Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Update on Autry CEQA Litigation

The Highland Park Heritage Trust (OR MWHA) does not take lightly the responsibilities of our duty to uphold the mission of our organization.  For the past 30 years, 99% of our advocacywork has been successfully handled by working out a preservation solutionthrough the community process, working with elected officials and agency staffand on technical merits and the law.   Itis the option of last resort to even contemplate litigation for our all-volunteerorganization.  So, for only the second time in the history of Highland Park Heritage Trust (or MWHA), the board decided last year that there was no other choice.  With another organization and with the guidance of a great legal team, we retained the law firm of Otten & Joyce to represent us with this important case.  As you can see by the summary below, we are finally looking at the hearing in late May with a decision shortly thereafter.

Summary of the Litigation and Process
On July 26,2011, the Highland Park Heritage Trust and the Mount Washington Homeowner’sAlliance (“Petitioners”) jointly filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Complaint for Injunctive relief in the Los Angeles Superior Court relating to Autry National Center’s Expansion Project described by Autry as “Facility Remodeling of Exhibit Space for Interpreting Native American Environmental Stewardship.” 

Petitioners are asking the court to set aside the agency approvals and June 21, 2011 Notice of Exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) on various grounds including that: 1. the Project has been improperly piecemealed and isin fact just a segmented portion of a much larger project, 2. The Project is not subject to an exemption under CEQA and therefore further environmental review is mandated and, 3. the Project violates the provisions of the Northeast Community Plan specifically protecting the Southwest Museum at its Mt.Washington location.  Petitioners contend that Autry’s underlying motive is to move all collections off the SouthwestMuseum site and to dispose of the historic location at Mt. Washington altogether.

Petitionersfiled their Opening Brief with the court on March 5, 2012 and just recently received the City’s Opposition Brief.  Petitioners’Reply Brief is due in early May with the hearing on the matter currently set forMay 17, 2012 before the Honorable Judge James Chalfant.

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