The Bel Air Association ["BAA"] wrote an open letter in its blog today referring to the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance ["BAHOA"] as "a small group of reckless people." It then falsely accused BAHOA of "harming our wonderful community through their unprofessional behavior and dangerous misstatements of fact." [Bold emphasis added.] I apologize in advance for the length of this email, but given the situation a strong dose of transparency is warranted.
Please read this with two thoughts in mind: 1) The BAA agreed to less stringent conditions than the conditions set forth in the current Ruling; and, 2) The BAA entered into a watered down agreement in order to receive money from the developer for every truck load of dirt which can total $30,000--as opposed to the Alliance which is opposed to any more hauling.
Here are the undisputed facts:
1. On September 22nd, the BAA faxed a "letter of support" for the Somma Way haul route to the Planning and Use Committee in opposition to our Appeal granting of the permit to 10697 Somma Way to haul over 29,000 cubic yards of dirt. [See attached BAA letter.] In pertinent part, the BAA letter states on page 1: " . . . the Bel Air Association supports this Haul Route Application [emphasis added] in accordance with the terms agreed upon and conditions listed below."
At the time BAA submitted this letter of support, BAA had in its possession the Ruling of the Board of Building and Safety Commission. [See attached Ruling document.] If you compare the actual Ruling (which BAHOA has appealed) with the conditions set forth in the BAA's letter of support, it is apparent that BAA failed to include the most stringent condition and substituted in its place a meaningless condition as set forth below:
The Ruling on page two item 2.d. states "No crossing of two hauling vehicles shall be allowed in Bel-Air. (Once one hauling vehicle leaves Bel-Air, the next hauling vehicle may enter.)" [Italics in the original. Bold emphasis added.]
The BAA letter of support deleted the above "no crossing of two hauling vehicles" condition and instead inserted the following condition as stated in its BAA letter on page 1 item 5: "Staggering: No more than Two (2) Dirt Haul Trucks may be within any project staging area at any time, and Dirt Haul Trucks must be staggered to a minimum of 10 minutes between the departures of each Dirt Truck leaving the project site."
In addition to the above "revision" which makes an unsafe situation even more dangerous, the BAA letter on page 1 item 1 which specified the 9-3 hauling hours omitted the day limitations set forth in the Ruling. On page 1 item 2.a. of the Ruling states "The hauling operations are restricted to the hours between 9:00am and 3:00pm on Mondays through Fridays only. No hauling allowed on Saturday, Sundays or holidays. . ."
Further, the BAA letter in effects decreases the number of flagmen required in the Ruling from five to three as follows: On page 2 item 7 of the BAA letter states in pertinent part: "Flag persons shall be located at all major intersections along the Haul Route during the entire time such haul route is in operation." In contrast, the Ruling at page 2 item 2.b. specifically states five flagmen are to be placed at the following locations: a) the intersection of Somma Way and Stone Canyon; b) the cul-de-sac along Somma Way; c) on Somma Way in front of 10691 Somma Way; d) the intersection of Chalon Road and Stone Canyon; and, e) the intersection of Bellagio Road and Stone Canyon. Per BAA's suggested condition, at least two of the above flagman locations would not be required as they are not major intersections.
As admitted in the BAA blog today, the BAA came to an agreement with the developer which requires that the developer pay the BAA what amount to approximately $30,000 [at least] "payable upon the earlier to occur of: (1) The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety sign-off on the foundation permit or (2) 180 days upon completion of the Haul Route. They included this agreement as a condition in their letter of support. (See BAA letter, page 2, item 10.) [Note: to determine the amount demanded by the BAA, we used the following calculation: As stated in their letter of support, the BAA demanded $500 for every 500 cubic yards of dirt removal or $750 if double axel trucks are used---the permit is to haul approximately 30,000 cubic yards of dirt--thus based on the hauling permit--the total amount demanded by the BAA would be $30,000 to $45,000 respectively [30,000 divided by 500 equals 60. 60 truck trips multiplied by $500 each trip equals $30,000. If the dirt removals necessary for the 270 caissons are included [said dirt removal is NOT included in calculating the dirt removal for the haul permit] and/or double axel trucks are used, the total amount demanded by BAA would be substantially higher--as much as double.
