Opinion: Would the Community Council Have More Clout As a Neighborhood Council?

The Pacific Palisades Community Council opposed the proposed Jack-in-the-Box, but because it was not a recognized Neighborhood Council it was denied extra speaking time at a hearing. 
Photo: L.A. City Planning

At the Community Council’s candidate forum, held on Zoom on August 27, a candidate who is running unopposed for a seat on the council mentioned he would like to figure out how to get the City (and Councilman Mike Bonin) to treat the PPCC with more respect.

The Commmunity Council weighs in on many City issues, usually noting at the beginning of its letters that it is “the most broad-based organization in Pacific Palisades and has served as the voice of our community since its formation in 1973.”

Indeed, the Palisades council was the model for Neighborhood Councils (NC) when they were established by the City in 1999 to advocate for their communities. NC’s are part of the L.A. City government and have annual budgets funded by taxpayer dollars.

The PPCC opted not to become a neighborhood council, preferring to retain its independence.

In July 2015 letter to the City, the PPCC executive board argued why it should be given the same respect as neighborhood councils. The letter concluded: “The PPCC respectfully requests that you include PPCC on the same basis as neighborhood councils and neighborhood council alliances in connection with the proposal in CF 15-0389 to afford additional time or other preferential treatment to speak before the City Council or City agencies.”

Unfortunately, that has not happened.

Before an L.A. City Planning Commission hearing (on Zoom) on August 27, the PPCC and its land-use committee sent letters to the Commission opposing  the proposed multi-use building at the former Jack-in-the-Box location on western Sunset. The letters stated the PPCC “opposes issuance of a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the Project as proposed at 5 stories and 60 ft., 9 in. in height, with no upper level setbacks along Sunset Blvd. and with a floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.15:1, on the following grounds: failing to follow the specific plan, violation of the Coastal Act, inadequate landscaping and environmental impacts.”

During the subsequent hearing, Chair Samantha Millman asked if the Palisades Neighborhood Council had taken a position, and allowed a spokesperson to speak for three minutes. However, nobody responded and Circling the News quickly emailed PPCC Chair David Card and asked him why somebody didn’t weigh in.

Card responded, “We are not a certified neighborhood council, so we only get one minute to comment. We are an independent community council, unconstrained by the city bureaucracy rules. Please see the PPCC position letter on this project sent to the Planning Department: http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/PPCC-Letter-re-JIB-Site-Project.pdf. We followed that with a more recent letter on the inadequacies of the slight changes made by the project owner. The Planning Commission definitely knew all about PPCC’s opposition to this project and the opposition of the whole community, but chose to ignore it with the commission’s unanimous vote in favor of the project.”

The Planning Commission doesn’t recognize our Community Council? The L.A. Recreation and Park Commissioners also have a slot for Neighborhood Councils, but nothing for Community Councils.

Since the PPCC is not constrained by city bureaucracy rules and not a City governmental agency, it could sue the City for not following the Palisades Specific Plan’s specific guidelines related to residential and retail structures of this size.

Circling the News emailed the PPCC executive board on September 3, asking its plans concerning Jack-in-the-Box. Would it sue the City (or join a lawsuit) to prove why it has remained an independent community council? We’re still waiting to hear back.

This isn’t the first time PPCC’s position has been disregarded. This summer, the executive board wrote to Councilman Mike Bonin and urged him not to defund the police. The letter stated: “PPCC’s Executive Committee supports your message that cuts to neighborhood policing and emergency preparedness do not keep us safe. We ask that you continue to protect the police and fire resources allocated to Pacific Palisades which help keep us safe and also keep the public beach and mountain recreation areas in our community safe for all visitors.”

Bonin voted to defund.

A few years ago, the PPCC sent numerous letters to Bonin and the City Planning Commission (Chair Samantha Millman), asking to “oppose any change in the current zoning laws regarding short-term rentals. PPCC is extremely concerned about an increasing assault on low-density and in particular R-1 zoning by regulation and planning measures which erode traditional protections long relied-upon by homeowners. With respect and great urgency, we request that instead of legalizing short-term rentals, the City should take firm steps to enforce existing law.”

The City and Bonin ignored the request and set a cap on short-term rentals at 120 days.

Remember the proposed dog park in lower Temescal Canyon Park? Many Pacific Palisades residents seemed in favor, and on May 2017, the PPCC wrote: “This move is in response to a City Council Motion by Councilmember Mike Bonin on January 8, 2017, which passed, asking for the Department of Recreation and Parks to work with CD11 to establish a community-based Pacific Palisades Dog Park Working Group to accomplish what is restated in our motion.”

There has been no movement towards this dog park.

Maybe it’s time for the PPCC to discuss applying to become a neighborhood council? This certainly wouldn’t guarantee that Bonin would do anything different–he does what he wants to do–but at least in City government meetings, the Pacific Palisades board would be given time to speak out.

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4 Responses to Opinion: Would the Community Council Have More Clout As a Neighborhood Council?

  1. Haldis Toppel says:

    Under Bill Rosendahl the PPCC was explicitly given the same rights and respect as a neighborhood council. It is up to Michael Bonin to grant the same.

    If PPCC does not show up to meeting, that is very sad, no matter how much time is granted.

    As NC we could not sue the City (have no pull), could not solicit or accept donations, could not converse with other public agencies such as Santa Monica, Malibu, the County, or the State, be constraints by very difficult and cumbersome and expensive voting procedures (maybe a good thing), and are very constraint in spending money and then will have to wait an extraordinary long time to get reimbursed. I’ll take the Community Council structure and get with Bonin to have him commit to the full treatment and rights as Rosendahl did, but for that we would have to be nice to Bonin. smiles

  2. Kathleen Jensen says:

    Agree! Thanks for this story, Sue.

  3. Sue says:

    Haldis,

    When has this PPCC ever sued the City? Additionally, the PPCC receives money from the awards show it puts on, and has had about $40,000 in its treasury (and has for almost as long as I’ve been covering the Council). People from the community rarely donate to it–and the money is rarely spent. I know this argument (freedom to sue)is offered most often, but I’ve never seen in practice.The perfect opportunity would have been over the Jack-in-the-Box project, which were opposed by the Community Council and the PPCC’s Land Use Committee.

    Two people from the Community Council did speak up under public comment at the Jack-in-the-box hearing, but when it came time for the three minute Neighborhood Council presentation it was quiet.

    I also think its important that the executive committee must be transparent. They can make decisions that are done behind closed doors. I may agree with the decisions-and most times I do, but I still think the process should be transparent and open.

    It seems the PPCC “invented” the telephone and others followed. Now others are using the latest iPhone and the PPCC is still using a rotary dial.

    Haldis–you’re the best–you and your late husband, Kurt, have worked for this community for decades.

    Sue

  4. Alan Goldsmith says:

    Sue, This article and follow up is extremely valuable and timely. We need to stop kidding ourselves about the supposed CC advantages and do whatever it takes to have real influence in critical battles such as our losses on the absurd Jack box development and defunding the police campaigns. Alan Goldsmith, PPCC At Large Rep.

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