Lemmo’s Last-Minute Ploy Undercuts Marquette Neighbors
A group of Marquette Street residents who thought they could count on support from the Pacific Palisades Community Council went home sourly disappointed from Thursday night’s meeting at the library.
The Marquette neighbors have been fighting the proposed construction of eight large homes on their street, along the geologically-fragile rim of Las Pulgas Canyon.
“The average size of the proposed houses is 7,156 sq. ft., which is 5,338 sq.ft. larger than the average size of the 24 houses currently on Marquette,” said the neighbors’ information sheet. Each proposed house includes a swimming pool, despite being located on the edge of the steep canyon.
Back on October 1, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning held a hearing regarding development. More than 30 residents attended and 18 spoke against the development as it currently stands.
After the hearing, additional comments or information could be presented up until October 29.
Although Marquette residents had previously attended several Community Council meetings (as recently as October 11), they were told this development had to first go before the PPCC’s Land-Use Committee before the entire board could take a position.
An invitation was sent to developer Cosimo Pizzulli to attend the LUC meeting, but committee chair Howard Robinson recused himself because of prior business dealings with Pizzulli, the developer never RSVP’d and the meeting was cancelled.
The Marquette neighbors then asked to appear at last night’s PPCC meeting board and seek a vote by the Council to write a letter of support to the Planning Department.
The letter would simply urge the department to carefully examine the neighbors’ eight points of researched opposition to the development, including the developer’s vague plan for a major sewer extension.
Several Marquette neighbors presented their case and distributed a two-page report plus two pages of aerial photos and renderings to show the proposed houses.
Additionally, it was brought out that Marquette Street had been withdrawn from public use in January 1937, meaning that residents are responsible for any street repairs. Also, residents on the other side of the street from the proposed development have septic tanks, and there is no existing sewer line.
Facing the traditional 9 p.m. deadline to end PPCC meetings, Area 4 Representative Rick Mills made a motion at 8:55 that the PPCC ask the City to look seriously and carefully at the detailed concerns presented by the projects’ neighbors, including the need for much more on-site geology testing to address clear evidence of soil instability, past landslides and groundwater issues, to consider concerns about proposed new sewage pumps and a sewer line running uphill through possible unstable soil, out-of-scale homes incompatible with the neighborhood, possible conflicts with the Coastal Act, and use of a highly questionable “sequential lot line adjustment” process to reconfigure eight lots to circumvent state law and avoid going through a more appropriate subdivision process.
Suddenly, at 8:59 p.m, Chamber of Commerce representative Rick Lemmo (a senior VP for developer Rick Caruso) asked for a postponement of the vote, despite the October 29 deadline for pubic input at the Planning Department.
Lemmo said he didn’t know how the Chamber board would want him to vote, and cited Article X in the PPCC bylaws. (B. POSTPONEMENT. After a motion (other than a motion to adjourn) has been made and seconded, any Board member who is an organizational representative may, by so requesting of the Board, require a postponement of the vote on said motion until the next PPCC Meeting, provided such member states that he or she is requesting the postponement for the purpose of consulting with the organization he or she represents.)
When it became known that Lemmo’s motion would prevent a vote on Mills’ motion, the Marquette residents in the audience were stunned.
Mills turned to Lemmo and said, “I’d ask you to withdraw the request [for postponement] because this does not pertain to the Chamber of Commerce.”
“We do not know if the Chamber would support this motion,” Lemmo said. “We just found out about this.”
Lemmo does not live in Pacific Palisades and might not have heard the conversation around town, but Marquette residents had commented on this issue at the previous PPCC meeting (at which Lemmo was absent), and the Marquette discussion had been on the October 25 PPCC agenda for a week. In anticipation of the meeting, Circling the News ran a lengthy article about the controversial development earlier this week.
Also, as early as May 2017, journalist Sarah Stockman reported in the Palisades News: “Many of Pizzulli’s neighbors on Marquette and surrounding streets are concerned that the fragile canyon will not be able to withstand the building, nor will the dead-end road of Marquette. They also fear that the wildlife in the canyon will be compromised.
“‘I totally get if someone wants to build a nice home. However, when you’re talking about the cliff side… [it] could impact the whole stability of the street,’ said one resident, who asked to remain nameless for fear of legal retaliation from Pizzulli. ‘There’s really a good reason why no one’s built a house there.’”
“‘It’s a dead-end street because the canyon actually fell in. This road actually used to go to Bienveneda,’ said Linda Deacon, who has lived on Marquette since 1985. “’The road itself is not stable because the land is not stable.”
Pizzulli argued that the street and canyon are geologically sound. “Geology has been submitted and approved by the City of Los Angeles,” he said. “There is no geological threat to any of the homes currently on our street.”
Stockman wrote that Deacon had trouble accepting this statement. “She believes that the properties have shrunk considerably since their 1928 subdivision due to erosion and landslides, and she thinks that Pizzulli’s proposed houses, which will have basements and pools, will be built half in midair.”
Another resident agreed with Deacon. “The eight lots are fictitious. They are not flat, buildable lots that he has diagrammed,” the resident said. “He [Pizzulli] has got all these artist renditions of eight rectangular lots, but in reality you’d have to build suspension homes…. You’d basically have to anchor to the street and build out.”
When Lemmo refused to withdraw his motion, it meant that a board vote could not be taken before the City’s October 29 deadline.
Area 6 Representative David Peterson said, “I think you orchestrated this before the meeting, so it wouldn’t come to a vote and that’s not okay.”
Several Marquette residents said aloud that Pizzulli had been at the meeting before it started but had left.
“Maybe he already knew the outcome and that’s why he left,” one said.
PPCC Chair Emeritus Maryam Zar recommended that the executive board request an extension from City Planning, which the body has done before.
Chairman George Wolfberg and treasurer Richard Cohen agreed that the executive board (also consisting of VP Peter Culhane, secretary Chris Spitz and Zar) would take this action.
The next Community Council meeting is November 8, by which time the Marquette neighbors hope that the Planning Department has allowed an extension for public input, and the PPCC can vote to support the Marquette letter requesting a thorough examination of the proposed Pizzulli development.