Is a special Environmental Impact Review (EIR) needed to add an entrance gate to a public park? That question recently came up in a January 27 letter in the Palisadian-Post (“Holding Public Officials Accountable, Local Project Concerns”). An EIR examines the environmental impacts of a specific development project and focuses on the changes in the environment that would result from the development project.
The author of the letter to the paper, Chris Spitz, who serves as secretary for the Pacific Palisades Community Council, argued there was no public discussion about a path or gate.
She suggested that the 1985 EIR for the 46-acre Potrero Canyon park had not included the mention of a gate and pathway into the park from Friends Street (on the west rim).
A Highlands resident contacted Circling the News and wrote that the residents and opponents of the eldercare project in the Highlands had asked for an EIR and had also argued for a traffic study. Neither were deemed necessary.
“I certainly think it is fair to ask why an EIR and traffic studies are needed for a gate on Friends Street to George Wolfberg Park, but not for a business operation in the Highlands two miles from any public transportation,” the reader wrote.
That eldercare building, which was approved by the City without an EIR, is in the courts because opponents claim that the project has 20 percent more floor space than is allowed under the City’s Planning and Zoning code. They are hopeful that the California 2nd District Court of Appeal will address that issue and rule in favor of the Pacific Palisades Residents Association (PPRA).
A March 14, 2008, email exchange between Spitz and Mike Bonin, is published in the record of the eldercare case that was prepared by the City for the appeal to the Superior Court and is in the record for the Court of Appeal.
Spitz writes, “I wanted to reach out privately to let you know that I personally support the Eldercare Project proposed for 1525 Palisades Drive.”
She then explained the project was supported by the majority of Palisadians. (More than 1,467 people sent a letter or signed a petition opposing the construction. At the West L.A. Area Planning Commission hearing about 15 people went on record as supporting it.)
Spitz told Bonin, “I heard some residents express – when asked what type of project they would support for the site instead of what is being proposed—that they want nothing built on this property (i.e., they just want it to remain a vacant lot). This is of course unrealistic (unless they were to buy the property themselves) and the height of NIMBYism—“I don’t want anyone to build anything on your property now that I’ve been allowed to build/live in/use what I want on my or other nearby property.”
Regarding parking, another Highlands resident pointed out that there are three access points to trails in Topanga State Park. Of the three, only one has a parking lot; the other two require hikers to park on residential streets.
At Michael Lane, the Trailer Canyon Trailhead only has parking available in front of residential homes.
On Vereda De La Montura, only a few hundred feet from the eldercare building, is the entrance to the Santa Ynez Canyon Trailhead.
One of many complaints by residents about the eldercare project is that overflow parking on the street by the staff and visitors will compete with parking by those accessing the Santa Ynez Canyon Trailhead.
“Workers on the eldercare construction take up substantial parking spaces and remove parking that could be used by visitors to the State Park,” the resident said.