LOS ANGELES — AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is claiming another victory for governmental accountability, the environment, and affordable housing. On June 4th, AHF was granted a Judgement Granting a Peremptory Writ of Mandate in a case to halt development of a 12-story, 323-unit luxury development at the site of the Southern California Flower Market adjacent to Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles.
On June 17th, the Court issued the writ, which sets aside City Council’s approval of the project and enjoins the City and developer, the Southern California Flower Growers, Inc., from any further action on the project until it complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
This project was championed by former Councilman Jose Huizar, who has since been indicted on racketeering charges related to taking bribes to approve real estate deals. He is awaiting trial. The former chairman of the City Council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee allegedly took bribes of cash and gifts from developers to support their projects. He faces 41 charges related to the alleged scheme.
This project was to provide zero units of housing to lower income people even though it is located near L.A.’s Skid Row, the epicenter of homelessness in California. Skid Row is also home to many extremely low-income people who live in older hotels and motels because it is the cheapest available housing in the area. Studies show that when luxury projects with fancy amenities are built with no affordable housing, it not only provides no opportunity for anyone of lower income to live there, but it also displaces the neighboring lower income people – many of whom are people of color — who have called that area home for years. In turn, their social networks, jobs, and community ties are disrupted, making them even more vulnerable to homelessness.
AHF argued that City Council cut corners in approving this project that made the project’s greenhouse gas and noise impacts more severe, at the detriment of the people and businesses in the area. The Court agreed with AHF that the project’s environmental impacts were flawed as to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and noise impacts. The Court ruled that the City “abused its discretion in finding that GHG emissions would not have a substantial environmental impact.” The Court further found that the City’s conclusion about what it claimed were effective measures to mitigate noise impacts was not sufficiently supported.
“This is a welcome victory in the ongoing battle to ensure the City Council adheres to environmental standards and that it protects and actually represents the most vulnerable residents of Los Angeles,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. “60,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles and projects like this make the problem worse. We remain deeply concerned about the City Council fast tracking luxury developments as well as cutting corners on environmental impact reports, as done here. We vow to continue to hold our elected city officials and city departments accountable to ensure they don’t just give away our city to deep-pocketed, money-hungry developers and instead build the buildings and housing that we actually need.”
AHF first filed the case in Superior Court for the State of California for the County of Los Angeles on December 16, 2019.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.5 million people in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe.