Mixed-Use Project at Former Jack-in-the-Box Site
By JAMES GAGE – Special to Circling the News
At its Thursday night board meeting, the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) voted unanimously to adopt a motion opposing the proposed 5-story, mixed-use project at 17346 Sunset Blvd. near Pacific Coast Highway.
The motion, authored by Treasurer Richard Cohen, Secretary Chris Spitz and Area 8 Representative Reza Akef, was supported by PPCC’s Land Use Committee, which opposed the development at the site of the old Jack-in-the-Box due to its proposed height and density.
The motion argued that the developer’s plans violate Public Resources Code Sec. 30251 of the Coastal Act, which requires that developments located in the Coastal Zone be “visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas.”
“Because the Project is… within the Coastal Zone, a CDP [Coastal Development Permit] is required and the provisions of the California Coastal Act therefore must apply,” the motion read. (In the Mitigated Negative Declaration, filed in June, the applicant asked the City to grant the Coastal Development Permit and to give a Mello Act Compliance Determination.)
“The Project’s mass and scale are clearly out of proportion to all other similarly situated buildings which front the same (south) side of the street as the Project, and its visual impact on pedestrians as well as nearby residences is out of character and will be significant.”
The proposed building would rise 60’9″ and comprise 15,000 sq. ft., incorporating 40 dwelling units (four of them low-income units). The plans also include 36 subterranean parking spaces, a rooftop green space, and commercial space at street level.
The motion argued that the proposed plans violate the construction guidelines set forth in the Pacific Palisades Commercial Village and Neighborhoods Specific Plan (SP), which limits buildings to a maximum of two stories at 30 ft. in height with a floor area ratio (FAR) of 1:1.
The FAR of the proposed project would be 2.15:1 if constructed under the current plans with no upper-level setbacks along Sunset, despite a similar 6-story mixed-use building across the street on the north side of Sunset, including upper-level setbacks.
California’s “density bonus” law permits the project at its proposed height and density regardless of the SP limitations, due to the fact that it includes low-income units.
The motion also argued that the project’s plans lacked tree wells in front of the building, suggesting that “at least two 15’ x 15’ x 15’ tree wells with appropriately sized trees” be included in the revised plans, lest the project “present a bleak streetscape and an imposing, monolithic facade.”
The rooftop deck of the building, landscaped with ficus plants, would raise the total height of the building to 66 ft., towering over nearby open space areas belonging to the residential tower to the south and negatively impacting nearby residents “in terms of noise, reduction of privacy and quality of life,” the motion read.
Should the City of Los Angeles or the Coastal Commission proceed with the project despite community objections, PPCC argued that the plans for the project be revised to include a lowered building height of 4 stories with upper-level setbacks along Sunset, or a lowered height of 3 stories with no upper-level setbacks and a reduction in dwelling units.
“The Land Use Committee met a month or two ago and heard from the developer, who said basically ‘what we’re talking about is a proposed mixed-use development,’ which is basically a large apartment building, 5 stories tall with stores at street level,” said Cohen.
“You’d be amazed at the size of the project being proposed to go on that little site,” he continued. “The property was bought by the developer, who does not live in the Palisades, but who owns lots and lots of real estate throughout the country. He clearly wants to maximize his economic return on this property.”
Former Land Use Committee Chair Howard Robinson also offered input on the proposed project at the meeting.
“On a vote of 6-1, a pretty strong majority, the committee did feel the project was too large in terms of height and floor area and we’re recommending opposition to the project as currently designed,” Robinson said.
“We absolutely agree that this motion, that we’re all sponsoring together, is the right motion,” Cohen added.
Patrick Hart, who lives in the adjoining Edgewater Towers complex, argued against the proposed project as well.
“I’ve seen the plans,” he said. “What I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention is the fact that this developer is saying that these 40 units are going to be a mixture of one bedroom, two bedrooms, and studios…If you divide the 15,000 sq. feet by 40 units it comes out to 375 sq. ft. a unit. Nothing makes sense on this.”
The project’s designer Farzin Maly and the applicant California Food Managers, LLC – whose principals include Beverly Hills investors Michael Aminpour, Dan Ashoori, and Jack Farshi – declined an invitation to attend the PPCC meeting.
According to the Mitigated Negative Declaration filed in June 2019, the project will have eight studios, 31 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom apartment.
There are eight parking spaces for the studios, one for each of the one-bedroom units and two parking spaces for the two-bedroom, which means 41 spaces for residents. According to L.A. City planners, four of the 41 required parking spaces have been replaced by bicycle parking stalls pursuant to LAMC section 12.21 A.4.
The Project will provide 37 spaces for residential uses. There are 10 required parking spaces for the ground floor commercial space, but 12 are allotted, which means the entire project will have 49 parking spaces.
Since the applicant is California Food Managers, City Planner Kenton Trinh was asked in early August if the 2,900 square feet of retail space on the ground floor would be a restaurant.
Trinh replied in an August 5 email, “The plans indicate that the commercial space will be used for retail.”
The MND states on page 179, “The commercial tenancy was estimated in the traffic report with half restaurant and half retail (1,500 square feet each) to provide flexibility in leasing.”
Will there be traffic impacts at the intersection of PCH and Sunset? According to the MND, “No.”
To read the MND, visit: https://planning.lacity.org/staffrpt/mnd/Pub_062019/ENV-2018-505.pdf.
The Pacific Palisades Design Review Board will discuss the project tomorrow, Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m. at the Palisades-Malibu YMCA, 821 Via de la Paz. The public is invited.