Proposed Retaining Wall for Eldercare Facility Called the “Great Highlands Wall”

Some residents have called the proposed 280 ft. retaining wall for the Highlands Elder Care facility, the Great Wall of the Highlands after the Great Wall of China.

During the last weeks of June, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety okayed the building, grading and excavation, shoring and wall permits for the controversial Palisades Highlands eldercare facility.

On June 25, the wall, which was originally listed as a maximum in height of 10 feet, was changed to 280 feet long and a maximum 10 feet in height.

At the West L.A. Area Planning Commission (APC) hearing in April 2018, only a small retaining wall was shown. “Certainly, this new ‘Great Wall of the Highlands’ would have been a focus of our arguments before the ZA and at the APC and Coastal Commission,” Highlands homeowner Harris Leven said in a July 5 email to Circling the News.

On February 23, CTN reported that APC Commissioners voted to rescind the Magur family’s permits for a deck into Potrero Canyon because of view impairment. The commissioners felt the deck would detract from the Canyon’s beauty.

Some Highlands residents argue that the eldercare “Great Wall,” which would stretch nearly the length of a football field and would be visible from the City’s Santa Ynez Canyon Park and Topanga State Park, would be more offensive than a deck.

Residents who oppose the Highlands eldercare project also argue that the Pacific Palisades Community Council is being hypocritical by supporting this project. On June 15, the PPCC Executive Committee sent a letter to a California State Senate committee opposing high-density housing in Very High Fire Severity Zones, warning of the dangers of wildfire and the hazards of having to evacuate more people.

The residents say that PPCC and its land use committee ignored those same arguments in early 2018 and that two members (Richard Cohen and Chris Spitz, both of whom are on the executive committee), filed a letter and a brief with the APC supporting the project. Residents point to Chris Spitz’s brief, which contained a paragraph in which she dismissed the fire hazard argument.

CTN contacted PPCC Chair David Card about the seeming contradiction. He responded in a July 7 email,  “The Pacific Palisades Community Council Board voted on and approved a motion on November 2, 2017 regarding the Highlands Eldercare project, which was conveyed by letter to the City’s Assoc. Zoning Administrator, Department of Planning.” (PPCC stated that an eldercare facility was appropriate use, but noted that there were community concerns about height, safety, access, noise, disruption and proximity to zoned open space.)

“On April 13, 2018, PPCC’s Chair sent a letter to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission explaining PPCC’s motion.” (The letter stated that by saying the elder care facility was an appropriate use, it was not intended to imply support for the project.)

Card stated that “Your reader is confusing positions on the Eldercare project that may have been taken by individuals (who have every right to make their individual positions known) with positions taken by PPCC.”

Last October, the Palisades Fire, which broke out on the canyon hillside along Palisades Drive, forced closure of the road, and during the days of mopping up the fire, alternate lanes of cars were allowed access to the Highlands.

More recently, nursing homes have come under scrutiny because about half of the people who have died from Covid-19 in Los Angeles County resided in assisted living/nursing homes.

On June 22, Highlands resident Steve Cron wrote in a letter to CTN that the proposed four-story, 64,646-sq.-ft. eldercare facility was more than “twice the size of any other building in the Highlands, it will block views of the mountains by homeowners, and it doesn’t comply with local, state and coastal zoning laws.”

In a plea for money to support an ongoing lawsuit, Cron wrote: “I believe that the PPRA has a good chance to prevail on appeal but appeals take money. If no appeal is filed, it’ll all be over, and you can probably expect to see construction begin this summer or fall.”

Leven stated that he expects construction to start this summer even if an appeal is filed. The developer, Palisades Drive LP, would proceed at its own risk subject to being forced to modify or tear down the construction if the appeal is successful.

The proposed Highlands eldercare building is too large by code. The developer now says the project will include a bistro. A retaining wall would be built on the canyon side of the project.
Rendering: Urbanize LA

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1 Response to Proposed Retaining Wall for Eldercare Facility Called the “Great Highlands Wall”

  1. Harris Leven says:

    I find Mr. Card’s explanation of the PPCC’s actions in November 2017 to be disingenuous especially given its testimony at the April 2018 Area Planning Commission Hearing. In voting to find the eldercare facility “an appropriate use” as tepid as that was and even with all the caveats about community concerns, the PPCC well knew that its vote would be touted by the developers as broad community support for the project. Then, Mr. Howard Robinson appeared at the Area Planning Commission Hearing on April 18, 2018 not as an individual, but as the representative of the PPCC and at the request of the PPCC President to present the “official PPCC recommendation.” Mr. Robinson read the PPCC statement and then went on to say, “The point is that the PPCC board after hearing all the testimony felt that the use for a senior living facility at this location was fine. And we specifically rejected the arguments of some of the community members that said, ‘It’s not safe; it’s not appropriate.’ So we felt the use was okay” (Hearing transcript page 43, line 4 through page 44, line 16). The reader was not confused; Mr. Card forgot what the PPCC actually said.

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