October 2019: Caruso Cut Through City Bureacracy; Rec Center Parking Lot Paving

Land Use Consultant Howard Robinson explained how developer Rick Caruso was able to avoid the zoning code.

Question: How does a smart developer bypass the zoning code?

Howard Robinson, who works as a land-use consultant spoke to the local Rotary Club and explained: “When Caruso acquired those properties, he proposed a new section be inserted into the specific plan. The specific plan trumps the zoning code.”

He noted that if Caruso had gone the regular route with his development plans, there might have been lawsuits and more City conditions, causing a longer, riskier project.

“This is rare, and one example of how a smart person can work with the system,” Robinson said. “It was a brilliant move.”

“He [Caruso] went to the Citywide Planning Commission, who approved it. Then it went to the City Council, who approved it.”

There were notices about the hearings, Robinson said, but too many residents in Pacific Palisades were anxious to have the project.

One Rotarian said, “I’ve heard many people say Caruso has not lived up to the land-use agreement.”

Robinson said he had heard the same thing. For example, there was a promise that employees wouldn’t park on the streets, but they have been doing so.

The consultant, who has lived in Pacific Palisades for 25 years, said he didn’t know what the City conditions were because Caruso didn’t go through a normal conditional use plan.

He did “sign a private agreement with his neighbors,” said Robinson, who added that some of those neighbors felt Caruso has not kept his promise, but Robinson was told, “No one has the money or time to sue Caruso over the agreement.”

Robinson was on the PPCC Land Use Committee when it recommended the Caruso project to the Community Council and was asked why more questions were not raised in his committee over the alleyway, the right-hand lane off Sunset and the one-way street on Swarthmore that were “given” to Caruso.

“The City felt it was a good trade off,” Robinson said, “and most people wanted the project to go forward.”

Answer: Propose a new section and have it inserted in the specific plan because that trumps the zoning code.

The Bay Theater lowered rates in November.

Question: How expensive is the Bay Theater in Pacific Palisades?

One Circling the News reader wrote that the Cinepolis corporation had listened to residents and had lowered prices and sent her the following pricing.

Monday- Sunday before 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for everyone.

Monday – Thursday between 2 and 5 p.m. Tickets are $12 for everyone (through November 8).

Monday – Thursday after 5 p.m.  Tickets are $21 for adults and $19 for seniors and children.

Friday- Sunday between 2 and 5 p.m. Tickets are for $27 adults and $20 seniors and children.

Friday- Sunday after 5 p.m. Tickets are $27 adults, $20 seniors and children.

Answer: Check with the theater to see if the lower pricing is still in effect.

The Rec Center parking lot repaving will not include where these cars are parked.

Question: So much needs to be done and replaced at the Palisades Recreation Center, what is the strategy?

At the Park Advisory Board meeting, members listed the five items they felt were most important:

  1. Window replacement in the office.
  2. Restroom remodel to make it ADA compliant.
  3. Resurface the parking lot.
  4. Internet for the park (and attendant WiFi) and T-1 wiring for the lobby of the big gym.
  5. Replace the playground with one that is ADA accessible (and not a Universal playground). The PAB had voted for the latter in 2014.

Answer: The parking lot was supposed to be resurfaced with the completion of the Potrero Park project, but now only part of the lot will be refinished. At least $4.5 million of the Potrero funds have gone for overages in grading. So far, there have been no Quimby funds or other funds given to the Park to upgrade anything.

Answer 2: Circling the News suspects the City is just waiting for an ADA lawsuit because the bathrooms are not compliant, nor is the playground. CTN was told that since the non-compliant features have been grandfathered into the park, a lawsuit could not be filed.

Answer 3: If someone is in a wheelchair, just tell them the bathroom is not available.

Answer 4: The sinkhole that opened up at the park in February and took away parking spaces on Frontera and wrecked tennis courts 7 & 8, was finally partially repaired. The courts were redone the end of November, but there was no way to access the courts. To make the City move faster, ask Councilman Mike Bonin to form a task force.

Answer 5: If that doesn’t work, promise the Councilman a photo op for his monthly email newsletter where he details all he’s done.

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