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Sins of Commission » County of Los Angeles
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Kathleen Kenny vs California Coastal Commission - SINS OF COMMISSION

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

A working class hero is something to be…

-John Lennon 

Kathleen Kenny

Kathleen Kenny - Courtesy of Kathleen Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc.

When I interviewed Kathleen Kenny, she had less than a year to live. Kathleen was a brave woman… you could see she was a fighter.

Maybe it was the Irish in her. But there was something else too - an unwavering strength in her belief she was right.

I interviewed Kathleen a total of two times. In both interviews, she was  lucid, very focused and determined. She spoke softly but clearly, thanks, in large part, to a heavy morphine drip. We spoke about 90 minutes each day.

When we finished our work together, she looked up. The toll from her battle with cancer was evident, and asked me if I believed her story. I said that I did. She smiled, sighed with relief, and closed her eyes. 

Kathleen confided in me that no one she ever spoke with about the California Coastal Commission believed her story, and was afraid she would pass on without ever seeing a great injustice righted. Kathy asked me to tell her story, knowing full well it wouldn’t do her any good, but might empower others to stand up for their rights.

Kathleen’s Story

Political hacks say fighting city hall is like gambling in Las Vegas, the house always wins. It’s not always the truth. It is just what the house wants us to believe.  Conventional wisdom says we should always choose our battles wisely; but, what do we do when an unwise battles choose us?

In Kathleen’s words

Kathy in happier days - Courtesy Kathleen Kenny Family -©2008 pchpfilm, inc.

“We went to a public auction that was in Topanga Canyon, California and we ended up buying four lots up there, four small lots, from this auction at a very reasonable price with the idea of building a small home on each one of those lots.

There appeared to be a lot of difficulty in getting permits.

We would fill out the forms that were requested of us, go back the next time, they were lost. Been sent to various departments, the road department, to the Coastal Commission, Regional Planning, and we never could seem to get ahead.

Then we began to, as time went on, notice that others were building, and we would go over to them and ask, ‘we’re having trouble getting a permit, on this very small house,” by the way, that house was only 661 Square feet, are we doing something wrong?’

Kathleen Kenny - Courtesy of Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc.

I wrote a letter, to the supervisors, and told them this story, in detail… over three years in trying to get a permit for a 660 square foot house, saw others around us building, who seemed to get their permits in thirty days, or less.

And I gave a whole history of my background. That I had come here as a young girl, on a bus, with nine dollars, had gone to school here, my dream was to have a home, so forth and so-on. 

 

And, little by little, people began saying, ‘You have to pay money…’

‘Just give the building department money, put money in a plain envelope when you go up there, bring your plans with you, just slide it across the counter, and at the same time, ask them if they could double check your plans to see if there was anything that you had done wrong, or bring out the fact that they have a lot of expertise, maybe they could help you,’ so forth and so-on. 

We came ultimately to learn that nobody got a permit in that area. Either from the Coastal Commission or the Building Department without working through an expediter, or paying money under the table

Kathleen Kenny & Art Starz

Kathleen Kenny & Art Starz - Courtesy of Kathleen Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc

We jack hammered the foundation ourselves, poured the foundation, and, in fact, we came to the attention of the Los Angeles Times. And, they came out and wrote a front page story of the Real Estate section of the Sunday Times. The title of that article was, “Sweat Equity.” 

Sweat Equity

LA TIMES May 15, 1988

And they, in that article, they told that story, of what we had been through, and that I’d gone to school, so forth and so-on, and in the process they mentioned that it had cost us ($25,000.00) twenty-five thousand dollars to build this home.

It was absolutely a beautiful home.

That then began a flood of people who read that, had dreamed of having their own homes, who began going down to the building department, trying to get information, coming out to our property and asking us…

The next thing that we knew, is that Art [ Kathy's companion] and I were both arrested. 

  

 

They came the next day with, as I said, two sheriffs who stood guard holding rifles. You can see them opening up panty drawers, and lifting up my panties, out of the drawer, opening up the refrigerator. They also had cameras and  were taking pictures of everything.”


 

 

kath1edit.jpg

Kathleen Kenny - Courtesy of Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc.

Epilogue

Kathleen Kenny stood against a fleet of government lawyers, a deputy attorney general, and all of the might, resources, and power of the state of California and did what no one else had done: She filed a RICO lawsuit (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) against the County of Los Angeles.

She did it by herself - pro per - without a lawyer, and she won.   

But, as Kathy tells it, a deputy district attorney took it upon himself, or maybe got instructions from on high, to order the presiding judge in her case to over turn her verdict.

Kathleen Kenny continued to fight this injustice up to her death.

Kathleen Kenny passed away February 16, 2007. 

Post mortem, $2.4 million dollars in fines still stands against her surviving companion, Art Starz.



 
 
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