2. As you all know, on Tuesday, September 23rd, the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance became aware of the BAA letter of support and notified everyone and asked people to express their opinions via email to Cynthia Arnold, President of the BAA.
3. On Wednesday, September 24th at 3:12pm, the attorney for the BAA sent the same email (set forth below) on two occasions. One email was cc'd to approximately 20 homeowners and the second email [same contents] was bcc'd to an unknown number of homeowners. The recipients were both BAA members and nonmembers as well as BAHOA supporters and non-supporters.
Here is the email sent by the attorney for the BAA:
We are counsel to the Bel-Air Association (“BAA”) and are in receipt of your many emails and correspondence to Ms. Cynthia Arnold, Ms. Paulette DuBey and the BAA. It is clear that this correspondence is being sent at the direction of members of the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance, with the sole goal of these ongoing communications being to harass. These repeated, harassing communications must stop. They constitute harassment under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.6 and fail to serve any legitimate purpose.
As many of you know, the BAA is not a government agency, it is a non-profit organization that simply tries to help Bel-Air. Hence it is not responsible for permitting, zoning or approving construction in Bel-Air – that is the responsibility of the City of Los Angeles. However, the BAA always seeks to keep the best interests of the community and residents of Bel-Air in mind in whatever actions it takes. When the City of Los Angeles approves a construction project, the BAA does its best to mitigate and monitor any measures for safety and road repair overall.
Many of the statements being said about the BAA, Ms. Arnold, and Ms. DuBey are inaccurate and/or not true. For example, the BAA never received a $30,000 buy-out or payoff – making such false accusations is defamatory and must immediately cease.
Moreover, having multiple people repeatedly state the same message over and over again to the BAA is unprofessional, unproductive, and as noted above, constitutes harassment. Some of you have even used images of children and implied that the BAA was acting to harm children – not only is this absolutely and patently untrue, it is despicable. Again, the BAA cannot control what the City does. Furthermore, that you are not members of the BAA further demonstrates that the sole purpose of these communications is to harass.
The harassing emails you have sent have caused numerous people, especially two women, to be in grave concern for their safety and well-being. It is ironic that many of your emails complain of safety, yet you then turn around and scare and threaten two women who are simply trying their best to help Bel-Air.
If the betterment of Bel-Air is your goal, I implore you to focus on that, as opposed to continuing to harass the BAA and its officers – especially when most of you are only sending these communications at the behest of another. However, if any of you continue to harass in this manner, the BAA will defend itself by seeking protection via an injunction or restraining order.
You are all obviously successful individuals. Please think twice before blindly following instructions from another, especially to unlawfully harass.
I am hopeful this email resolves this issue, and allows both you and the BAA to focus on the betterment of Bel-Air.
Andrew Skale | Member
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
3580 Carmel Mountain Road, Suite 300 | San Diego, CA 92130
Direct: (858) 314-1506 | Fax: (858) 314-1501
4. Later that same day, Fred Rosen sent the attorney for the BAA, Andrew Skale, the following response:
The BAA does not help Bel Air when it works directly against the interests of the residents of Bel Air---their letter to the City on Somma Way is direct proof of that. The residents are simply exercising their rights of free speech under the Constitution and are not harassing anyone---just stating points of view. The BAA does not represent our interests and should state clearly to the City that they do not represent all the residents of Bel Air---only their members ---which are in a state of decline, as you well know.
You should be focusing on my last email where I suggested that both groups should meet--that the issues in Bel Air outweigh the egos and that its about the community--not protecting vested interests. The rage the community feels to your clients has been brought about as a direct result of their behavior--we are all responsible for our actions and they have an absolute right to be held accountable for theirs--whether they like it or not----instead of confronting the situation and arranging a meeting, they go run to their attorney---disgraceful.
You might recall that the first time we met , the Alliance had received a letter from you telling us not to use the name Bel Air--preposterous on its face--and you well know that Paulette tried to get the police to arrest me--who told her she was absurd and this was all civil.( and for the record I have not included her on any of the emails that I have sent in the last week). If you want to start litigation and waste everyone's resources, go for it--what you start we will finish. Your client has lost its way and the only thing its protecting is the job of its employee and their officers and directors (who they refuse to divulge--what are they afraid of). If they were really doing their job, do you think our organization would even exist.
