Clearing of Vegetation at 425 Holyoke Questioned

This is what the slope of Mt. Holyoke looked like before it was cleared.

After the brush was removed and drilling completed this is what the slope looked like.

Neighbors through the Cannel Law Group sent an October 2023 notice to the California Coastal Commission alleging that the drilling and the removal of vegetation was unlawful at 425 Holyoke under the Coastal Act.

The Mt. Holyoke View Preservation, a neighborhood group that promotes the welfare of the residents living within the vicinity, wrote that in May 2023 and through July 2023, the owner of the property located at Mt. Holyoke retained contractors to clear the lot, but they were doing more than brush clearance.

Initially, the group had sent a letter to the owner Kurt Seidensticker, asking him to cease and desist from any further removal of vegetation and to cease further drilling.

The group cited Section 30106 of the Coastal Act that defines development as “grading, removing, dredging, mining, or extraction of any materials; change in the density or intensity of use of land” as well as “the removal or harvesting of major vegetation.” The group told the owner a permit was needed.

The Coastal Commission never responded to the Channel Law Group’s letter.

CTN wrote the Coastal Commission on May 30 and asked if there was a permit pulled for the drilling and vegetation removal.

Sarah Christie CC Legislative Director responded on June 3 and wrote in an email “I checked with district staff, and they are aware of the project, as they worked with the property owner to ensure appropriate compliance with a brush/fire clearance order from the fire department.

“The drilling activities are separate from that work, as it is associated with geological testing in preparation for a submittal of a CDP application for a house on that parcel. We don’t typically require a permit for this type of preliminary testing, provided the testing itself doesn’t result in significant grading or vegetation clearance. Since this testing site was easily accessible from the street, we didn’t require a permit for it. I hope that answers your questions.”

CTN responded “the entire hillside was cleared of vegetation – that was approved?

Christie said, I don’t know that it’s accurate to say the entire hillside was cleared of vegetation. From the pictures it appears that the more flammable vegetation was removed, while other, more fire-resistant species were allowed to remain. We don’t require CDPs for every fire clearance project, so long as they follow accepted protocols.”

The cactus and jade, which are generally fire retardant, were cleared. The cactus stretched  a wide swarth on the slope and CTN was told that it could have been a hundred years old. From the video (below), one can see the workers shovel the cut cactus down the hill, onto City parkland, rather than loading it up on the street and disposing of it properly.

Christie was sent the photos and video that are attached to this story and has not responded further.

This property was listed for sale for $6,995,000 in January 2023 and sold on July 2023 for $3.3 million. A proposed three-story single-family residence, with a pool is proposed for the slope. The expediter is Tony Russo and the project manager is Greg Demos

The City Planning Department was contacted about steps that need to be taken to receive a Coastal permit and CTN will update in a subsequent story.

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7 Responses to Clearing of Vegetation at 425 Holyoke Questioned

  1. Concerned Palisadian. says:

    This is very sad for our Community. This property originally was set for a view for the neighborhood and its CCR’s originally stated no buildings should be built at 425 Mt Holyoke.

  2. Concerned Palisadian. says:

    This is very sad for our Community. This property originally was set for a view for the neighborhood and its CCR’s originally stated no buildings should be built at 425 Mt Holyoke.

  3. anonymous says:

    Tony Russo and Greg Demos… they seem to be involved in destroying all available land in the Palisades.. does the Tramonto/Revello development ring a bell..

  4. Mary Petersen says:

    This definitely bears watching. I live about a block from this site and, given that my homeowners insurance was delayed and downgraded because of my designated fire zone, I would be concerned about the removal of the vegetation and other seeming irregularities/omissions relative to this project. I can also understand the concern of the Mt. Holyoke View Preservation group; this project, if approved, will certainly have a negative impact on the view that these neighbors enjoy.

  5. Bart Young says:

    They are stripping the foliage to rid the land of any living critters that may become an issue if there is an environmental impact report. They would burn it if they could. They want to examine everything that is there before an official inspector sees it.

    When Greg Demos bought the Tramonto Landslide property next to me, he had it cleared to the quick right away. Because it is an active landslide, I tried to explain that the vegetation holds water and is a best practice in preventing landslide. He disagreed and told me he is an “expert” in building on landslides. It turns out that the subject of using foliage to prevent landsides is on the State of Calif. Geologist exam. Sorry Greg, but you are wrong!
    A year later at Traci Park’s office I asked where has he built on landslides. In front of a dozen LA City people, his investors and our home owner team he confessed that he never has built on a landslide. This time I believed him.

  6. Bart Young says:

    They are clearing the land of any critters to prepare for an EIR (environmental impact report) should one be required to build on the land. They are drilling to conduct a soils sampling so LA City can approve building on the hillside. The City is selling off what was considered unbuildable land and approving the building of new homes without proper research or remediation.

  7. Mt Holyoke Resident says:

    It would be nice if the Coastal Commission would do their duties as per the Coastal Act below. This work is a clear violation.

    California Public Resources Code

    “Development” means, on land, in or under water, the placement or erection of any solid material or structure; discharge or disposal of any dredged material or of any gaseous, liquid, solid, or thermal waste; grading, removing, dredging, mining, or extraction of any materials; change in the density or intensity of use of land, including, but not limited to, subdivision pursuant to the Subdivision Map Act (commencing with Section 66410 of the Government Code), and any other division of land, including lot splits, except where the land division is brought about in connection with the purchase of such land by a public agency for public recreational use; change in the intensity of use of water, or of access thereto; construction, reconstruction, demolition, or alteration of the size of any structure, including any facility of any private, public, or municipal utility; and the removal or harvesting of major vegetation other than for agricultural purposes, kelp harvesting, and timber operations which are in accordance with a timber harvesting plan submitted pursuant to the provisions of the Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practice Act of 1973 (commencing with Section 4511).

    As used in this section, “structure” includes, but is not limited to, any building, road, pipe, flume, conduit, siphon, aqueduct, telephone line, and electrical power transmission and distribution line.


    . . . .

    (b) Any person who performs or undertakes development that is in violation of this division or that is inconsistent with any coastal development permit previously issued by the commission, a local government that is implementing a certified local coastal program, or a port governing body that is implementing a certified port master plan, when the person intentionally and knowingly performs or undertakes the development in violation of this division or inconsistent with any previously issued coastal development permit, may, in addition to any other penalties, be civilly liable in accordance with this subdivision. Civil liability may be imposed by the superior court in accordance with this article for a violation as specified in this subdivision in an amount which shall not be less than one thousand dollars ($1,000), nor more than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000), per day for each day in which the violation persists.

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