All the local governing boards in Pacific Palisades, Waldorf School members and the Self-Realization Fellowship, as well as numerous residents, objected to the proposed 60’9” mix-use development at the former Jack-in-the-Box site on western Sunset, because of size and lack of parking. Yet instead of addressing these concerns at their Zoom hearing on August 27, the Los Angeles Planning Commissioners instead lectured residents of Pacific Palisades.
It seems that the Commissioners had been told that the four low-income units promised by the project’s developer would be the very first affordable housing offered in Pacific Palisades. The Commissioners reminded residents, who live in a geographically isolated area of the City with no mass transit and spotty electrical and internet access, that it was time they changed their thinking.
One commissioner said, “No affordable housing is an indicator of a challenge to the community. I wonder if this is an inspiration for a reflection on a community to become more inclusive and be the community you want to create.”
A second commissioner asked if it was possible to give the developer the initially larger project he wanted, thereby showing Pacific Palisades residents their errors in being “NIMBYs”.
Commission Chair Samantha Milliman, who is vice president of a privately-held real estate firm in Los Angeles, explained to Pacific Palisades, “This is where we want to see affordable housing go in. This is precisely the development we need to see go in. This is an excellent project. It does have one flaw: it does not provide as many affordable units as I would like.”
Circling the News has reached out to the board twice by email and once by phone, to ask where they received the information that there was no affordable housing in the Palisades. Until the last two decadess, this town was known as a place where many families could afford a house.
Many tradespeople, including barbershop owner Joe Almarez, raised his family here. In an interview with Circling the News in March, Almarez said that the Palisades was a bedrock middle-class community when he moved here, though a variety of Hollywood stars also lived in various neighborhoods. He was surprised to find that the principal and many of his former teachers and coaches from Santa Monica High lived here.
Tahitian Terrace, a mobile home park, was built in 1960 and occupies the hillside at the corner of Temescal Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway, with more than 150 units. The Palisades Bowl, adjacent to Tahitian Terrace, was established in the 1890s as a Methodist camp at the base of Asilomar Hill, and has about 170 units. Further west is Malibu Village, a condo-mobile home park. All three parks overlook the ocean.
In 2010, when the owner of Palisades Bowl Mobile Home Park tried to force residents to buy the land that their homes were on, a court ruled in favor of the residents via the Mello Act, keeping rents affordable. (The Mello Act was enacted in 1981 “to preserve residential housing units occupied by low- or moderate-income persons or families in the coastal zone.”)
When the Palisades Highlands was constructed in the early 1970s, the Pacific Palisades Residents Association filed a lawsuit and negotiated construction of a low-income apartment complex at Palisades Drive and Sunset. There are 61 senior units and 39 family units ($1,200 a month), with two parking spaces for every unit. This affordable housing is less than a half mile from the proposed Jack-in-the-Box site. This is the result of an agreement with Headlands and the Coastal Commission in 1986, requiring that 100 units of affordable housing be built as a condition to allow the Highlands to be developed.
If the Planning Commission wanted more affordable housing, why not require the Jack-in-the-Box project to have 20 percent of the 39 units be affordable? There is already a glut of overpriced luxury developments in Pacific Palisades (such as the eight apartments in Caruso’s Palisades Village). The cost, according to a 2018 story is $16,000 a month for 1,352 square feet of living space. Apartment spaces ranging in size from 1,534 to 1,933 square feet were offered at $19,000 to $23,000. The three larger spaces, a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, were going for $33,000 to $38,000 per month for 2,211 to 2,524 square feet at that time.
As another example, there are 83 luxury hillside units on Tramonto across Sunset from the Jack-in-the-Box site.
Etco Homes of Beverly Hills and Arizona-based Taylor Morrison are marketing 53 condos: 38 four-and five-bedroom townhomes and 15 single-level condos. “One Coast’s collection of luxury residences, ranging from 2,810 to 5,017 square feet, pair the privacy of a single-family home with the effortless, lock-and-leave lifestyle that comes with a five-star resort,” according to the Los Angeles Business Journal. Reportedly the condos are priced in the upper $2 million price range. CTN called One Coast to ask if there were any affordable units.
“No,” was the answer.
Sea View Villas, a Geoff Palmer project on Castellammare, was approved for 29 units, but its website lists “27 luxurious apartment homes.” It notes that the apartments are “ultra-luxurious 3 bedroom/3 baths, 3,000 +/- sf and “each residence features glass windows that reach from floor to ceiling, giving residents sweeping ocean views. The spacious open design plan features three bedrooms with a private 3-car garage where you can park your cars and store surfboards, kayaks, and gear for you to take advantage of the proximity to the beach.”
Palisades residents fought to get some sort of affordable housing at this complex and three units were set aside. CTN called the Sea View Villas office on September 2 and was told those units had already been rented ($822 a month).
Now L.A. Planning Commission wants to add an additional 35 luxury apartments on the market to gain four affordable housing units. In the process, they defy the Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Specific Plan, arguing that this is “exclusionary zoning” (limiting building heights to 35 feet) and that the rest of the City is allowed to build to 45 feet.
The zoning laws are the law and until they are changed, the L.A. Planning Commission should follow the law.