The controversial Palisades Highlands Eldercare project is underway, even though court cases have been filed over the size of the project, which is located on Palisades Drive in a very high fire severity zone.
Developer Rony and Moshe Shram’s 64,646-sq.-ft. eldercare building will include two levels of underground parking and four stories above it. The project went through the L.A. City Planning system from filing to partial approval in five months.
According to the City of Los Angeles Zimas (L.A. Department of Planning public service website, visit:zimas.lacity.org), the project plans were filed with City Planning on June 1, 2017 and was partially approved by October 4, 2017. It received final approval on January 26, 2018.
On July 15 this year, a case was filed in Superior Court by the Pacific Palisades Residents Association regarding the construction. The proposed building is too large for the lot and the City knew that fact before the West L.A. Area Planning Commission held its hearing on the matter on April 18, 2018. At the hearing, Commissioners were told by the developer’s attorney that a City “plan checker” would verify all measurements before a building permit was issued. (The morning of that hearing, Associate Zoning Administrator Henry Chu discovered the building was too large per city regulations—exceeding square footage by 10,793 sq. ft.).
At a March 2020 Superior Court hearing, Judge Torribio was told by the City’s attorney that the Department of Building and Safety would ensure the building was in compliance.
“That was not the process the City used,” said Harris Leven, a co-appellant with PPRA on the two recent appeals. “City emails and documents obtained through a Public Records Act request show the decision was taken out of the hands of the ‘plan checker’ at Building and Safety, and given back to Associate Zoning Administrator Henry Chu at the Department of City Planning, who in turn deferred to a written analysis from the developer’s attorney.”
At the Superior Court hearing, residents learned for the first time that the developer ( Palisades Drive LLC) planned to install a public bistro on the ground floor and a 280-ft.-long, 10-ft.-high retaining wall.
On August 18 this year, two appeals were filed with the L.A. Department of Building and Safety challenging the issuance of permits for the building and the wall. The LADBS is supposed to respond within 60 days, which means the PPRA attorney should shortly have LADBS’s decision.
In an May 15, 2020 interview on Nextdoor Palisades between Councilman Mike Bonin and the Santa Monica Mirror Media Group, Bonin said, “I do not think we should be adding more housing to High Fire Severity Zones because it’s inviting disaster.” Many of those who oppose the project in the Highlands are concerned about the possible evacuation of 96 elderly residents, many of whom may be Alzheimer/dementia patients.
The project’s website had not been updated since September 18.