The Eldercare Appeal will be heard by the California 2nd District Court of Appeal on January 26 at 9 a.m. during an hour-long oral argument.
This case concerns the four-story building at the corner of Palisades Drive and Vereda de la Montura, which is opposed by more than 1,500 residents.
The appellant, Pacific Palisades Residents Association, is arguing: 1) that the planned (and now built) building exceeds the floor space (size) limitation in the City’s Planning and Zoning Code, and the exception to the Code claimed by the developers does not apply;* 2) because of the violation of the Code and inconsistencies with the Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Community Plan the City improperly granted the project a Categorical Exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act; and 3) the project violates numerous provisions of the California Coastal Act.
The defendants: Los Angeles City, Builder/Owner Rony Shram -Palisades Drive LP, and the Attorney General, on behalf of the Coastal Commission, will be given a half hour to present their side.
The .99-acre site, which is next to the Santa Ynez Trailhead had been open space since the Highlands were developed in the early 1970s. Moshe Shram, Rony’s father, had purchased the property in 2013 with the intention of building 33 condominiums on the site but did not receive community support, which would have involved numerous Planning and Zone Code variances.
In June 2017, Rony Shram came back with a different proposal for the property, a 64,646-sq.-ft. four-story eldercare facility. The site was zoned C1, which allows offices, certain businesses, and light commercial uses. The facility was to have 82 units, with 59 rooms for assisted living care and 23 for Alzheimer’s/Dementia care.
The plan was initially approved by the City, despite the large number of residents filing written objections and more than a thousand signing a petition to protest the project.
Residents felt the project was too large; that it put elderly in a very high fire severity zone in the Highlands (one road in and out), and the four-story structure was out of character of the neighborhood. That decision was appealed before the West L.A. Planning Commission in April 2019.
Associate Zoning Administrator Henry Chu, the morning before the project came before the Commission, discovered there had been an error and a violation of the City’s Planning and Zoning Code in figuring building size.
Chu then sent an email to the developer’s lawyer alerting him of his discovery, and also to Oscar Medellin, a Deputy City Attorney in the Land Use Division of the City Attorney’s office. Mr. Chu did not alert the opponents of the project of the error.
The Area Planning Commissioners had been given hundreds of pages of information to read before the hearing, but neither Chu nor Medellin spoke about the code violation during the hearing, in which Commissioners voted 3-0 to overrule the appeals of Pacific Palisades Highlands’ residents.
Councilman Mike Bonin was a staunch supporter of the project (he had received legal contributions from the Shrams). When the project went before the Coastal Commission, even though Commissioner Mary Luevano had said she would not accept ex-parte communications, she said that Bonin had texted her just such a communication, “He just wanted to let me know he is in favor of the project and most people in the community are in favor of it and that we need it.”
*(Editor’s note: The calculation of Buildable Area under LAMC section 12.03 is simple arithmetic. The gross lot size is 43,097 square feet, which, after deducting 7195 square feet of required setback yards, equals 35,902 square feet of net Buildable Area. Multiplying by a 1.50 FAR, the facility would be limited to 53,853 square feet (i.e., 35,902 x 1.5), about 10,793 square feet less than the 64,646 approved by the City.)
Another Bonin legacy.
I hope the Judge tells the builder to clean up the trash all down the slopes of Vereda de la Montura, into Topanga State Park (local residents clean up the street trash from where the workers park every day).
Would love to see a traffic study.
Would love to see an environmental study.
Would love to see some green space (walking the perimeter after hours it appears the building is right up to the sidewalk).
Would love to have this elder care center, but in a version that is fitting for the area, in every sense of the word.
Sue, if anything in this posting is of interest enough to share, please do.
Regarding the eldercare facility under construction in the Palisades Highlands:
My concern is for the safety of the elderly inhabitants in case of an earthquake significant enough to block Palisades Drive to Sunset Blvd by landslides. I have worked with several homeowners in more than one HOA in the Palisades Highlands to illuminate the potential closure and prepare to shelter-in-place for three weeks, if necessary. In such an event, ACS security employees will be sheltering-in-place as well. Good to know they have communication availability (a private communications repeater that can inform the LAFD and LAPD emergency services of critical injuries).
Pacific Palisades (and the Palisades Highlands), a population of about 23,000 residents, aren’t the only focus of emergency responders after a disaster. LAFD is mandated to provide emergency services to the entire City of LA, so the largest and most vulnerable populations may consume most of the +/- 33 First Responders to other areas of the City. That could leave the inhabitants of the elder care facility to rely on helicopter rescue for several days after a significant earthquake.
My question to the Shram Co. is this: What storage facilities and backup power are in place for water, electricity, and sewer facilities for 96 patients (plus caregivers) for a possible three-week shelter-in-place situation? The infrastructure (water, gas, sewer pipes) under Sunset Blvd is fragile. It may not survive a “BIG ONE.”
K.C. Soll – Advocate for Community Disaster Preparedness, Pacific Palisades Community Council (since September 2020)
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for suggestions on Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness, CERT training, and ReadyLA.org (Ready Your LA Neighborhood or HOA) training.
NEW! *Local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training session commences Thursday, March 2, 2023, at 6:30 PM, for seven weeks. Location: Calvary Christian Church, 701 Palisades Drive (room 138). LAFD firefighters teach this free course. Missed sessions are easily “made-up.”
To sign-up and/or for more information:
People who do not want an eldercare facility built near them have been fighting the project since 2017. Others want the facility, saying the project would fit the neighborhood and the public needs it. The trial court rejected the opponents’ challenge, which was based on Los Angeles zoning laws, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the Coastal Act. These neighbors appealed. The three respondents—the City of Los Angeles, the California Coastal Commission, and the developer— defend the trial court ruling. At issue is whether a reasonable person could agree with the City’s conclusion that adding this urban building to this urban area was compatible with the plan for Brentwood and Pacific Palisades.
The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that a reasonable person could have reached the same conclusion as the City: that this proposal for an urban building is compatible with the plans for this urban area. Further, the court explained that it was for the
Commission to weigh conflicting evidence; and the court may reverse only if a reasonable person could not have reached the same conclusion. For example, the neighbors raise the specter of a parking calamity, but the Commission concluded the nominal increase in traffic would not significantly displace street parking for hikers bound for the trails. The eldercare facility would, after all, include underground parking. This logic is sound. Substantial evidence supports the Commission’s and the City’s decisions.