If you want to do something constructive, tell you client to stop chasing tomato plants and get in a room with us---what are they afraid of---let us know if you can arrange the meeting....
Fredric Rosen--President-CEO--Bel Air Homeowners Alliance
5. The following day, Thursday, September 25th at 5:55pm, Fred Rosen emailed an additional response to the BAA attorney as follows:
Since Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection, I thought that I would add a more detailed response to my email of last evening and respond to your note paragraph by paragraph:
Paragraph 1---None of these communications are harassing--and you, by raising the statute, which is inapplicable to this situation, are trying to intimidate the supporters of the Alliance. Every organization has a right to galvanize its supporters/members to advocate their agenda---from the AARP, to Naral to Planned Parenthood, AIPAC to anyone with an agenda----call your Congressman--send this to your elected representative, etc, etc etc. As the leader of the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance I have an absolute legal right and responsibility to have our supporters write to the head of the Bel Air Association expressing their displeasure with their position on the Somma Way project---I might remind you we live in the United States and Cynthia is the President of the BAA---old expression--don't be in the kitchen if you can't take the heat.
Paragraph 2---Your second paragraph makes no sense. If the BAA is trying to help Bel Air, why is it taking the opposite position of the Alliance and the residents--in fact, in this instance its simply hurting Bel Air and its residents. It consulted with none of the residents on Somma Way or Stone Canyon--most of whom are supporters of the Alliance---or the Attorneys for the Alliance-before it sent their letter approving the hauling route.The cost of this representation is already in six figures. Here is the simple fact--we want no more hauling and a moratorium on new hauling routes--there are too many trucks in the hills already. Someone is going to be seriously hurt or killed. The BAA has no idea what its doing--let's look at the letter that Cynthia sent on Airole way--accepting the hauling route is only part of the issue--you also have to limit the number of trucks per day---which they failed to do. You need people at the table who are knowledgable, understand what all the issues are and reflect the needs of the community. How can you seriously state that the BAA wants to mitigate the situation when it fails to talk to the people who are most impacted by the project. As an attorney, you know you collaborate with your client on all major decisions that impacts it--you don't operate in a vacuum. That's exactly what the BAA did do here--they operated in a vacuum.
Paragraph 3---Nothing we have written is defamatory---all statements that have made about the individuals are true---and you know that truth is a defense to any defamation action. The Alliance and the residents are against the hauling route--the BAA is for the hauling route and as a result, is to receive a payment per truckload--which can total up to $30,000---so they get money while neighbors are put in danger..need I say more....not to mention they tried to lessen the conditions that the Councilman's office put on the project--exactly who are they helping?
Paragraph 4--See Paragraph 1---galvanizing your supporters is an American right--and is none of the adjectives you so artfully use are appropriate---by way of example---the AARP has millions of their supporters send the same message to their appropriate Congressman nationally---what did Cynthia receive--20 or 25 messages--and let me be clear---I just asked people to write to Cynthia to show their displeasure--the words and pictures are theirs not mine--they are articulate, clear and reflect their unhappiness with the BAA's action---let me remind you--that's what's great in a democracy.
Paragraph 5--You have to be delusional--or maybe they are--there is not one email that threatens anyone's safety or well being--that would be inappropriate and totally wrong-and I'm appalled that you would even bring that up--and we have never done that---accepting the hauling route for Somma Way puts the safety and security of all the residents on Somma Way and Stone Canyon in jeopardy-----you totally obfuscate the issue here---these women do what they want in direct contravention of the best interests of Bel Air---and let me clear---there is no question about that----anyone who runs a public company or deals with any entity in the public eye, gets emails or letters ten times worse than the emails these women received--and if any of them claimed harassment, they would be the laughing stock of the country--there's no harassment here and suggesting it is preposterous...
The people who have responded to you and your client are all intelligent, successful people--I have no control over them--and I did not put words in their mouth--and no one followed blindly----they stated their opinions---and its clear that, while your client did not appreciate it, she clearly deserved it. Do you really think the Alliance would have been formed with supporters paying $5000 if the BAA was doing its job. They need to look in the mirror to get the answer to that question--and they are not going to like what they see.
