Neighbors Cry “Foul” at Oversized House on Marquez Avenue

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The oversized house being built at 16796 Marquez Avenue wrecks neighbor’s views of the ocean in the Marquez area of Pacific Palisades.

Neighbors have reached out repeatedly to Councilman Mike Bonin’s office to complain about the oversized homes that are being built in the Marquez neighborhood, resulting in loss of privacy and ocean views.

Most recently, the house at 16769 Marquez Ave., which appears to be four stories high with lot boundary-to-lot-boundary construction, is being challenged. One neighbor has described the home as “Westminster Abbey in the middle of a coastal neighborhood.”

Another neighbor wrote, “Between the developer’s three projects in our Marquez coast area, (1) 16957 Sunset Boulevard, (2) 16820 Edgar Street and (3) 16796 Marquez Avenue, more than 20 separate households so far have submitted formal concerns in writing and/or in person related to building and zoning issues, public health and safety concerns, and/or coastal and environmental protection, and yet nothing has been done. The City has to date failed to properly manage and protect the public in regard to development in this Coastal and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.”

Councilman Mike Bonin’s Senior Planning Deputy Jason Patrick Douglas responded to neighbors on February 18 and said that the approved project on Marquez included the demolition of an existing 1,521-sq.-ft., one-story single-family dwelling and 390-sq.-ft. detached garage and the construction of a new 5,559-sq.-ft., three-story single-family dwelling with a 391-sq.-ft. square-foot roof deck over a 630-sq.-ft. basement with attached two-car garage.

Douglas noted that the maximum height of the proposed project shall not exceed 44 feet 7 inches and that no deviations from the Municipal Code were requested. He added that a public hearing had been conducted on December 19, 2016 and that the site was awarded permits for a new building in February 2020.

“The Councilmember shares your frustration with these ‘McMansion’ projects that have been moving through the pipeline for several years now,” Douglas said, and assured neighbors that “the Councilmember is working on identifying policies to address this issue directly.”

In January 2020, Bonin sent a motion to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee, seeking to have the city create a new ordinance or amend the existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance to include the Coastal Zone.

CTN emailed Douglas to see if the Planning Department has written a new ordinance or amended the existing one. It has been almost a year since the City Council passed Bonin’s motion last March. (Editor’s note: We have not yet received a response. If we do, this story will be updated.)

In a February 18 email that was shared with CTN and 25 neighbors, resident Steven Dersh told Douglass that “the conclusions and determinations by City Planning are incorrect.”

Neighbors contend that the square footage calculation for the house is incorrect and that they had not been notified of hearings.

Neighbors say that the proper setbacks have not been applied.

“All of the documents, including but not limited to the Permit, Coastal Development Permit and plans submitted by the developer, Hamid Hajmomenian, show the front-yard setback is on Marquez Avenue,” Dersh wrote. “The setbacks for this house fronting Marquez Ave. requires proper setbacks on the sides which this house does not have, an encroachment plane that this house does not comply with as well as other violations. There is no legal basis for the City to allow this house to be built. The permits were improperly issued.

“Enough is enough,” he added, and asked the City to do an investigation.

Dersh also noted that the City improperly issued a Coastal Development Permit and cited the Coastal Act Section 30251, which states the scenic and visual qualities of coastal areas shall be considered and protected as a resource of public importance.

“Permitted development shall be sited and designed to protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas, to minimize the alteration of natural land forms, to be visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas, and, where feasible, to restore and enhance visual quality in visually degraded areas,” states Section 30251.

Neighbors point out that the Marquez Avenue house blocks ocean views from public streets, sidewalks and other Marquez homes—a clear violation of the Coastal Act.

Dersh wrote that Hajmomenian stated on his Owner/Builder Declaration that allowed him to obtain a permit, that he would “abide by all of the following restrictions,” which includes stating that he must “be a homeowner that has resided in the residence for at least 12 months prior to the completion of the work described in the permit.”

Hajmomenian has several addresses, including one on Kenter in Brentwood. Neighbors say he has never lived at that address.

