Whittier Conservancy sues city to stop development of former youth correctional facility
The Whittier Conservancy is suing the city of Whittier, hoping to block development on the site of the former Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility.
The City Council voted 5-0 last month to approve Brookfield Residential Properties’ plans for a large retail, commercial and residential project on the 74-acre site. The decision came after Brookfield’s vice president of land entitlement, Dave Bartlett, increased the financial offer to the city, according to the Pasadena Star News.
The council’s approval, however, “violated the mandates of state law, local ordinances and due process,” Susan Brandt-Hawley, the conservancy’s attorney, said in the complaint filed July 31 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The purpose of the lawsuit is to enforce the California Environment Quality Act ordinances and city ordinances that protect the Nelles property, the conservancy said in a statement.
“Over and over we warned the City Council against the actions it was taking on behalf of the applicant’s plans for Nelles,” Ted Snyder, president of the conservancy, said in the statement Saturday. “And each time the council was assured by city staff and consultants that their actions were legal and their environment documents adequate. We believe that those assurances were unwarranted and the council’s reliance upon them unwise.”
Nelles, which opened in 1891, is a California State Historical Landmark and was the longest-running state school for juvenile offenders in California. A major point of dispute on behalf of the conservancy has been over how many historic buildings on the site should be preserved, with Brookfield proposing preservation of four of the eight buildings.
The council’s approval came amid a pending lawsuit the conservancy filed in June against the state regarding the property. The June lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, challenged the state’s two-year extension in March of a 2011 agreement to sell the property to Brookfield for $42.5 million.
In Saturday’s statement, Snyder said the project would cause significant environmental effects and offer little benefit to the community.
“This legal action is only part of our efforts to ensure a better project for the people of this community,” Snyder said.
There will be no development on the site at this time, Whittier Mayor Fernando Dutra said Monday.
“I’m disappointed that we’re going to have to spend taxpayer money to defend something that I feel was fully vetted out legally, as well as professionally,” Dutra said. “I hope that the judge sees that in fact Whittier fully vetted out all the legal and historic processes and we made the right decision.”
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