Now since the real goal here is the safety and security of residents of Bel Air----and the record has been set straight--yes--by me---I know I know---these are my suggestions:
1. The status quo is unacceptable
2. The BAA in its present form is not sustainable--its a declining organization--who's membership decreases every year--and does not have the bandwidth or resources to deal with the circumstances the community finds itself in----appeasement doesn't work
3. You, Abe and I meet a week from Monday to set the ground rules for a larger group--3 from each side--to lay out a plan on how the BAA can be reconstituted with the Alliance to become a truly powerful force in the community--no sacred cows--- no egos---agree to honor any existing contracts---but change the face of the organization. New Board and new officers and new employees is the ultimate goal--and find a way to put the two groups together---and to show its not about ego, I am happy to step aside on the proposed merger--if we can get a real combined organization that is prepared and funded correctly----planting flowers and traffic reports are helpful, but we are under siege---the best analogy I have is Chamberlain vs. Churchill---we need a strong organization with strong and knowledgable people to deal with these developers and the various city agencies.
This offer expires on Wednesday at 5pm---its now up to you and your client....
Fredric D, Rosen--President--CEO--Bel Air Homeowners Alliance
6. To date, the BAA or its attorney has NOT responded to Fred Rosen (or any other BAHOA board member)
re Fred's three emails contained herein specifically requesting the BAA and BAHOA meet and work together. Instead, the BAA chose to put out more false propaganda in its blog today in a clear attempt to derail our efforts.
7. Below are the emails that we received copies of AFTER being sent to Cynthia Arnold.
BAHOA acknowledges that it asked homeowners to write to Ms. Arnold, but it did not write, edit or provide samples to any of these homeowners before they wrote to Ms. Arnold. [Note: The homeowners' names, emails and addresses have been redacted. With the exception of the one email from Fred Rosen below, none of the emails below are from members of the BAHOA Board.]
We are writing you on behalf of the children of Somma Way, a dozen kids who live on the street you and the BAA have just thrown under the bus (or more literally, the dump truck). As you can see from the photo below, they have created something called Camp Somma, where the kids run from home to home enjoying their wonderful Mayberry-type life in the midst of the big city we call Los Angeles. They are the next generation of our neighborhood, and it it our collective responsibility to protect them. We would love to know who gave you the right to put their lives at risk? We would love to know what gives the Association the right to agree to something that will put 20,000 dump truck trips on their tiny, blind-curved, red-flagged street? Trucks not simply putting them at immediate risk, but long term risk from the environmental pollution these trucks will create. How dare you? We would love to know what gave you the right to speak for those of us who will be impacted by this hauling route, or the others presently at play in Bel Air, as they drive down Stone Canyon and the myriad of tiny streets in the area you jokingly profess to protect. What you have done, in our opinion (as a longtime paying member of the BAA,) is killed the association. One can only imagine that you have been bought off, and we will be speaking to our lawyers regarding our rights to audit your books. As an NGO, we believe your 501C3 status is subject to this type of disclosure. The children in the photo below are named [names deleted from this email], and they are about to begin the campaign for keeping their street, our streets, safe. Your letter will likely be prominently displayed among the things they are most frightened by. The recent BAA newsletter about how you have protected us from rogue tomato plants was hilarious. But the truth is, we need to be protected from you. And we will marshall the resources to do so. We don’t know you, Cynthia, but what you have done is beyond deplorable. It is despicable. Shame on you.
Homeowner, Somma Way
We live on somma way and are appalled at your support of reckless construction without limitations in bel air and on our street in particular. 6000 to 8000 truck trips on a street twenty feet wide where special paving was required due to flooding? To build a 40000 square foot spec house where a 3000 square foot house previously stood? With fatal accidents occurring recently in Beverly Hills, a near fatal car collision in bel air, a complete lack of control over building and traffic has occurred. We WILL hold you and the BAA responsible for any accidents, injuries, fatalities, lack of access to emergency services should this project proceed. You have awoken our neighborhood to your support of reckless and dangerous projects and that support will not quickly be forgotten.
Homeowner, Somma Way
I live on Somma way and with the narrow street it is almost impossible for two cars to pass especially when cars r parked on street. We need the street parking and I don't understand how u would support having trucks going up and down a narrow street. As it is our house shakes when cars go up and down. It is especially difficult as we have a son w autism who is sensitive to noise. This could create significant problems. Why is your association not supporting us? The community is going to change over a a few big spec homes. When we added to our modest size home 17 years ago we needed signatures from our neighbors for a home that was 2600 to less than 4000 sq feet. We were not given adequate notice. Why do u we have an association if we r not being made aware and not supported?
