Officials from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) met with a contingent of Westchester homeowners on Monday, May 14th, to discuss possible solutions to what have been described as ongoing problems associated with a component of the school’s waste management system.
The property owners, who have formed a coalition of neighbors called the McConnell Quality of Life Group, allege that the university’s recycling center is not complying with city regulations because it is within 12.5 feet of their property lines, while City of Los Angeles building and safety statutes require that recycling centers remain at least 150 feet away from residential property.
In addition, they complain that the clamor of the facility’s operations has disturbed their peaceful neighborhood, and that its refuse has attracted rodents to their homes.
University officials have insisted that the school is not subject to city codes because the public does not use the facility and the recycling center is located on LMU’s campus, which is private property.
The Westchester homeowners were seeking land use documentation regarding the existing uses for the university’s campus that pertain to the waste management system. Richard Hofmeister, an architect on McConnell Avenue who attended the session, deemed it a “good first meeting.”
“We wanted them to show us documentation that would address our concerns about the recycling center,” Hofmeister said.
Kathleen Flanagan, assistant vice president of communications and government relations at LMU, said she believes that the meeting was the first step toward a possible resolution of the ongoing conflict involving the recycling facility.
“I was encouraged that there would be a solution down the line,” Flanagan said. “I thought that it was very collaborative, and that it was a good basis for going forward.”
Noting that she felt it was important that the two parties named spokespeople for the meeting, Flanagan applauded Hofmeister, who represented the McConnell group, for conducting himself in a very professional manner.
“His representation of the group is very productive,” she commended.
An attorney representing the university, George Mihlsten, told the group that the university was in the process of assembling the requested documents, which include planning ordinances, and that the university would present them as soon as they were assembled. At Argonaut press time, Mihlsten had not returned calls for comment.
Linda Kokelaar, who was also present at the briefing, said she was dismayed that she and her neighbors were not able to see the records that they requested.
“I think (Mihlsten) was totally unprepared,” Kokelaar said later the morning of the meeting. “He claims that (LMU) is exempt from city codes, which we don’t believe is the case.”
Kokelaar did acknowledge that having a sit-down with high-ranking LMU representatives was important.
“It seems like they are finally doing something,” she conceded.
The meeting at LMU followed the denial Wednesday, May 9th, of an appeal that the homeowners group had filed against LMU’s building of a campus library. The Los Angeles Planning Commission, which heard the motion, decided in favor of the university after hearing from residents who feel that a library would bring more traffic and generate more waste.
“The appeal was based on research on how the library would impact our neighborhood,” said June Durr, a McConnell Avenue homeowner who filed the petition against the learning center. Like some of her neighbors, she said she believes that there is a direct link between the learning center and the recycling facility, and was disappointed that Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s transportation deputy, Grieg Asher, did not make a more passionate plea for the residents.
“I expected a little more from [Rosendahl’s] office,” Durr said.
Other McConnell Avenue residents also said they felt that the councilman, after initially indicating that he would support their appeal efforts, was not as supportive as he could have been.
“We’ve met with Bill in the past, and we were told that he supports the residents and wants the recycling center relocated,” Kokelaar said. “I feel like we were stabbed in the back.”
Rosendahl said that while he does agree with the property owners that the recycling facility should be moved, he feels that the library and the center are not linked.
“The library is a separate issue from the recycling center, and I have always maintained that to the McConnell residents,” the councilman told The Argonaut. “I would like to see the (recycling facility) relocated off campus, and the university knows that, but sometimes you have to make compromises.”
The library and the recycling yard are “apples and oranges,” he added.
Regarding the issue of the recycling center, which the property owners continue to assert is not in compliance with city regulations, Rosendahl could not offer any clarification.
“At this point, it’s an open discussion,” the councilman said.
Hofmeister and his neighbors insist that the code is clear, and for some, the school’s alleged noncompliance with city laws is the most egregious violation, among the myriad of grievances that they have with their university neighbors.
“Until (LMU) presents us with a legal opinion that states otherwise, my contention is that they are not in compliance,” Hofmeister said.
“Ordinances are written by the Planning Department to protect everybody, and they should apply to everybody, including LMU,” Durr contends. “I just want LMU to abide by the law.”
views on the matter of compliance, Flanagan believes that progress can still be made as long as both sides remain open to practical solutions.
“[Compliance] is one of those issues that we will continue to discuss,” she said. Like previous university officials interviewed, Flanagan mentioned cost and lack of space as two of the drawbacks to relocating its recycling center.
“Especially from a cost standpoint, relocation could be problematic,” the university vice president explained.
Rosendahl is also hopeful that the two sides can settle their differences, and has offered to be a facilitator if need be.
“My responsibility is to listen to everyone,” Rosendahl said. “Both LMU and the homeowners are my constituents. My hope is that both sides will want to continue to meet with each other, and I’m hopeful that everyone will come to a resolution.”
According to Flanagan, the homeowners and representatives from the university will meet again on Tuesday, May 29th, and both sides will exchange and share information regarding zoning and land use.
“Everyone is committed to getting this issue resolved,” she said.