Monday, October 31, 2011

Cowboy Culture -- Horses vs Houses

Letter to LA politicians, published in the Valley Horse Owners Association newsletter The Hoof Beat, November, 2002
Dear City Leaders,

I am writing to ask for your support to protect my community.  It's my personal opinion that our democratic rights are being violated by unfair local government practices.

Last year a developer asked for and obtained a zone change--removing horse-keeping to allow small lots--for a parcel of land in our neighborhood.  On the surface that seems innocent enough, but what is wrong with the picture is that an entire community was ignored because of the developer's political connections.

Hundreds of citizens protested the land-use approvals of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, and the Los Angeles City Council.  The citizens were ignored at every turn, and the influential developer always got his way.

A non-profit organization, known as the Chatsworth Land Preservation Association (CLPA), filed a lawsuit against the developer, land-owner, and the city.  CLPA's lawsuit represented the demands of hundreds of Chatsworth citizens.

CLPA and the citizens of Chatsworth won the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Then the Los Angeles City Council took steps to make sure that the politically-connected developer ultimately won.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to spend taxpayer money to appeal the court decision, and it directed the Planning Commission to change the precise language in the General Plan that had allowed CLPA to prevail in court.

Now for the rest of the story:

The developer was also the Los Angeles City Airport Commissioner. His wife was a Los Angeles City Public Works Commissioner. His daughter was a Los Angeles City Mayor's Representative. The developer was also a chief fundraiser for LA United, which was the Mayor's anti-secession organization. The developer raised $500,000 to fight Valley secession.  Just a few days earlier the Los Angeles City Council had voted to appeal the court decision against him.

The Mayor and most of the Los Angeles City Council were against secession.   They did not want the citizens of the San Fernando Valley to form their own city, which would give them local control.

The existing language in the Chatsworth General Plan is crystal clear: horse-keeping is part of the heritage of Los Angeles, and it should be protected. It is unreasonable for a wealthy, politically-connected developer to be allowed to spot zone horse-keeping rights away, so he can make a few extra dollars profit.

If you believe in truth, justice, and the American way please help us.

Afterword -- almost a decade later...

The Airport Commissioner sold the land to another developer, but with the weak the economy his big houses on small lots sat unsold for many years.  The Mayor was not re-elected to a second term.  The City Councilman retired, and is a land-use consultant.  The Airport Commissioner, his wife, and his daughter no longer have commissions or jobs with the city.

A new Mayor and a new City Councilman have passed an olive branch to Chatsworth horsemen, and the weak economy has slowed down the rezoning of large horse-keeping parcels of land.  Many of the horseman seen in these photos have moved away from Los Angeles.

(Photos are compliments of Steve Ford.)

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