City Council changes course on Cahuenga Pass apartment development

Developer Ben Forat is seeking $30 million in damages from the city

May.May 17, 2016 02:00 PM

Developer Ben Forat isn’t happy right now.

The L.A. City Council voted Friday to reverse a 2015 decision that would have allowed him to build a 250-unit residential complex along the Cahuenga Pass. Now, Forat is seeking $30 million in damages from the city. He plans to sue. 

Things seemed like they were going well for the landowner two years ago, when he worked out a deal with then-City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. The councilmember would allow the a zone change for the lot, which is zoned for single-family homes, if Forat reserved 10 acres for green space. City Council backed this negotiation, and asked the Department of City Planning to consider amending the city general plan in order to accommodate it.

Further hearings would have been necessary before lawmakers make the final decision, but after LaBonge left the council last year, the decision was deferred.

Now, new Councilmember David Ryu is citing community opposition in seeking to restart the deliberation process over Forat’s development plans. Some local community groups said they were inadequately informed of the initial hearings regarding the development, even though they were public.

“We must work to restore trust in government,” Ryu told the L.A. Times. “And what we have before us is the kind of action and the reason why the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is looming over our head. Lack of trust. Lack of transparency.”

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is a proposed ballot measure that aims to curtail “mega-developments” in L.A.

The decision Friday, according to Forat’s attorney Fred Gaines, “cut off the public process before it even started.”

Forat argued that his apartment complex would help alleviate the housing crisis as well as ease traffic.

“I gave the cow, the milk and the farm” to the city, he said. “Now they’re trying to take the farmer’s daughter too.” [LAT]Cathaleen Chen

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