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Citizens for Open Government’s Lawsuit Against Montebello Hills Housing Project Will Proceed

By Brian Hews

Residents opposing the controversial Montebello Hills housing development have been advised that their lawsuit against the City of Montebello can proceed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed by Montebello based Citizens for Open Government (COPS) in July and maintains that the City of Montebello failed to adequately review and address air quality, traffic, water quality and biological concerns. The lawsuit also accuses the Montebello City Council of Brown Act violations. The matter has been continued until December 2015 for further proceedings.

Led by Montebello Mayor Jack Hadjinian, Vice Mayor Art Barajas, Councilmembers Christina Cortez and Vivian Romero, the decision to approve the unpopular mega housing project on an active oil drilling site faces growing backlash. Many residents believe they should be allowed to vote on a project of this magnitude. Resident Janet Garcia states that she is outraged that the Montebello City Council and the City of Montebello only minimally engaged the Montebello community and their input on a project that she sees as harmful to the health of her two young children who attend La Merced Elementary school.

Other residents are displeased that they could not attend either of the hearings that were held on weeknight evenings only at the Quiet Cannon and wonder why there were not more hearings at more convenient locations, which would have included Saturdays, or online viewing. Some residents like Martha Gomez think it’s time to consider “district voting,” which would elect Council members by geographic districts in Montebello and would better reflect each district’s concerns at the council level.

Two members of the City Council who voted to approve the controversial project, Jack Hadjinian and Christina Cortez, are seeking reelection this November 3. One candidate for Montebello City Council says, ‘’The #1 issue Montebello voters are asking about is the Hills Development. They don’t want it.”

In addition to legal opposition from residents, the unpopular housing development is facing additional challenges brought upon by the “Lincoln Fire” in August that burned 45 acres of active oil fields including a section of the California gnat catcher reserve that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has required be created and functioning before any construction can begin.

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