Environmental Effect of Condo Project to Be Reviewed in Court

A hearing has been set for July 26 in Los Angeles Superior Court to review the city's environmental impact report on a 72-unit condominium complex proposed as part of a redevelopment project.

The complex is the first phase of El Monte Villas, a 142-unit development planned for a strip of abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad right of way along Ramona Boulevard between Cogswell and Peck roads. The city has issued $21 million in revenue bonds to provide low-interest loans to first-time home buyers.

Christine Hernandez and Janet Laich, who live near the site, have filed a lawsuit contending that the city did not adequately measure the project's potential impact on traffic on Ramona and on already-overcrowded neighborhood schools. They also maintained that the city is allowing the condominiums to be built too close to adjacent residences to the north and south.

The residents are represented by former Mayor Thomas Keiser and former Planning Commissioner Michael Hamud, both attorneys. They had won a court order halting work on the development until the hearing, but that order was reversed. Construction is scheduled to begin within a week, City Manager Greg Korduner said.

Mayor Don McMillen insisted that the city has considered the environmental impact of the project. "The real environmental damage that these people do not recognize is the detriment to the community of having an abandoned right of way, with trash, weeds and debris strewn all over it as a permanent part of our community," McMillen said.

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