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City Hall has lost its way and betrayed the public trust: Sunland-Tujunga vs. Home Depot

By Katharine Russ

The Declaration of Independence is the
nation’s most revered symbol of liberty — holding that is the people’s
right to abolish the government and replace it with a new government
that will act in accordance with the will of the people.

The opening words of our Constitution,
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the
common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address echoed
the same sentiments, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for
the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Those who comprise the government of
the City of Los Angeles have completely forgotten these principles as
they bow to special interests for the sake of money and power.

For many months I have been reporting
on the antics of Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga. I have met and interviewed
dozens of residents and community leaders who truly care about the area
they live and shop in.

Plain and simple, there are inherent
dangers posed by the nature of this business — air quality, traffic,
noise, water pollution, the safety of school children — all of which
would, irreparably, damage the general welfare of the people in Sunland-Tujunga.

Yet, their elected officials are too
blinded by greed, too scared of losing corporate contributions, and
too stupid to see what is beneath their very noses — a community of
people begging for representation from those they elected.

Consider Rocky Delgadillo and his ties
with Latham & Watkins, the attorneys who are suing the City on behalf
of Home Depot.

Latham & Watkins gave many, many
thousands of dollars to Rocky’s campaign.

Latham & Watkins worked with South
Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to write Rule 1401.1
adopted in November 2005. This is the very law written to protect schools
from the type of business that Delgadillo struck a deal with after the
City Council voted to halt the project.

Council members Bernard Parks and Jack
Weiss were successful in the passage of a waiver of Conflict of Interest
rules relating to the recent hiring of former Senior Assistant City
Peter Latham & Watkins.

How can a conflict of interest disappear
with a vote? It is either there or it isn’t. 

The writing is on the wall for a Home
Depot in Sunland-Tujunga as evidenced by the back room deal cut by Delgadillo
and Latham & Watkins to put any litigation on hold until a resolution
to disputes between Home Depot and the community of Sunland- Tujunga
can be settled.

The City Attorney did not act appropriately
in making this secret deal. It undermined the vote of the City Council
and is now subjecting residents of Sunland-Tujunga to Gestapo tactics
at the hands of two women who haven’t a clue how to settle disputes.

The Community is united in its resolve
to keep Home Depot from building their store. The Dispute Resolution
Program is a smokescreen that gives the appearance of concern on the
part of the City.

Really, what is the point? The litigation
will only be dismissed if the store is approved and opened.

If the community challenges the City’s
decision to let Home Depot build and a lawsuit prevents the opening
of the store — the “stay” will be lifted and litigation ensue.

Instead of wasting taxpayers’ time
and money, the City Attorney should have just done what he is paid to
do — defend the City and the decision to yank Home Depot’s permits
in the first place.

The Sunland-Tujunga Alliance and No2HomeDepot
Campaign submitted a 100-page analysis on Home Depot’s application
of CEQA (environmental) exemptions. It is a stunning report, prepared
by experts and doomed to be mislaid somewhere until the residents are
forced to sue the City for allowing the permit process to continue without
CEQA review.

When that happens, the City Attorney
could have to defend the City against two lawsuits – one by Home Depot
to get the store opened, the other by the community to keep it from

It is this kind of arrogant behavior
that breeds distrust and contempt.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Every government
degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people
themselves are its only safe depositories

The City of Los Angeles has betrayed
this fundamental concept and the people through their right to empower
their government must take it back.

Katherine Russ writes regularly for the
North Valley Reporter.

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11 Responses to City Hall has lost its way and betrayed the public trust: Sunland-Tujunga vs. Home Depot

  1. Observor says:

    Good column, Katherine, but you’re only scratching the surface when it comes to Latham, which is undoubtedly the most powerful land use law firm in LA, representing almost every major project in the past 25 years, from Playa Vista to Staples to the Autry Museum’s attempts to destroy the Southwest Museum, an issue Ron Kaye has promised to pursue. And the contributions from Latham to local politicians you mention are pocket change compared to those from its clients that the firm directs to elected officials. The firm’s influence on the quality of life in LA, both the good and the bad, can’t be overstated, but that remains a unknown to all but the inside players because attorney-client privilege allow them to operate in secret, except when they are forced to appear in public to testify and that’s just a show. The decisions are made long before they get in front of a microphine. Mayors, council members and planning commissioners come and go, but Latham never leaves office. Good luck in your struggle. Your opponents don’t lose very often, if ever.

  2. Ellen Vukovich says:

    I can only remind all residents of Council District 2 that you have a golden opportunity when your present Council Member, Wendy Greuel, runs for City Controller, in Spring 2009. Run and elect your own candidate. The only way we are going to have true representation downtown is by having our own power brokers answering to us.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good commentary, Katharine, although you never mention the Mayor. From the beginning of his campaign for Mayor, Antonio has been holding hands not only with Home Depot, but also with Latham and Watkins. He is the push behind the Sunland Tujunga Home Depot in behalf of his buddies.
    Additionally, both Home Depot and Latham and Watkins have held positions on the board of Wendy Greuel’s pet project, LA’s Best.
    And good advice, Ellen, but whoever runs will need good financial backing as he/she will be running against the Mayor’s ladies, Tamar Gatzlan and/or Cindy Montanez.

  4. Anonymous says:

    When is someone going to investigate Latham & Watkin’s pay to play influence over the city?
    I see this law firms name connected to every
    controversial project in the city.

  5. Anonymous says:

    obviously, it won’t be Rock’Y I hope they L&W havn’t bought of the Judges. If Prop R is Appealed, we’ll get to elect 8 new councilmembers and just maybe we have a chance at healing the city!

  6. ellen vukovich says:

    Tamar and Cindy are not the front runners – Laura Chick is. That is if she decides to run. Candidates have to file by November 3. We will know sometime between then and December 6, when the filing period ends. Talk has it that Laura is about 80% sure she will run- a big question remains though of a more personal nature to her.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Don’t be too hasty about Laura Chick being the front runner for District 2. That can open happen
    if Prop R isn’t repealed. Pray for it to be so, then we can get automatically get rid of eight councilmemebers who will automatically be termed out. If they are not, they will practically be unbeatable because they have huge war chests which eliminates the newcomers! So sad, but that is what will happen!

  8. Katharine Russ says:

    There are many, many people who are dissatisfied with Los Angeles elected officials. We live in a tremendous age of technology. I invite you all to expand your email lists and keep nagging your fellow neighbors to band together to restore Los Angeles to the great city it used to be. Ron Kaye has made a great start- it is up to each and everyone of you to keep up the good fight! After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day either. God Bless You All!

  9. Anonymous says:

    “It is this kind of arrogant behavior that breeds distrust and contempt.”
    And yet on every level of government – city, state, federal – those very same incumbants keep getting re-elected. And we get a continuation of the arrogant behavior and graft.

  10. Anonymous says:

    By Ellen Vukovich on August 30, 2008 1:37 PM
    –> I can only remind all residents of Council District 2 that you have a golden opportunity when your present Council Member, Wendy Greuel, runs for City Controller, in Spring 2009. Run and elect your own candidate. The only way we are going to have true representation downtown is by having our own power brokers answering to us. —

    Important point, but a lot can happen between now and next March. A replacement election for CD2 only happens if Greuel is elected Controller. And who knows how long it will take LA to get around to a special election?
    What does Sunland-Tujunga do in the meantime?

  11. Chuck says:

    Greuel should have done more, especially when she owns Frontier building supply in the valley and doesn’t need Home Depot competition. Greuel’s policy caused the city to be in the financial mess it is in. Let Nick Patsaouras get in there and WATCGDOG there political crooks and the spending of our money!

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