Local officials accuse developers of ignoring them; developers say they weren’t ready to talk

By Gary Walker

A proposal to turn a narrow strip of land alongside the 405 Freeway in Westchester into an urban solar farm prompted a series of terse exchanges between the developer’s representatives and members of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester – Playa during the body’s July 7 meeting.

Mirasol Development LLC, a subsidiary ImMODO Energy Services Corp., wants to install 50 14-foot poles with 16 solar panel segments on each pole on 2.5 acres along Thornburn Street between La Tijera and La Cienega boulevards. The project would require a city conditional use permit and an agreement with the land’s owner, David Klein of D.J. Klein Construction in Westchester.

The council’s Planning and Land Use Committee voted in December to recommend support for the project based on the developer holding discussions with neighbors about fencing and landscaping, consult a landscape architect and agree to maintain a $5,000 annual budget for prompt graffiti removal.

Patricia Lyon, a council member who also chairs that committee, expressed frustration that Mirasol had not acted on those requests.

“To my understanding none of this has been done yet, with the exception of about two weeks ago when Mirasol Development contacted me to say, ‘We’re thinking of having that [community] meeting.’ And I said ‘I’m bringing this to the board for them to decide if they even want to support this project,’” Lyon told the council.

Roughly six months earlier, “the tone and tenor was very different. There was a spirit of cooperation. This is a very unusual positioning [for us], but the committee’s position is we would like the board to think about the fact that we have gone six months with a commitment and nothing has been fulfilled,” Lyon said.

Mirasol Vice President Genevieve Liang and senior development specialist Daniel Serber said they were taken aback by Lyon’s comments.

Serber said the company had been busy working out details of the project with Klein and a landscape architect and was planning to hold a neighborhood meeting.

“We wanted to make sure that this was going to go through on our end before we approached the neighbors and wasted anyone’s time. We didn’t intend to be here today until [Lyon] invited us to come here tonight, and I wasn’t aware that there was a time frame to return to the neighborhood council. I actually feel a little blindsided right now,” Serber told the council.

Neighborhood council member Fredrick Smith said Mirasol should have stayed in touch.

“I’m surprised that after discussion with the committee, for six months you didn’t give an update and Pat [Lyon] had to take the initiative to get an update from you, knowing that things were about to happen,” he said.

Lyon and other members of the council also appeared miffed that Mirasol had also applied for a city conditional use permit before satisfying the committee’s conditions of support.

“The fact that you applied for the CUP makes is obvious that you were ready to roll without a community commitment,” Lyon said.

Liang apologized for what she called a lack of “ideal communication flow” between her company and the council.

The council voted to give Mirasol two more months to comply with the committee’s request before taking up the issue again in September.