Supreme Court Win!
(Save Tara was represented by the esteemed firm of Chatten-Brown and Carstens)
West Hollywood suffers setback on 'Tara' project
By Bob Pool
October 31, 2008
A plan to turn a West Hollywood landmark into a $6-million senior citizens home suffered a setback Thursday when the state Supreme Court ruled that officials failed to follow proper procedures in evaluating the project's effect on the environment.
City leaders have sought for some five years to use the leafy Laurel Avenue estate that locals call "Tara" for affordable housing. Critics contend that the place should be used as a public park and community center.
The home is shaded by a forest of 66 trees and dozens of tropical shrubs and resembles the plantation in the movie "Gone With the Wind." It was donated to the city by longtime resident Elsie Weisman, who is said to have died there at age 101 while watching the Clark Gable film.
The court ruled that the city should have done an environmental impact report on the 28-unit housing proposal before joining two development partners and obtaining a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for it.
"This should teach them to listen to the public," said project foe Allegra Allison, a former tenant of Weisman who lived at the house for more than 25 years. "Hopefully now they will make it a park and cultural center."
Attorney Doug Carstens, who represented opponents, called Thursday's ruling something that will shape government through the state.
"It is a landmark decision that's a lot bigger than West Hollywood," he said.
Christi Hogin, West Hollywood's assistant city attorney, termed the ruling "frustrating" for the city. She said officials hope to keep the development partnership intact and funded long enough to do a new environmental impact report and start the process over.
"The city still owns the property" and still takes the issue of affordable housing for seniors seriously, Hogin said.
Because Thursday's ruling involved a state environmental law, it cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.
Pool is a Times staff writer.
The City of West Hollywood has upped its contribution to the development. The total cost of the project will now be $16,000,000. It was originally (and up until October, 2007) to be built for a total of 6.2 million. That's for 28 units.
Save Tara was blamed for the cost increase because we retained legal council and the lawsuits have delayed the project.
If the city had done the right thing in the beginning and the public allowed to participate, there would have been no need for lawyers or lawsuits.
What is Tara
1343 N. Laurel Avenue was nicknamed Tara by longtime owner and resident Elsie Weisman for its look of a grand Southern Manor. Her favorite movie was Gone With the Wind.
Tara was built in 1914 in the Colonial revival architectural style and is a prime, intact example of Colonial revival architecture, the last remaining estate of it's kind in West Hollywood. The structures reflect special elements of the City's social, geographic, aesthetic and architectural History.
Tara was designated a local cultural resource in 1994. Elsie Weisman believed that the designation would preserve the property
and donated Tara to the City, instead of her family, in the belief that her property would become a cultural/community center and Park.
The Property is physically unique in its low-density design along this block of Laurel Avenue. It is within a Historic district and on the State list of Cultural Resources. There is nothing else like it left in West Hollywood.
The Court of Appeals of the State of California, Second Appellate District Division Eight, came out with a decision that overturns the attempt to destroy Tara with development.
This decision validates all of our hard work for the last 4 and 1/2 years. Thank you all for your dedication and hard work.
A couple of choice quotes from the decision:
"The fact of the matter is the public was denied the right to participate in the decision making process"
"We can not agree that there was much, if anything, "conceptual and uncertain" about the project after the HUD application was filed (as claimed by housing manager Jeff Skorneck)"