A Coastal Commission hearing for 405 Puerto Del Mar, located on the Asilomar bluffs, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, February 12, at Long Beach City Hall, 411 West Ocean Blvd.
According to the notice, the Commission will hear this controversial project to “demolish a 2,637-sq.-ft. single-family home and construct a two-story, 28-ft. high, 12,418-sq.-ft. single-family home with 3,678-sq.-ft. habitable basement, a 1,671-sq.-ft. accessory dwelling unit, a 2,060-sq.-ft. garage and an indoor and outdoor swimming pool. About 4,100 cubic yards of grading (700 cubic yards will be exported).”
The applicant received a local Coastal Development Permit (DIR2016-2532-CDP-MEL) from the City of Los Angeles on May 5, 2017. The local permit was appealed to the Coastal Commission on May 31, 2018 (Appeal No. A-5-PPL-18-0036) and was voided when the Commission found substantial issue with the City-approved project on July 11, 2018. The De Novo hearing was continued and a dual permit (CDP App. No 5-18-0692) was submitted on July 13, 2018.
The CC staff sent a letter to the applicant noting the application was incomplete. On September 2018, the applicant provided additional information, but not all the information required by staff. For example, it was missing the caisson plans, retaining wall plans and a complete project alternatives analysis.
The last correspondence received by the Coastal Commission was November 2018, but the project application was still incomplete. On January 15, 2020, CC received an e-mail from the applicant’s attorney Ben Eilenberg, who inquired about the status of the permit. As of January 24, the staff still had not received the requested materials.
Residents who would like to send comments to the Commission staff must do so no later than 5 p.m., Friday, February 7. (Materials received after that time will not be distributed to the Commission.)
The Commission notes: “Mark the agenda number of your item (W20e), the application number (5-18-0692 & A-5PPL-18-0036), your name and your position in favor of or opposition to the project on the upper right hand corner of the first page of your submission.” (Visit: coastal.ca.gov)
If residents visit: coastal.ca.gove/meetings/agenda/#/2020/2, they can read the staff report for Loving Family Trust, c/o Stephanie Smith. Currently the staff is recommending a denial because the development will not conform with Chapter 3 policies of the Coastal Act.
The resident who sent the hearing notice to Circling the News wrote: “Doesn’t this [construction at 401-405 Puerto Del Mar] seem excessive? Isn’t the Palisades protected by a code to protect from overbuilding or mansionization?”
Re:Code LA was the name given for drafting a new zoning code for Los Angeles, which began in 2013. The City Planning Commission recommended the approval, and in March 2017, R1 Variations (single-family residences) were passed by the City Council.
This Puerto Del Mar project was summed up in a November 1, 2018 email from a resident to Circling the News. “I don’t have any idea how well organized the Marquette homeowners are, but they may take some heart in knowing that a parallel project of sorts [405 Puerto Del Mar] was approved by a Zoning Administrator at City’s Department of Planning and again by the West L.A. Area Planning Commission, but was thereafter rejected by the Coastal Commission.”
The reader continued: “A family wanted to tear down its 1950s 2,600 sq. ft. house at the end of Puerto Del Mar and replace it with a 12,000+ sq. ft. monster complete with several pools, garages for five cars, and parking for a bunch more. The CC Staff opposed the new house ostensibly because it was incompatible with the neighborhood, but more likely because the lot is on a bluff overlooking the Palisades Bowl subdivision of manufactured homes and supposedly there are geologic issues with the bluff.”
The resident is correct that there are slide issues involving Asilomar (documented by the City) and the hillside above the Palisades Bowl Mobile Home Park.
The Asilomar hill is owned by three entities. The City owns the upper third, roughly down to the lower portion of Puerto Del Mar street, which was made impassable in 2005 after heavy rains buckled the roadway. The road is closed to traffic, below 405 Puerto.
If the City was aware of the landslide issue, why would the Planning Department and the Planning Commission greenlight the project?
At a public hearing on December 19, 2016 at the West L.A. Municipal Building, the record states: “The project engineer, Jeff Roberts, presented on the proposed project. Property is located at an area with a history of landslides. His client, the Smiths, have been living there a significant amount of time. The development will be the Smith’s family house, he has five children and wants three more children. Mr. Roberts is aware of the slope issues associated with the development and understands that substantial slope repair is needed to maintain an existing 10-foot retaining wall. The plan is to grade and prepare the site for future development. He stated that the project is compliant with the maximum floor area and requests no variances in height or square footage.
“Although there are concerns this would be a party house, the property owner feels that this is not an issue because the swimming pool will be part of the basement as opposed to a rooftop deck. Construction will increase the value of the property and neighboring properties. A geology and soils report indicate that the property is compliant with grading standards set forth by the Department of Building and Safety.”
A neighbor disputed the Smith’s engineer’s assessment and asked about damage to the current home because of landslides. The engineer acknowledged there was slight landslide damage.
A second neighbor worried because “there is no level ground and Asilomar Street is sinking.” She stated that the development would involve “digging out half the hill, which is a dangerous proposition.”
A third neighbor said that Stephanie and Craig Smith are nice neighbors but was concerned about the size and scale of this project. She emphasized that because the project would require 70 caissons, “it shows the extent of the work that will need to be done to maintain the structure.”
Circling the News believes that City Planning is following the new guidelines established by Re:Code LA for construction.
As far as possible landslide dangers and other geotechnical issues, the City has required in the June 2017 City of Los Angeles Director’s Determination conditions that include: “4. Indemnification and Reimbursement of Litigation Costs. Applicant shall do all of the following: (i) Defend, indemnify and hold harmless the City from any and all actions against the City relating to or arising out of, in whole or in part, the City’s processing and approval of this entitlement, including but not limited to, an action to attack, challenge, set aside, void, or otherwise modify or annul the approval of the entitlement, the environmental review of the entitlement, or the approval of subsequent permit decisions, or to claim personal property damage, including from inverse condemnation or any other constitutional claim.”
To read the entire document, visit: https://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2018/7/w15d/w15d-7-2018-exhibits.pdf.