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Second Vote on Il Villagio Toscano Project Ends in Tie

The Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council board's vote regarding the Il Villaggio Toscano project ended in a tie, meaning the amendment will not pass.

After a lengthy and often contentious public meeting of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, leading up to a vote on the amendment to the controversial Il Villaggio Toscana project, the board ultimately tied 5-5 when two members abstained, meaning the amendment will not pass.  

, tabled from a June 11 SONC board meeting, to amend the approval of the project, but with a reduction of space: cutting off the seventh and eighth floors, reducing the project by 101 units, and holding the height to 75 feet.

President Jill Banks Barad, before casting her own vote in favor of the amendment, asked those in abstention to reconsider and cast a vote.

"That is what you were elected for," Barad said.

But treasurer Howard Katchen, grabbing the microphone to explain his decision, said any vote would be a “conflict of interest.”

“It’s only a conflict of interest,” said Barad, “if you have a financial investment in this yourself, if you’re gonna make money from this. Otherwise, it is not a conflict.”

The abstentions seemed to irk many in the crowd, as the meeting lasted nearly three hours. Some 60 members of the public made one-minute comments, and after a lengthy discussions among board members, the vote came and failed to pass or reject the amendment.

Mark Lewis, a 25-year resident of Sherman Oaks, walked out of the meeting, as did others, yelling at the board members in abstention to “do your job.”

“They have an obligation to take a position on something this important,” Lewis said after the meeting. “To sit there and abstain and waste everybody’s time, and go back to zero, is completely inappropriate.”  

The Il Villaggio Toscano project, at 4827 Sepulveda Blvd., is a proposed residential development with 399 dwelling units, 52,000 square feet of retail, a 13,000 square foot plaza and 1206 parking spaces.

Public comments fell fairly evenly on both sides of the issue. Many in attendance felt the density of the development is too great for the neighborhood, and will result in terrible traffic congestion. Others described it as a “beautiful development” which will “benefit greatly this community." 

"Unrestricted growth doesn’t lead to a better community environment,” said Marshall Long of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. “SOHA supports the reduction of this project.”

After more than an hour of public comments, the board then went through a long and somewhat convoluted discussion about the implications of their vote. To check on legal details, Barad halted the meeting, asking for a short recess, and did some research.

After the recess, the board voted.  

Prior to public comments, both Barad and Ron Ziff, Chairman of the Land Use committee, spoke about how heated the issue had become.

“There were many personal attacks on me,” said Ziff, “which were unwarranted. I am not a punching bag for SOHA.”

He said charges that he had altered documents were patently false.

“My good name means a lot to me,” he said. “I deserve a big apology.”

Barad also said she was displeased by the level of rancor directed at board members, and urged the public to stay involved but to remain civil.

“There have been allegations that we have not been fair," Barad said. "That is untrue. All through this process our main goal has been to do this with fairness to the public and to the applicant. We have done everything by the book.”  

Sean McCarthy July 10, 2012 at 01:36 PM
This is democracy in action.
Marshall Long July 10, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Paul For the record 40 people spoke for the amendment and 20 against. That is not an even split. Marshall Long
Glenn Bailey July 10, 2012 at 02:32 PM
The Encino Neighborhood Council, whose boundary adjoins the project immediately to the west at the 405 Freeway, voted at its June meeting to oppose the project as proposed. However, reconsideration of the vote has been requested and it will be on the July 25, 2012 meeting agenda.
Scott Killeen July 10, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Actually this is the third vote in favor of the project! The SONC Land Use committee approved the project, and now the SONC Executive board has approved this project basically TWICE! Common sense has prevailed but yet the ego's that got bruised will still fight. The Encino Neighborhood Council seems to be the worst neighborhood council to have as a neighbor to Sherman Oaks. What goes around comes around Encino! So who changed their vote on the SONC? Revord, obviously, anyone else? This seems to be just another fight the SOHA board picked to fight. Actually it seems that is all they do is fight and spend your tax dollar paid city employees time (LACC), even for a wall on top of a hill. Did they ever bring this project to a vote for their homeowners members? Humm....
Marshall Long July 10, 2012 at 05:42 PM
After the vote a letter by Anthony St.John was read. It had been “forgotten” by one of the Board Members. Tony raised the issue of earthquake stability. He supported the amendment for removing the top two stories.. Since he had to catch a plane he was not in the room, so his vote did not count.
Scott Killeen July 10, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Mr. St. John in a previous meeting brought up the point of the new building being tall enough to fall onto the 101 freeway if a strong earthquake happened. Does anybody think if the new building being built by law to current earthquake standards falls over, the 101-405 freeway exchange itself might not survive a earthquake magnitude needed to topple a 8 story building? What other buildings in Sherman Oaks would survive an 8.0 earthquake? Sounds like a scare tactic to me.
Scott Killeen July 10, 2012 at 08:48 PM
The land is legally zoned (Ventura Blvd Specific Plan) for a 700,000 sq ft office / store complex! The IL Villaggio Toscana project is less than half that size at about 330,000 sq ft. Across the street to the south is a 6 story parking structure and the lovely Triple 777 Motor Inn! I think the new building will improve the neighborhood.
Deb July 10, 2012 at 09:09 PM
What amazes me the most is why are they voting; the plans have been approved by the designated government entity which is the Planning Department and City Council. What this action clearly indicates and or prove that Neighborhood Councils should be advisory only and not be given any legislative action but remain a voice of concerns which I am sure was the intent of the vote. For other members of the community who does not participate in neighborhood council but have a compelling interest can exercise their rights and voice their concerns to the real legislative body-city councils, and or their council person.
Deb July 10, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Let me correct myself and say, if the plans have not been approved then let government do its job.
Scott Killeen July 10, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Debra, Yes the Neighborhood Councils are just that, advisors to their LACC representatives. It's a known fact most LACC representatives do follow the sense of their neighborhood councils, not always but most of the time. (Please exclude Encino's LACC rep Koretz on everything) It's also a fact that Sherman Oaks new LACC representative Tom LaBonge did at first glance think this project was a little to high, not big but high. And no, the LA Planning & Zoning Department has not approved this project yet. This project is now reaching into downtown councils and departments. It may still be two years before dirt can be moved to start this project. Builders build during lean economic times not when the economy is robust.
kenneth scalir July 11, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Why is the 777 Motor Inn "lovely"? Is there some history behind that designation. I thought it was just a low budget motel allowing those less financially well off to be able to say they can afford to sleep near Ventura Blvd.
Paul Zollo July 11, 2012 at 11:13 PM
thank you Marshall for that correction.
Paul Zollo July 11, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Thanks again Marshall.

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