City and Chamber Treat DRB with Disrespect

The irony of holding a public meeting in a closed building is not lost on members of the DRB that include (left to right) Barbara Kohn, City Planner Kenton Trinh, David Forbes Hibbert, Chair Donna Vaccarino, Paul Darrall and Sarah Griffen. Presenting were Bob Packman (blue shirt) and Alan Nudel.

Design Review Board

Needs a Place to Meet

There are two challenges for the Palisades Design Review Board: it has no local place to meet and Councilman Mike Bonin has not appointed replacements.

The DRB is a Los Angeles City-appointed, seven-member committee that meets twice monthly to examine proposed signage and buildings in the Palisades business district. The DRB observes the Brown Act and ensures that local commercial development follows the Specific Plan.  (visit: ppdrb.org).

Would you like to live on the Las Vegas Strip with lights on 24/7 and signs flashing? The DRB tries to keep Pacific Palisades rooted with its small-town nature, which has made this such a desirable place to live.

For example, that board initially denied the Palisadian-Post’s outlandish signs on the 881 Alma Real building, but when the City failed to act in a timely manner, those signs, although illegal according to the Palisades Specific Plan, were then allowed via the Streamlining Act.

After four members were dismissed during Caruso’s planning hearings by Councilman Mike Bonin for attending public meetings, the DRB has since resumed meeting. (Those dismissals resulted in a loss of quorum, which meant there was no local control when Caruso’s project went before the City.)

The DRB used to meet at the Palisades Chamber of Commerce office on Antioch, but most recently has been relegated to the South Corinth Hearing Room at the West Los Angeles Municipal Building (located near the 405 and 10 Freeway interchange)–at 6 p.m.

That means that residents, in order to attend a hearing regarding any DRB agenda item in Pacific Palisades, must allow at least an hour during rush hour to travel to West L.A.

Additionally, the City building closes at 5 p.m. and the guard goes home. At the December 13 meeting, this meant that the Palisades DRB members, City representatives and agenda representatives had to sit in the lobby of the building without chairs or tables. In case a member of the public comes to a meeting, someone needed to open the door.

Representatives from Ralphs supermarket (Bob Packman representing Becky Johnson) and Ruby’s Nail Salon (Alan Nudel from “My Sign Design” for property owner Elliot Zorensky of Sunset La Cruz Investors, LLC) presented proposed signage on December 13.

Ralphs’ signs were approved and Ruby’s was approved if the color on the lettering is changed from red to white.

Resident Sandy Eddy sent a letter to City hearing officer Kenton Trinh prior to the meeting and said, “Although I do have an interest in this meeting, I am unable to attend. The location is so inconvenient for our community. I do hope you will be able to get the DRB meetings back in the Palisades soon.”

Circling the News emailed Chamber President Bob Benton on December 14 and asked why the DRB can’t resume meeting in the Chamber office, now that the remodel is complete. He responded the decision was made by the Chamber before he took over his position as President.

CTN contacted Chamber President Susan Payne, who responded on December 20. “We decided as a group to stop allowing outside groups from meeting in office a while ago.”

CTN asked in a return email, “If outside groups are not allowed [even those that are City entities], why is the Business Improvement District meeting there?”  She had not responded by December 23.

The DRB was asked if it could meet in Caruso’s Palisades Village community room. CTN was told that if any potential issues came up with businesses within the project, the DRB wanted to remain neutral.

According to DRB members, the City refuses to pay for a space for them to meet.

Per City rules, DRB members are appointed by the councilman in whose district the DRB functions. That means Councilman Mike Bonin is supposed to appoint new members. The term is four years, with an additional four-year option.

Stuart Muller resigned when he moved to Mexico two years ago, and Kelly Comras, a landscape architect, is termed out. This means the board is now five members, with a three-member quorum.

Architect David Forbes Hibbert’s (DFH Architects) term ends in January. Although City rules state that termed-out members may remain on the board until their replacements are named, Hibbert wrote Circling the News on December 13, “I’m not sure when Kelly was termed out, but I remember that she stayed beyond that point. I probably will also, but not indefinitely. There has to be some indication of effort from the council office to find replacements.

“In Santa Monica, they have a standing list of interested parties that they pick from when there is a need for a replacement. I know we’re not Santa Monica, but there doesn’t seem to be any obvious activity,” Hibbert wrote. “I offered to assist with finding a replacement and got no response back from anyone.”

Circling the News wrote Bonin’s spokesperson David Graham-Caso on December 13 and asked, “Why hasn’t Councilman Bonin replaced two (and now three) members of the Palisades Design Review Board? It is his duty as a Councilman to make the appointees. When can I expect to write about the new appointees?”

We’re still waiting for a response.

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4 Responses to City and Chamber Treat DRB with Disrespect

  1. Patty Dobrowitsky says:

    Why not meet at library like Community Council?

  2. ROSANNE MANGIO says:

    Why don’t they meet at either Palisades Park or Rustic Canyon Park…they are owned and operated by the city…it seems to me that they shouldn’t have to pay rent…

  3. Barbara Marinacci says:

    Why can’t the DRB meet at a convenient time, twice monthly, in the Palisades Library’s community room? This convenient location has plenty of chairs and seating space, as well as parking, Wi-Fi, and restrooms. Booked in advance, it is occupied twice monthly (usually) by the PP Community Council, and also used regularly by numerous other community-based groups, such as the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, Palisades Alliance for Seniors, and Palisades Beautiful. There should be no fee for its use by nonprofit community organizations if meetings are open to the public, unless the meeting will extend past the library’s closing time and/or there’s a need for security. Certainly our local Design Review Board should qualify.

    Insulated from DRB’s various past challenges, Caruso’s Palisades Village is now operational and bustling along. And because the DRB’s objections got sidetracked, the Palisadian-Post’s two bluish big signs have long been in place and fully lit up–implying, of course, that its publisher owns the entire big building. And now the PP Chamber of Commerce, with its somewhat reconfigured leadership, no longer welcomes the DRB though back again in its revamped historic quarters. It does look now as if some lingering deliberate obstructionism is still going on with Council District 11 and various entities within this community regarding the DRB. And if so, why? What big new development projects here with sizable investments, which the DRB might well challenge, are looming?

  4. Murray Levy says:

    I was appointed to the DRB by Cindy Miscikowski in January 2000 and served on the DRB till December 2013 after being re-appointed by Ms. Mscikowski and Mr. Rosendahl. The DRB is a community based advisory body to the City Planning Department. Its effectiveness depends on the support of the Council 11 office and the Planning Department. During my tenure both Ms. Mscikowski and Mr. Rosendahl supported our work and accepted our recommendations which improved the appearance of the village. It seems as if Councilman Bonin has not provided the same level of support and as a result the village has suffered. I sent Mr. Bonin a letter in October 2013 resigning from the DRB and never received a reply. As you pointed out in your story the DRB had a positive influence in the past. Its current members are hard working and dedicated but they can be effective only if they have the support of our Councilman.

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