L.A. City Council Approves Nearly Complete Sherman Oaks Synagogue

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sherman-oaks-shulThe LA Daily News reports: The LA City Council approved a controversial Sherman Oaks synagogue expansion Wednesday, prompting opponents to accuse city officials of a backroom deal to sign off on the building.

With little discussion, the City Council unanimously approved Chabad of North Hollywood’s 12,000-square-foot synagogue and event space on Chandler Boulevard. The building, which is nearly completed, is situated in a residential neighborhood.

“Given that the project has largely been constructed … and has community support, this seems to be the correct way to proceed,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, who currently represents the area.

The dispute over the size of the building – which some neighbors feel is too big – dates back to 2007, when Chabad of North Hollywood submitted plans for the proposed synagogue.

Amid back and forth between Chabad, city planners and local residents about the proposed size, then-Councilman Jack Weiss pulled the project out of committee and shepherded it to approval by the full City Council.

Under Weiss’s direction, the building was approved for 2,000 square feet more than the size recommended by the city’s planning department.

Additionally, the city required the synagogue to have just five parking spaces.

Days after the vote, Weiss left office to run for city attorney.

The neighbors sued, and in August, a judge sided with their complaint that Weiss and the rest of the City Council erred in the process


of approving the project.

That sent the issue back to the city, which had to either re-approve the original project or order it downsized.

On Wednesday, Koretz defended his decision to support Chabad, saying the height difference didn’t necessitate tearing down the building.

“I’m not going to go back and revisit every development (approved by Weiss),” Koretz said, defending his decision to back Chabad.

But opponents argued that city officials were just continuing a habit of bowing to Chabad of North Hollywood because of the group’s political influence at City Hall, and that of its attorney, Ben Reznik.

According to the City Ethics Commission website, Chabad of North Hollywood’s two rabbis gave $3,000 to Weiss during his run for city attorney in 2009. Reznik has been active for decades in city politics and government as a fundraiser, lobbyist and attorney – for example, serving once as chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association and hosting a fundraiser for Weiss at his Encino home.

“There’s no doubt in my mind this was a backroom deal when it was done by Jack Weiss, and now it’s even a bigger backroom deal today,” said Scott Zuieback, who lives 500 feet from the building.

But Koretz, who is now running for re-election in Council District 5, dismissed suggestions of political favors, and pointed out that he is battling Reznik in a Bel Air development dispute.

“(Reznik) plays all sides,” Koretz said.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who will begin to represent the area next week, wasn’t present for Wednesday’s vote. A spokeswoman for the councilman said he is on a combined business and vacation trip.

{LA Daily News/Matzav.com Newscenter}


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