Nonprofit group sues over Koreatown apartment tower plan

A nonprofit group has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles and the City Council over a developer's plan to build a 27-floor apartment tower along a residential street in Koreatown.

Fix the City alleges in its lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that the so-called Catalina Tower project on Catalina Street south of 8th Street was allowed to move forward despite the lack of a full environmental impact review and analysis of the impact of increased traffic in the neighborhood's narrow streets.

"The goal of the lawsuit is to once again teach the City Council that laws matter and they're not above the law," said Laura Lake, secretary of Fix the City. "The Koreatown community spoke out strongly against this project. The Planning Commission spoke out unanimously against this project. And all of that was ignored by the City Council."

The project was first proposed in 2006 as a 35-story building with 270 units. But in 2009, the city Planning Commission rejected the project and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa agreed with the commission's decision.

Developer Michael Hakim and the company Colony Holdings later downgraded the project to 27 floors but kept roughly the same number of units.

The Planning Commission again considered and rejected the project in late 2014 and early 2015. The lawsuit claims that since the developer failed to appeal the commission's decision, the approval process should have come to a halt.

Instead, the lawsuit alleges, Mayor Eric Garcetti disavowed his appointees' decision and gave his approval for the necessary zoning and general plan changes. On April 6, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to amend the general plan, clearing the way for the tower.

The lawsuit calls for the courts to rescind all approvals connected with the Catalina Tower project.

A spokeswoman for Councilman Herb Wesson, whose district includes the Catalina Tower site, said his office had not been formally served with the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for Garcetti said his office cannot comment on pending litigation.

The developer also said he had not received the lawsuit and would not comment.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

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A version of this article appeared in print on April 20, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Suit targets high-rise proposal - Plaintiffs say the Koreatown apartment tower plan lacks a full environmental review." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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