Residents from Bienveneda, Las Casas and Marquette met with Councilman Mike Bonin on January 6, putting the City on notice over the controversial development of eight homes on the rim of Las Pulgas Canyon along Marquette Street (a dead end).
Marquette was vacated by the City 1937, a year after L.A. started withdrawing streets because a city engineer told lawmakers it would prevent claims against damages arising from defective streets.
In a May 2018 L.A. Times story (“Some L.A. Streets Aren’t Being Repaved Because of a Law Dating from the Depression”), City Councilman Bob Blumenfield (District 3, in the Valley) said, “Many residents have no idea that their street is withdrawn until they try to get it fixed. The reality is, whether we like it or not, we’re liable for these streets anyway.”
Additionally, houses on the hillside of Marquette have septic tanks because there is no City sewer system.
Initially, the applicant of the Marquette housing project promised a sewer extension and Y-lines for people who currently live along that narrow street, which borders on a steep canyon, giving them the ability to hook up to a sewer. That is no longer the case.
The following note was handed to Bonin by residents on January 6: “We have brought major evidence to the city’s attention regarding the questionable safety of the proposed development. Rather than conducting their own independent investigations, the city has opted to rely solely on the information provided by the applicant’s paid consultants.
“If the city continues to ignore the evidence, we will be forced to put the city on notice that it will be directly liable should this project result in property damage or loss of life.”
To recap: Interior Architect Cosimo Pizzulli submitted plans in February 2017 to convert the acre of land he currently lives on into eight two-story, single-family homes with attached garages, basements, swimming pools and/or spas, one on each lot, ranging from 5,449 to 8,174 square feet of floor area and up to 33 feet in height.
Neighbors voiced concern over the geological instability of Las Pulgas Canyon. They felt that the geological report Pizzulli submitted to the City, conducted by Byer Geotechnical, was not thorough, and cited a 1976 geological study done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and prior geological studies paid for by the applicant himself that showed the fragility of Las Pulgas Canyon, saying the study gave an objective view of the area, that included an ancient landslide.
At the October 25, 2018, Community Council meeting, residents sought support from the PPCC, in term of a resolution against the development.
Rick Mills, who represents the Marquette neighborhood as the Area 4 representative, made a motion for the PPCC to send a letter to the City, requesting that it seriously consider the neighbors’ concerns and review whether the project should go through a more extensive subdivision process.
At that meeting, Marquette neighbors asked the board to send a specific letter to the City Planning Department, urging planners to thoroughly examine eight points of researched opposition to the development, including the canyon’s geology and a major sewer extension.
Rick Lemmo, a senior VP with Caruso and Chamber of Commerce representative on the board, asked to postpone the vote, which meant the PPCC could not weigh in before the October 29, 2018, deadline for public input to the Planning Department.
On November 6, 2019, the West L.A. Planning Commission found the project categorically exempt from CEQA and denied the appeal of appellants who questioned whether two lot-line adjustments could be used to reconfigure six of eight lots.
In that document, the commission specified: “There are no building or zoning code violations existing relating to the lot-line adjustment on the subject map,” so Pizzulli could realign the lot lines.
The document also stated: “Note than any proposed structures or uses on the site have not been checked to comply with Building and Zone Code requirements. Plan check will be required before any construction, occupancy or change of use.”
At the January 6, 2020 meeting with Bonin, residents urged an independent investigation of slope stability and that this report needed to be made public.
“The city needs to provide written evidence that it will continue to honor the Assumption of Risk Deed Restriction that the California Coastal Commission required when it granted the CDP to build retaining walls after a slope failure on the property,” residents wrote. “Please note that this Deed Restriction absolves the Coastal Commission – NOT the city of Los Angeles – from liability should there be damage due to extraordinary erosion and/or geologic hazards.”
Residents want a statement from the Bureau of Engineering acknowledging there is an erosion issue and that the impermeable liner for the proposed sewer extension will do nothing to reduce ground water because of the 14 septic systems directly uphill and across the street from the property.
Residents say that the sewer system for the eight new homes will tap into an aging and overtaxed sewer line, and point to a prior lawsuit, which cost the City a million dollars, when the line broke and resulted in a sewage spill under a Las Casas resident’s home.
Initially, the developer (Pizzulli) had gained letters of support from 31 neighbors for the sole reason of getting people on Marquette off a septic system and onto a sewer line.
After the sewer promise was gone, only two letters of support for the project remained.
Immediate neighbors on Marquette, Las Casas, Grenola and Bienveneda have submitted more than 140 letters to the City opposing the project.