Homeowner, Somma Way
I will no longer support the association . . .
Homeowner, Somma Way
Shame on you for having the BAA to okay and stand behind Somma project at the expense of all the Bel Air neighbors and the preservation of our one-a-kind, cherished and historic neighborhood. This will rattle and destroy our neighborhood and leave the hill in jeopardy of erosion and landslide, not to mention the destruction of the ambiance of our bucolic community. I have been a member of the BAA for over twelve years and a resident of Bel Air for the same amount of time. I have never seen such blatant disregard for the good of Bel Air. Shame on you for even supporting such a plan. Is this what you want to leavefor the history of Bel Air; treeless and carved up hills that can slip and fall? Please change your way of thinking and save Bel Air. In addition, this is a complete disregard of the hillside ordinance that we
worked so hard to get in place.
Homeowner, Stone Canyon
My husband [name deleted] and I are dues paying members of the Bel Air Association. We were astonished to learn that the Association has sent a letter to the City in support of the Somma Way project haul routes without consulting the residents of Stone Canyon Road who are directly affected and who you represent. The news that the Association also requested a $30,000 payment is particularly disturbing. My husband and I believe the Associations actions are contrary to the best interests of the residents of Bel Air and of Stone Canyon Road in particular. We intend to report the Associations request for payment to the Los Angeles Times and Beverly Hills Courier, and will also lodge a complaint with Councilman Koretz's office. The Association, in accepting dues, is charged with representing the residents of Bel Air. You, or those who work under you, are not entitled to take actions or make decisions that are not in the best interest of the residents of Bel-Air without consulting with the neighbors whose dues make the Alliance [typo--should be "Association"] possible.
Homeowner, Stone Canyon
One can only wonder what it will take to wake up your organization. It's declining and has no leadership and does a miserable job representing this community---yours and Paulette's efforts are seriously harming the residents--you need to come to grips with that---you have neither the bandwidth, ability or resources to deal with the current situation. This isn't about ego--and whether you like us or not--its about the ability to deal with the challenges we face. Paulette tells people you won't meet with us because we won't meet--which is clearly untrue and part of her alternative reality. The emails you received yesterday reflect the depth of anger and rage at you, Paulette and the BAA. Yesterday was only the beginning of holding the BAA up to the light--and it won't stand the test. Many of us in the community are infuriated by both your actions and inactions--how you sleep after the letter you sent on Airole is beyond me. That said--all these issues are larger than any of us individually----and ultimately its about Bel Air----so here's a one time offer--with a shelf life of one week---you pick 3 of your board--and we'll pick 3--and meet somewhere quietly to discuss the future--and how we go about protecting our community. The current situation is totally unacceptable--and we have no intention of accepting the status quo. The ball is in your court-- you know how to reach me or any of our board---
Fredric D. Rosen-President- CEO--Bel Air Homeowners Alliance
8. Below are emails from homeowners in response to Andrew Skale's September 24th email:
Actually we can communicate with them freely as to matters of public interest in which they have taken a position. To our knowledge there has been no threat to your clients safety. The only threat is to our safety and well being due to reckless and unsafe construction in our neighborhood that your clients are supporting. We would be happy to debate this issue with you in whatever forum you choose. We will defend the right to protect the well being of our community regardless of your campaign to destroy it.
Homeowner, Somma Way
Since you cc’d me, as well as accused me of harassment, let me be clear: I have been a dues paying member of your client, the BAA, for years. The absurdity of you even suggesting I cannot write my email to them would be funny if there was any room for humor in this entire situation. Your client has betrayed the members it has said it represents, plain and simple. Perhaps a better action would have been to actually discuss the situation on Somma, and Stone Canyon, and all the other streets being threatened by runaway construction with the residents that actually live there.
As for hoping this email resolves the issue, quite the contrary. Again, rather than respond to the people who live in Bel Air they chose to use a legal emissary instead. I do know know who the BAA represents, but it is becoming repeatedly clear who they don’t.
Homeowner, Somma Way