In the Owner-Builder Declaration, Hajmomenian affirms under penalty of perjury that, “the structure is not intended or offered for sale” and again “such improvements are not intended or offered for sale.”

Neighbors are asking the City to require the developer to adhere to the setback, encroachment plane, Coastal Act and the Zoning Code.

CTN contacted Building and Safety Inspector spokesperson Jeff Napier on February 19 and asked if those issues could be enforced. If Napier responds, we’ll update the story.

Dersh voiced the thoughts of many neighbors when he wrote, “What kind of government do we have if these requirements and laws are not followed?”

(Editor’s note: This home falls outside the area reviewed by the Pacific Palisades Civic League.)

One neighbor characterized this oversized house as “Westminster Abbey.”

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6 Responses to Neighbors Cry “Foul” at Oversized House on Marquez Avenue

  1. BC says:

    Outrageous, again. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the wider community.
    The continued rape of the Palisades solely for the one-time benefit of spec home builders has got to be stopped. That a single-family home structure can be built with square footage exceeding the size of the lot is proof enough that the zoning rules are far too permissive. There’s no excuse that the City Council hasn’t acted on the proposed motion to reign in the abuse. Clearly a project like this is not about addressing the shortage of affordable housing.

  2. Elizabeth Alford says:

    First the elder care center, then the Jack-in-a-box oversized development, now this. Traffic, environmental, and community concerns ignored. Let alone ordinances. If it smells like a rat….

  3. Diane Elder says:

    This structure blocks the ocean view from many homes on Jacon Way. It’s height is unacceptable.

  4. ES says:

    LOOKS like a 3-storey house to me. NOT good.

  5. Harris Leven says:

    Two lessons learned from the still ongoing litigation against the eldercare project in the Highlands:

    1) Complaining to Mike Bonin’s office is a total waste of time. When Highlands residents wrote to Bonin in late 2017, the response from his office was, “[the eldercare project] does not seek to deviate from, or circumvent, the zoning regulations or planning code in any way,” which was a 100% false statement and basically told the residents to “shut up”! Of course, later the public learned about the Developers’ lawyers’ and lobbyists’ donations to Bonin’s campaign funds (from CTN primarily), and residents watched and listened as Bonin’s Planning Deputy promoted the project at an Area Planning Commission hearing and a City Council Committee hearing.

    2) Don’t expect the Department of City Planning on its own to actually investigate a proposed project, house or building, for compliance with State and City laws and regulations! Thousands of pages of documents made public because of the lawsuit by the Pacific Palisades Residents Association against the eldercare project, including hundreds of internal emails, show no evidence of the Department conducting such an investigation even after the Department knew the project was controversial, with two exceptions. The City looked at whether a residential facility could be built on the Developers’ commercial lot on Palisades Drive and whether the project had to comply with the Mello Act. In both instances, the Department acceded to the Developers’ wishes.

    The building permit for the house being built on Marquez Avenue can still be challenged at this late date, but it will be an arduous process and the City makes it difficult to get the information needed to determine if and to what extent there are violations sufficient to get the builder to reduce the size of the house or make corrections.

    Going forward, neighbors of vacant lots or recently sold homes that are suspected “tear-downs” would be well advised to regularly check the Case Reports or at least the Bi-weekly Case Report on the Department of City Planning’s website: https://planning.lacity.org/resources/bi-weekly-case-report. It is a lot easier to get information about a project prior to a hearing and the project’s later approval, and of course, it you have concerns about a project you can make them known at the hearing. DO NOT WAIT to recieve a notice about the project and the hearing as that notice may be sent only to owners and residents within a very few hundred feet of the project’s site.

  6. AD says:

    Thank you for covering this, and for the informative comments here. It’s infuriating that the city would approve this monstrosity! Everyone should drive by and look. That can be any “house” next to you next and future developers throughout the Palisades will try to set this thing as their benchmark, as it appears nobody at the planning department actually looks at anything.. There have been other areas that have seen construction stopped and a partial teardown ordered – at a BARE MINIMUM that needs to be done here to fix this massive screw up!

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