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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

El Sereno residents win the battle of Elephant Hill but who will pay the bill? *

Residents of El Sereno have waged a 25-year battle against investors seeking to build homes on what is called Elephant Hill on the boundary with South Pasadena. On Tuesday, residents declared victory after the City Council agreed to settle a lawsuit with the Elephant Hill property owners by buying their approximately 15-acre site and an adjacent 5-acre parcel for $9 million to create a future park. Still to be worked out, however, is how the city is going to pay for the deal to resolve the dispute, which has proved awkward at times for Councilman Jose Huizar.

Huizar told the Los Angeles Times that the cash-strapped city will have to borrow money to buy the land and settle filed by the developer against the city. But how will the city pay off that loan? Huizar said the city will seek to be reimbursed by the state but did not provide any details about how much and when that would happen.

Huizar has been solidly on the side of El Sereno residents in this fight. But he has also found himself facing off against one of his influential supporters and campaign fundraisers: Ben Reznik, the attorney and City Hall lobbyist representing the Elephant Hill developer.

Still, despite the issues raised over the Elephant Hill settlement, many residents are just glad that a chunk of one of El Sereno's last undeveloped hillsides will remain open space in the middle of a predominately Latino neighborhood. In a statement issued by the Latino Urban Forum, Elva YaƱez (pictured above at the podium), the El Sereno resident who lead the most recent efforts to preserve Elephant Hill, hailed the settlement as a victory for environmental justice:

"After a long and hard fought struggle, the residents of this community have been afforded the environmental protections that are rightfully theirs. We are pleased that this poorly planned project is not moving forward and environmental justice has prevailed.”

Related links:
City Council votes to pay $9,000,000 for Elephant Hill. Mayor Sam
Density be damned: El Sereno shuts down major development. LA Weekly
City council agrees to buy Elephant Hill. Streetsblog LA

* This post has been updated with hotos of this morning's Elephant Hill press conference by Martha Benedict.


  1. This is a great deal for el sereno residents. Land is cheap right now and they got more land than originally planned for development. State proposition dollars can be used. Thanks Huizar!

  2. This is wonderful, grew up playing there: hide and go seek, bike riding, jogging, sliding down that hill with cardboard, and going somewhere for peace mind. Thank you for all your hard work, you all.

  3. Does anyone have a picture of the "elephant" in elephant hill? You can send it to raulpbaltazar@gmail.com

  4. Instead of wanting to improve our neighborhood, people prefer to leave an open hill that hardly serves any purpose other than to allow illegal drunken parties every other weekend. "Environmental protections?!" The hillside is almost completely barren!!! I