Pacific Palisades residents were scolded and told by the City Planning Commissioners at an August meeting that they were elitist, that this town lacked affordable housing, and that residents needed to be shown the error of their ways.
Even though there was widespread community opposition to the proposed Jack-in-the-Box site replacement complex on Sunset, based on several credible concerns such as lack of parking and inadequate traffic studies, the Planning Commissioners used it as an opportunity to lecture residents.
The proposed multi-use, 39-unit building, which does not follow the Pacific Palisades Commercial Village and Neighborhood Specific Plan, would include four units that would be for low-income residents.
One commissioner said, “No affordable housing is an indicator of a challenge to the community. I wonder if this is an inspiration for a reflection on a community to become more inclusive and be the community you want to create.”
A second commissioner asked if it was possible to give the developer the initially larger project he wanted, thereby showing Pacific Palisades residents their errors in being “NIMBYs”.
Commission Chair Samantha Milliman, who is vice president of a privately held real estate firm in Los Angeles, explained to Pacific Palisades, “This is where we want to see affordable housing go in. This is precisely the development we need to see go in. This is an excellent project. It does have one flaw: it does not provide as many affordable units as I would like.”
Those who live here know there is affordable housing, and Circling the News reached out to City Planners to find out why the commissioners had incorrect information.
Interestingly enough, Pacific Palisades residents have been at the forefront of trying to keep this area a middle-income area with housing, in spite of the construction of thousands of mega-mansions.
Barber and resident Joe Almaraz, who started cutting hair here in the 1960s, told a newspaper reporter “that the Palisades was a bedrock middle-class community back then, though a variety of Hollywood stars lived in various neighborhoods.” He was surprised to find that the principal and many of his former teachers and coaches from Santa Monica High lived here.”
There are three mobile home parks, all considered low-income and all governed by the Mellow Act, which was adopted by the state of California in 1982 to preserve the overall number of residential dwelling and affordable units within the Coastal Zone. The most recent challenge to the act was in 2010, when the owner of the Palisades Bowl Mobile Home sought to change the property from rentals to ownership.
At Palisades Bowl, a 170-unit park, the land is owned by Edward Biggs and leases are protected under rent control (Mobile Home Residency laws can be found at hcd.ca.gov).
In 2015, the L.A. City Council requested that City Planning prepare a permanent ordinance that implemented the state Mellow Act (No. 15-0129-S1). A draft document was released in December 2019. A staff recommendation will be made to the City Council and a public hearing will be held at a Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
Tahitian Terrace, which was built above PCH and Temescal Canyon in 1963, has about 250 homes, all under rent control. According to one source, the average annual increase is about three percent.
At Malibu Village above PCH (south of Sunset), the owners of the 29 homes own the land and their mobile homes. They pay property tax, but no rent.
Additionally, the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, led by activist Barbara Kohn, was successful at implementing low-income housing at the base of the Highlands, when the Highlands community was built.
There are 61 senior units and 39 family units ($1,200 a month), with two parking spaces for every unit. This affordable housing is less than a half-mile from the proposed Jack-in-the-Box site. This is the result of an agreement with Headlands and the Coastal Commission in 1986, requiring that 100 units of affordable housing be built as a condition to allow the Highlands to be developed.
“As one of two PPRA signers of the legal settlement, my recollection is that the units at Palisades Drive and Sunset are convenated,” Kohn said in a December 1 email to Circling the News
CTN has contacted City Planning twice and the L.A. City Planning Commission, the Plum Committee and Councilman Mike Bonin to corroborate or deny this statement about convenates. There has been no response.
Attorney Tom Donovan, who represented Edgewater Towers at the hearing, shed some light on CTN’s question, “Could someone please tell me where the Commissioners received the idea there is no affordable housing?”
Donovan said he listened to the hearing recording again. “At approximately 17:51 of the recording, the applicant’s attorney, Michael Gonzales, said that “We have contacted Planning Staff and HCID. There are zero covenanted affordable units in the Pacific Palisades . . . We have zero covenanted affordable units.”
No one from Planning disputed or corroborated the applicants’ statement. There was also nothing in the 1,449-page report that corroborated Gonzales’ assertion, either. Three commissioners, Millman, Mack and Leung, then interpreted this as no affordable housing here.
Why didn’t City Planning clarify? Why didn’t Councilman Mike Bonin step in? Maybe these questions can be asked at the PLUM hearing set for December 8.
City Planning Assistant Nick Vasuthasawat sent the following guidelines for the hearing:
- Public comment for each item will be taken after staff, applicants/appellants and the council office are allowed to speak. (Call: 660-254-5252, Meeting ID No. 161 644 6631 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, press *9 to request to speak.)
- Just like applicants and appellants, members of the public wishing to comment during the meeting are directed to call the public comment phone number that is noted on the PLUM agenda.
○ The call-in number will allow them to listen to the meeting as they wait in the queue to speak on an item.
○ Public comment for each item will be taken after staff, applicants/appellants and the council office are allowed to speak.
○ Callers will be muted when they enter the meeting.
○ Members of the public wishing to speak will be asked to press *9 to raise their hand. Staff will call upon the last four digits of their phone number to allow for them to speak. They will be asked to press *6 to unmute themselves before they begin speaking.
(To view the meeting and agenda go to: https://www.lacity.org/government/follow-meetings/council-committee-meetings. The Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting for December 8 was called “Special” but no agenda was available at posting time.)