Playa Vista target of new suit

Environmentalists opposed to the Playa Vista project on Tuesday charged that federal laws were violated in the issuing of a permit for the development, which includes the proposed future home of DreamWorks.

Meanwhile, there was new hope for a breakthrough in lining up investors for the massive project, to be built just south of Marina del Rey.

The project had been stalled as Robert Maguire of Maguire Thomas Partners attempted to line up financing. But DreamWorks officials publicly groused that he refused to give up control of the project in order to bring in another equity partner.

Jim Thomas, who had been partnered in the project with Maguire, has returned to take a lead role in seeking an investor.

A second troika

Under the new arrangement, according to sources, Thomas will make up a three-person panel along with Maguire and John Goolsby of the Howard Hughes Corp., which also has a stake in the project. That will require a majority vote, and many expect the combination of Thomas and Goolsby to be more amenable to taking on an equity partner.

The lawsuit, filed by the Wetlands Action Network and the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, was the latest of several actions they have taken against the project, which includes homes and offices as well as the DreamWorks studio on more than 1,000 acres.

In their suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, they charged that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to review the environmental impact reports fully before granting a permit for the first phase of the project in 1992. According to the suit, the permit involved filling or dredging 16 acres of wetlands. The permit was an initial step in starting construction on the project, as well as in building a new freshwater marsh system designed to make up for lost habitat elsewhere, according to the suit.

‘Piecemealing’ charged

Playa Vista opponents argue that the Army Corps was “piecemealing” the project and not taking into account its cumulative effect on the environment.

The Corps “took several shortcuts, did not fully disclose the cumulative impacts of this development and did not comply with the law,” Charles Steven Crandall, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said that they had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.

Developers have contended that their plan will actually restore the wetlands, cleaning it up or creating new marsh areas. Construction on that portion of the project has begun.

Douglas Gardner of Maguire Thomas Partners said issues in the suit were similar to others that have already been litigated and decided in the developer’s favor. He added that the impact of the first phase had already been covered in other environmental reviews.

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