Articles Posted in Planning

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By Benjamin M. Reznik
The Los Angeles area, which once boasted two professional football teams, has been without an NFL franchise for twenty years. That’s not to say there haven’t been several stadium proposals during that time, among them a renovated Los Angeles Coliseum, Majestic Realty’s proposed 600-acre site in the City of Industry, and AEG’s proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles, Farmers Field. While some observers blamed cities and local politics for a lack of movement on the stadium front, the reality is quite different – and both team owners and the NFL itself are in a position to call the shots.
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By Benjamin M. Reznik
Downtown Los Angeles’ real estate market is riding a wave of success, due in no small part to investment from major firms based in China. This past August, our client Shenzhen Hazens Real Estate Group Co. acquired the 178-room Luxe City Center hotel, located across the street from Staples Center and L.A. Live, and will be adding condominiums and retail space to the site. As noted by the Wall Street Journal’s Craig Karmin, this purchase is part of a “flurry of new development and property sales,” and comes on the heels of two other major Chinese-based investments in major Downtown Los Angeles properties: the Greenland Group’s purchase of the Metropolis site just east of L.A. Live, and Oceanwide Real Estate Group’s purchase of the Fig Central site in Downtown’s South Park neighborhood.

It’s important to note that Shenzhen Hazens Real Estate Group’s investment is for the long-term: just after the purchase of the Luxe site, Shenzhen Hazens and the Luxe Hotel Group signed a five-year contract to continue their partnership and to maximize their opportunities.

Why is Downtown Los Angeles appealing to large, institutional investors? First, Downtown Los Angeles’ status as an urban center with a solid base of residential, retail, and hotel real estate makes it very appealing for investors looking for longer-term investments. Second, unlike San Francisco and New York City, Downtown Los Angeles still has underutilized parcels, such as parking lots, in strategically-located areas that are appealing as sites for future large-scale projects. Third, as a trading hub that is home to one of the world’s busiest container shipping ports, Los Angeles is in a prime location in the Pacific Rim to benefit from future global economic growth.
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At the recent Hotel Developers Forum hosted in JMBM’s Los Angeles office, LA City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana emphasized the City’s commitment to development, particularly of hotels in the downtown area. Santana is the chief financial advisor to the mayor, and his office has direct oversight over the city’s budget, labor negotiations, and development incentives for the City.

“We’re big advocates for hotel expansion in the City,” he said, adding that the City of Los Angeles is willing to work with property owners in a variety of ways to create projects that balance profitability with revenue for the city.
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by Jon Welner
California’s rural landscapes are some of the most productive farmlands in the world. However, some of the qualities that make these lands suitable for farming–sunshine and wide open spaces–also make them attractive for another kind of “farming”: solar and wind farms. In recent years, the conflict between farming and renewable energy production has grown more pronounced in California. Central to this conflict is the California Land Conservation Act of 1965, generally known as the Williamson Act (Gov’t Code §§ 51200-51297.4).
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Ben Reznik
In an attempt to appease a well-heeled group of neighbors in Benedict Canyon who want to stop one particular project, the City of Los Angeles has adopted a new interpretation of its municipal code which will result in more than $1 billion worth of construction being delayed into 2013. This equates to the loss of several thousand jobs this year.

For the particulars, read my op-ed column from this week’s Los Angeles Business Journal, reprinted with permission below.
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Legislative Elimination of Redevelopment Agencies
As part of its 2011 – 2012 budget proposal, the California Governor’s Office proposed permanently shutting down local redevelopment agencies to free up $1.7 billion of tax increments to apply to the State’s budget deficit. The monies were slated to help fund schools, public safety and transit districts. On June 28, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1X26 (the “Dissolution Bill”) and AB1X27 (the “Pay for Continuation Bill”) into law. The Dissolution Bill would permanently eliminate redevelopment agencies by October 1, 2011. The Pay for Continuation Bill allows redevelopment agencies to continue their existence and operation if the city or county that created the redevelopment agency commits to making annual payments to special funds administered by the county auditor controller by November 1, 2011.

Ensuing Litigation
In response to the passage of the Dissolution Bill and the Pay for Continuation Bill (the “Bills”), on July 15, 2011, the California Redevelopment Association, League of California Cities, City of Union City and the City of San Jose (collectively, “CRA”) filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate to the California Supreme Court challenging the Legislature’s adoption of the Bills and seeking an immediate stay of the Bills pending the outcome of the litigation.
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Ben Reznik
Why is the City of Los Angeles singling out the Deputy Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and forcing him to follow procedures never before imposed on others in order to allow him to build his home in the Benedict Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles?

That’s a question being raised following the recent Vanity Fair article written by Michael Shnayerson, There Goes the Neighborhood, about my client Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the current Deputy Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia.

For some inexplicable reason, the City of Los Angeles Planning Department is erroneously maintaining and insisting that the Prince’s entity developing the project, Tower Lane Properties, Inc., must undergo additional, unnecessary and inapplicable steps in the plan check review process, before the project is cleared for construction. However, other similarly-sized residential projects in Benedict Canyon and nearby neighborhoods were built without being subjected to any such additional review whatsoever. A 35,046 square-foot home on North Carolwood Drive, a 45,891 square-foot home on Bel Air Road, and a 52,503 square-foot home on S. Mapleton Drive, to name a few, were all built without the City of Los Angeles subjecting them to this procedure. It’s not even the largest residential project in the area. [SOURCE: City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning, Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office]
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Ben Reznik
Vanity Fair reporter Michael Shnayerson recently visited the Los Angeles hillside neighborhood of Benedict Canyon to report on a proposed residential project by JMBM client Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. Shnayerson’s article, There Goes the Neighborhood, includes interviews with some of the property’s high profile neighbors and sheds light on what is really driving the opposition.

Tower Lane Properties, Inc., the prince’s entity seeking to build the project, has reached out to the surrounding community, heard the community’s issues and concerns, and has come forward with new, revised plans that reduce the project’s size and significantly reduce project-related truck traffic. Tower Lane Properties, Inc. is committed to maintaining an open and ongoing dialogue with area neighbors to ensure that this residential development on private property can move forward.
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Neill Brower
A recent court decision has already changed the way many public agencies evaluate traffic impacts in analysis reports prepared to satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). On December 16, 2010, the Sixth District of the California Court of Appeal issued its decision in Sunnyvale West Neighborhood Association v. City of Sunnyvale, invalidating an environmental impact report (EIR) for a major roadway extension project. Sunnyvale should be considered as a logical extension of case law regarding the proper baseline for CEQA analysis and the end of the future baseline scenario as the only basis of a traffic impact analysis.

Prior to Sunnyvale, an accepted practice for traffic impact analysis involved crafting a future baseline scenario, usually based on the anticipated year of project build-out, and evaluating project impacts based on the difference between future conditions with and without project-related traffic. This approach makes intuitive sense, as under very few circumstances would traffic levels and street configurations plus project traffic represent an accurate picture of the project’s ultimate effect on local and regional roadways. The Sunnyvale decision even recognized this.

However, CEQA Guidelines require an evaluation of the effects of a project on “the environment.” Generally, “the environment” means the physical conditions that exist in an area during publication of the Notice of Preparation (NOP) or, if no NOP is published, the time that environmental review began.
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