Circling the News received the following letter from Barbara Kohn, former chair of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, a member of the Design Review Board (and past chair), and a past chair of the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, after she read an August 27 story, “Commissioners Approve Jack-in-the-Box Project Despite Community Opposition.”
In the story, CTN reported that “Nick Vasuthasawat, the planner on this project, also runs a small-scale planning and design firm, N.P.S. & Associates. Thursday morning, when Circling the News clicked on the firm’s home page, the following appeared: “We take pride in offering our clients the services to bring their preconceptual ideas to fruition. Our business strategy is focused on developing lasting partnerships with our clients in order to continually sustain growth through referrals and repeat customers. We strive to achieve the highest level of customer service by providing integrity, dependability, and commitment to all of our projects we take on. Contact us: ‘We can help get your project approved.’”
Kohn wrote “This is the same Nick who is my city planner on the Pacific Palisades Design Review Board who oversees our meetings, sets the agendas, controls the process to some extent and provides city policy advice to us, the members, when required…and I’ve been accused of conflicts as a community volunteer….Seems to me that the City of Los Angeles needs to look into their business procedures and behavior with a more ethical eye!
She explained that the purpose of the Design Review Board, which was established by LA City ordinance 1650 to create a seven-member citizen board to review projects within the business neighborhoods of 90272 for conformity with the provisions Pacific Palisades Community Plan and Specific Plan.
(Editor’s note: The conflict Kohn refers to occurred November 2015 when she and three other members of the DRB were prevented from reviewing the architectural and design plans for Caruso’s Palisades Village project. Three of the seven members had attended a public meeting and a fourth member was accused of speaking to Councilman Mike Bonin in January 2016. By removing those four from the DRB, (claiming unethical conduct), the City caused the board to lack a quorum. Caruso’s project then went directly to City Planning. In December 2016, Caruso donated $100,000 to Bonin’s L.A. Forward Committee. A story about the removal can be read on City WatchLA https://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/cw/los-angeles/17465-palisades-drb-taken-off-caruso-project-bonin-has-not-replaced-them-why)