The Pacific Palisades Land Use Committee, chaired by Howard Robinson, reviewed the disputed house construction on Ida Street in the Marquez Knolls neighborhood. The committee presented its final report at its October 28 meeting.
According to Robinson, the nearly four-story tall Ida house is legal. A residential home in Pacific Palisades can be 45 feet tall if it is zoned R1, is in the Coastal Zone and is in a non-hillside area.
“There are many places in Pacific Palisades that are like that,” Robinson said. He noted other areas might include the El Medio bluffs, the Via de la Paz mesa and bluffs, and portions of the Huntington Palisades. (See height regulations below).
In February this year, neighbors in the Marquez Knolls area complained to L.A. Building and Safety that a home at 1679 Marquez, on the corner of Ida, was too tall for the neighborhood. The three-story house is just under 45 feet.
On March 3, Building and Safety temporarily halted construction on the house, which was supposed to become the residence for Brentwood homeowner Hamid Hajmomenian. (In the building permit, Hajmomenian stated that he was “a homeowner that has resided in the residence for at least 12 months prior to the completion of the work described in the permit.”)
A letter from Building and Safety stated that the initial permits for the Ida house had been issued in error because:
- The required clearing of the Building and Grading permits was not obtained prior to the issuance of a Coastal Development Permit.
- The 5,559-sq.-ft. structure would exceed the maximum allowable floor area because it includes all the areas under the covered areas and under the cantilevered floors and trellises; and the first level of the dwelling does not meet the definition of a basement.
- A three-ft. minimum setback is required on the side yard, and the roof deck does not have the required setback.
- The platform (or landing space) projecting into the required side yard exceeds the maximum height of six feet above natural grade and is not permitted.
- Unenclosed balconies may extend into required yards, provided they are uncovered and not included within the exterior wall of the building; these balconies do not comply as projections and are not permitted.
Hajmomenian revised the plans that were at issue with Building and Safety (height was not considered one of the problems) and received a supplemental permit in June. Construction resumed.
Back in February, neighbors reached out repeatedly to Councilman Mike Bonin’s office about the project and also to the Pacific Palisades Community Council.
In January 2020, Bonin had introduced a motion in City Council for the Planning Department and the City Attorney’s Office to report on possible code amendments to apply stricter BMO development standards to non-hillside, Coastal areas of CD 11, which include not only Pacific Palisades, but also Venice and Playa del Rey.
The City Council passed Bonin’s motion in March 2020. There has been no action on the motion since then and it will expire in March 2022, unless extended.
Councilman Bonin’s Senior Planning Deputy Jason Patrick Douglas responded to Marquez neighbors on February 18, 2021, noting that the maximum height of the proposed project would 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 Land Use Committee has recommended to the Community Council that Palisades residents who wish to see stricter development standards in Palisades R1-1, non-hillside, Coastal areas, urge that the report pursuant to Councilmember Bonin’s motion be completed, and for an eventual ordinance to pass.
The report also suggests watching activity at Venice and Westchester/Playa del Rey, which are updating community plans.
Robinson in his reports writes, “CD 11 staff has advised that these community plans are likely to include stricter development standards for Coastal areas.” (The Brentwood/Pacific Palisades community plan update is not slated until 2022-2023, at the earliest.)
The LUC recommends that the Community Council hold a public meeting to receive community input regarding what steps should be taken next. (To read the complete report or to see the Palisades zoning chart, visit: pacpalicc.org.)
Height Regulations for Building in Pacific Palisades
Residential development in R1-1, non-hillside, Coastal areas is governed by older provisions of the Los Angeles zoning code. One such provision (Section 12.21.1) allows the height of residential dwellings to be 45 feet for lots zoned R1-1 and located in the Coastal Zone. This provision has been in place since at least 1977, and perhaps earlier.
In hillside single-family-zoned areas, both Coastal and non-Coastal, development is governed by the Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO). In non-hillside areas, the governing regulations vary depending on whether a property is located in the Coastal or Non-Coastal Zone.
Civic League/Tract 9300 Guidelines:
Portions of Community Council Area 4 (below Sunset) and Areas 5 and 6 are in Tract 9300; they are subject to the Civic League’s development guidelines for residential projects. The Civic League Guidelines establish a 28-foot maximum height limit.