Moffatt St Madness | City to Set Aside, Reconsider Controversial Decision

New developments in the dispute over a neighborhood sharing the border of El Sereno and South Pasadena

SOURCE: Google Maps | Aerial view of Moffatt St

Under legal pressure for alleged Brown Act violations, the South Pasadena City Council will set aside and reconsider one of its most unpopular decisions, the approval of hillside development and tree removal permits for the Moffatt Street extension granted to Planet Home Living, the would-be developer of seven luxury homes on the south side of the municipal border with El Sereno.

Council members reluctantly voted to approve the permits Feb. 17 in the face of overwhelming community opposition, arguing they were legally bound under increasingly onerous state laws that constrain cities’ abilities to condition housing developments.

Opponents say the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act by approving the permits and filed suit. They also allege procedural violations under Brown but while the CEQA litigation is going forward, they are required to give the city time to cure any Brown Act violations before suing over those.

- Advertisement -

“While the City does not agree that a Brown Act violation occurred,” it has set a new City Council hearing for 5:30 pm on April 20 “to address any resultant issues within the CEQA suit,” City Manager Sean Joyce told Pasadena attorney Michell Tsai. He said the decision was made by the Council during a closed session March 29. Asked what specifically what triggered the city’s decision, Joyce told the South Pasadenan News the Council took the action “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The City Council denied Appellant administrative due process and violated the Brown Act a number of times throughout the administrative process,” Tsai told the city in a Feb. 22 notice to sue letter. During a Nov. 18, 2020 hearing, it played only 30 minutes of more than two hours or pre-recorded public comment and during the Feb. 17, 2021 hearing, it allowed the developer to make “a presentation that exceed[ed] the 3-minute time limit imposed upon” his client. It also failed to timely produce documents under the Public Records Act, he alleged.

The lawsuit was filed by Coyotl + Macehualli, the nascent open space nonprofit run by Brenda Contreras and Micah Haserjian, whose El Sereno home on Lowell St. would be most impacted by the permit.

Representatives of Planet Home Living did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Featured image replaced with correct portion of Moffatt St that is in dispute in South Pasadena.

 

Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle. He and his wife Karin, an arts administrator from El Sereno, live in South Pasadena.