City Overrules the Palisades Design Review Board


The Hydration Room on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica has shades in the window. The Palisades DRB asked for a similar treatment in the proposed store across from the Village Green.

Back on September 22, the Pacific Palisades Design Review Board unanimously voted to disapprove plans for The Hydration Room on Antioch at Swarthmore.

But on December 14, the City’s Director of Determination at the Planning Department wrote that the department was approving the change of use from a retail store to a medical office use, overturning the DRB decision.

The Hydration Room, which gives vitamin and other IV infusions, was proposed for the space formerly occupied by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at 874 Swarthmore.

In its opposition motion to L.A. City Planning, the DRB wrote: “Located across a narrow street, adjacent to a community park, the Village Green, the proposed business is not compatible and consistent with the general character of the community as stated in the Pacific Palisades Specific Plan: Section 2 – B, D, F; LAMC 16:50 Design Review Board Procedures, Section A. Purpose and Objectives; 16.50 A, A2, A3.”

DRB members felt that procedures done at The Hydration Room would be more suitable inside a medical office building or hospital, rather than a converted space on a retail block.

The Palisades DRB, a volunteer group appointed by the City Councilperson for CD 11, did not feel that the plans it reviewed would guarantee a sanitary work environment, such as an additional bathroom for staff, clean room for IV preparation, hand-washing sinks for nurses and a janitorial sink.

According to its letter to the Planning Department, the DRB wrote: “A problematic, palliative medical treatment facility in the center of Pacific Palisades, trendy as it may appear, is not consistent with the established character, identity and ongoing welfare of the Community.”

At the August 25 DRB meeting and a subsequent September 22 meeting, the DRB asked for a combination of tinted window treatment and an interior low partition wall to separate the treatment and reception area. (Editor’s note: The Hydration Room on Montana in Santa Monica has shades.) The applicant, Daniel Olivas, disagreed and the DRB denied the application.

The application then went to the Department of City Planning, under Director of Planning Vincent Bertoni, and the December 14 Director’s Determination overturned the local decision, stating: “The change of use from retail store to medical office is allowed in the C4 Zone,” which meant it complied with the Specific Plan. Bertoni approved the use, signs and parking that had been proposed. Planning Assistant Nick Vasuthasawat prepared the document, which was reviewed by City Planner Jordann Turner and Senior City Planner Juliet Oh.

With just 15 business days to appeal the Director’s decision, the DRB went to the Pacific Palisades Community Council and asked if that group would file an appeal. Members of the DRB include two past chairs of the PPCC, Barbara Kohn and Maryam Zar.

In a December 20 email to Kohn, Zar and Donna Vaccarino (DRB chair), Chairman David Card said, “We’ve decided to not file an appeal of the Planning Department’s decision to approve the design and use for the Hydration Room.  We understand that this use in that location with open views into the space is offensive to some, including some of us, and that a responsible applicant should have been willing to make changes.

“You may be able to find others who would be willing to appeal, such as the Village Green or other organizations,” Card wrote. “The local news media should be interested in the City’s decision.”

Circling the News reached out to Card and asked about the decision not to appeal.

He wrote back on December 21, “The Executive Committee of the Pacific Palisades Community Council has taken no position on the decisions of the Palisades DRB or the City Planning Department.”

Card said that the full board doesn’t meet until after the deadline to file an appeal and “The Executive Committee did not believe that the Board would have passed by a two-thirds majority a motion regarding an appeal of the City’s approval.”

CTN  asked Card, “Why not file and then let the full board vote in January?” He has not yet responded.

(Editor’s note: The PPCC executive committee consists of David Card, David Kaplan, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Joanna Spak and John Padden.) 



This entry was posted in businesses/stores, City/Councilman Mike Bonin. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to City Overrules the Palisades Design Review Board

  1. Sarah Griffin says:

    Thank you Sue, for writing this.

  2. Stephen P Dickey says:

    The DRB should stick to paint, signs and doorknobs. Building usage is under the purview of City Planning.

  3. Sue says:

    Stephen, The DRB is governed by the Pacific Palisades Specific Plan: Section 2 – B, D, F; LAMC 16:50 Design Review Board Procedures, Section A. Purpose and Objectives; 16.50 A, A2, A3. Section 2D states that “commercial uses are consistent with the general character of the Pacific Palisades community, which consists of single-family residences, some multiple residences structures and significant open space and park-like development.”

    You should apply to be on the board –you’re a long-time resident with an interest in commercial real estate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *