered some tart advice for his colleagues. And Councilwoman Janice Hahn fired a few choice words back at him.

Nearly 75 people showed up in the council chamber to signal their opposition to La Brea Gateway, which would add 219 apartments to the corner of La Brea and Willoughby avenues. Neither Weiss nor Councilman Herb Wesson wanted them to speak, pointing out that the public had already been heard by the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which reviewed La Brea Gateway and unanimously favored it.

But other council members said it would be rude to bar members of the group from testifying after they traveled to City Hall. And after a 10-minute hearing, council members began voicing other gripes about the project, which happens to sit in Weiss’ Westside district.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl complained that the proposed apartment building had no affordable housing. With lobbyists for the project standing a few feet away, Rosendahl secured a promise from the developer to set aside 10% of his project for lower-cost units.

Janicehahn Then Hahn asked whether there were other ways to rework the project so it would satisfy neighbors, who had complained that it was too tall and out of scale with nearby residential streets.

That prompted a lecture from Weiss, who had prickly relations with his colleagues throughout his eight-year tenure. Weiss, who frequently steps out of the room during public testimony, complained that Hahn was not listening to him.

Weiss, who will leave office June 30, urged his colleagues not to rework real estate projects after they have been heard by the planning committee, where he is one of three members.

“When this becomes a food fight in here, you might feel good about yourselves, you might like the quote  that you utter at that moment, but you demean the public process of this city,” he told his colleagues.

Hahn immediately pressed the button on her council desk, signaling that she wanted to speak. Then she told Weiss that if the council had not intervened, the project in his district would not have any affordable housing. She also said that in previous council meetings, tenants who were being forced out of their homes received better relocation benefits because the council intervened.

“We have the responsibility to make policy up until the very last minute, and frankly, I don’t need to hear a lecture from you on how to make public policy,” Hahn told Weiss.

Hahn ultimately supported the project after Council President Eric Garcetti told his colleagues that they had no additional time to rework the project because today was the deadline for the council to act. 

Regarding the project itself: Backers said it had been reduced in size, from 247 units to 219, and redesigned so that its western end would not be as tall as previously planned. Lobbyist George Mihlsten, of Latham & Watkins, said the project secured a favorable vote from the Mid City West Community Council.

Opponents said the project would increase traffic and make it more difficult for residents to find parking.

-- David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall

Photos, from top: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Jamie Rector / Associated Press