LETTER TO THE EDITOR: City Should Enforce Its Own Building Codes for Highlands Eldercare Facility

The Palisades Fire started on October 20 on Palisades Drive and threatened home on upper Marquez Knolls. This photograph was taken from Haverford Street, near Gelson’s.
Photo: Tanya Barcessat (Visit: TanyaBarcessat.com)

A resident wrote:

I appreciate Circling the News reporting on matters of importance to Pacific Palisades and its residents, and I direct your attention to the inconsistent positions of CD 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin that directly relate to the controversial eldercare project in the Pacific Palisades Highlands.

Several days ago, I viewed and then posted on Nextdoor a video in which Sam Catanzaro, Executive Editor for the Mirror Media Group, interviews Mr. Bonin. About 29 to 30 minutes into the interview Mr. Bonin states quite clearly, “I do not think we should be adding more housing to high fire severity zones because it’s inviting disaster.”

This same Mike Bonin promoted building the eldercare housing facility for 96 Alzheimer’s/dementia care and assisted living care residents in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone of the Highlands immediately adjacent to the tinder. As emails that the City had to make public revealed (because of the Pacific Palisades Residents Association’s (PPRA’s) lawsuit) and you reported, Mr. Bonin had his Deputies huddle with the developer and the developer’s lobbyists to prepare speeches in which Mr. Bonin’s Planning Deputy, speaking on behalf of the Councilmember, pushed for the facility before City agencies. And Mr. Bonin personally lobbied a Coastal Commissioner to vote for the facility despite the fact that the same Commissioner clearly stated on the Coastal Commission’s website that she did not want such lobbying.

So why are Mr. Bonin’s words diametrically opposite his own actions? Is it the “Pay for Play” syndrome down at City Hall wherein Councilmembers get large donations from developers and their lobbyists? As the lead editorial in the May 15, 2020 L.A. Times stated, “The unwritten understanding in Los Angeles is that council districts are fiefdoms over which council members have sole discretion to make real estate development decisions, including whether a project gets a tax break or an exemption from land-use rules.” That last phrase could explain why the City ignored the fact that the proposed eldercare facility is as much as 20% larger than the Planning and Zoning Code allows and has outdoor areas that are not allowed under the law.

If you ask Mr. Bonin to explain his inconsistent positions, I suspect he will say something to the effect that the eldercare project was approved two years ago, that those approvals were confirmed recently by an Order of a Superior Court Judge (which PPRA may appeal; see palisadesresidents.com), and that there is nothing he can do about the project now.

That is not true. The City and the developers’ attorneys have consistently argued before administrative agencies and in court that the final say on the project rests with the Department of Building and Safety (DBS), and currently the developers have nine applications for permits for the project pending before the DBS. In my opinion, the Judge’s Order allows the DBS to require setback yard areas for what the City and the developers’ argued are the commercial uses in the building, including the newly announced “public bistro.” Those setback yards would require the building to be downsized 5-10%, which is significant. Plus, the Judge’s Order does not address any of the host of Building Code issues that the DBS must decide, including the hazards of building on a site that was described by the developers’ own attorney as all but a landfill. One call from Mr. Bonin to the DBS telling the DBS that it should enforce the City’s Planning and Zoning Code and the Building Code as to the eldercare project in his “fiefdom” (i.e., the Highlands) is all that is needed.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Very truly yours,

Harris Leven

Michael Lane

Pacific Palisades Highlands

(Editor’s note: Councilman Mike Bonin’s spokesperson David Graham-Caso was asked for a comment about Bonin’s comment by email on May 17. Graham-Caso had not responded by post time.)

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One Response to LETTER TO THE EDITOR: City Should Enforce Its Own Building Codes for Highlands Eldercare Facility

  1. helen barr says:

    Everyone who is appalled by deception and hypocrisy of our “public servants” – please help with PPRA appeal. This is the last battle in this very unequal fighting and it’s much-much more than just one inappropriate building. Please donate to https://www.gofundme.com/f/protect-california-coastal-act

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