Parents & Teachers Fight Construction Plans Near Schoolyard

LOS ANGELES – Parents and teachers want a developer and the city of Los Angeles to halt construction on a project adjacent to a school’s kindergarten playground, claiming toxic dust and other poisonous contaminants will be in the air during demolition, excavation and construction.

The 24-page class action says “toxic dust” and other poisonous contaminants will be in the air during demolition, excavation and construction of the project on the fence-line of a kindergarten playground at Palms Elementary School in west Los Angeles north of Culver City.

Filed on behalf of the students and teachers by parent and attorney Olu K. Orange, the 24-page class action says “through backroom deals, and meetings with politicians where parents were specifically excluded, the city and developer have pushed the project through the approval process – with no environmental impact review, no health risk analysis, and none of the standard protective measures” for the more than 350 children or their teachers at the Palms Elementary School near Culver City in West Los Angeles.

LA planning director Vincent Bertoni, developer Hiro Kobayashi, and several other city staff are named as defendants in the federal class action, filed Dec. 15.

City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the elementary school and development project, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. According to the complaint, Koretz approved the project, ignoring parents’ comments and even barring one parent from attending a community planning meeting. Koretz is not a party to the class action and his office said it would not comment on pending litigation.

“The city, Bertoni, Koretz’s office and developer have made a concerted effort to deny plaintiffs and parents the right and opportunity to know anything about the project, be heard about it, or have the benefit of an environmental study of it,” the parents and teachers say in the complaint.

A representative for Los Angeles Unified School District – also not a party to the class action – said it is working with “Councilman Koretz’s office – as well as parents, teachers, staff, the school community and the developer – to ensure that the developer will implement mitigation measures that will limit the impacts to students and staff.”

Parents, students and teachers say they will be exposed to “increased risks of cancer and other health concerns from the toxins emitted” by the development project.

The complaint says noise from the development will impact learning at the elementary school, including students in its Deaf and Hard of Hearing program.

One plaintiff, a minor named S.G., wears a hearing aid. Sound is controlled in the classroom with carpet, fabric on the walls and a drop ceiling in order to reduce reverberation. Loud sounds are painful for students in the program, because they do not have a chance to adjust the volume on their devices and that could cause health concerns, according to the complaint.

The developer’s attorney, Elisa Paster with Glaser Weil, said in a statement: “Throughout the successful entitlement process, which was conducted according to all the city’s rules and regulations, the developer has met with school leaders and city officials. As part of those briefings, two environmental reports were shared which reveal the soil on the project site is not contaminated. As with many older buildings in the LA area, the project will require asbestos abatement and lead paint removal by a certified vendor.

“While the project is in its early stages, 3568 Motor LLC is committed to working with the neighboring community, as the project unfolds,” Paster added.

But Orange says city officials, including Koretz’s staff, have made efforts to keep parents from community meetings and voicing their opinion on the development project.

“How are you going to bar parents from attending those meetings when children are in harm’s way?” Orange said in an interview.

The claim that the community has been involved to give their input is 100 percent false, he said. The city did not provide the community enough time to voice any opposition to the project, and if they had the group would have sued sooner, he added.

Orange found out about the project along with the rest of the community approximately a month ago. The city’s response lacks empathy for the children at Palms Elementary School, Orange said.

“I have two children who attend Palms Elementary,” Orange said, adding, “And now I have 350 plus students.”

The putative class seeks damages for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the 14th Amendment, and want a judge to shut the project down completely until the proper reviews are conducted.

They also seek punitive damages from Bertoni and Kobayashi.



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