MINUTES FOR NOVEMBER 18th 2015
[Special Meeting to address the Caruso Village Project]
Voting Members in Attendance: Chris Spitz, Maryam Zar, Jennifer Malaret, Richard Cohen, Janet Anderson, Sue Kohl, Rick Mills, George Wolfberg, Cathy Russell, Reza Akef, Bruce Schwartz, Nancy Niles, Gil Dembo and Todd Wadler.
Voting Alternates: David Kaplan, Linda Lefkowitz, Susan Payne, Eric Dugdale, Alan Goldsmith and Laura Mack.
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Schuyler Dietz and Ron Dean.
Start of Business Meeting. Chris called the meeting to order at 6:38 pm.
1. Reading of Community Council’s Mission. Chris Spitz read the Mission Statement.
2. Chair’s Statement and Introduction. Chris welcomed everyone to this special meeting of the PPCC Board to address the Caruso Affiliated/Village Project land use application. She explained that the Village Project Land Use Committee had prepared a preliminary report to the Board on the subject of the land use application and that David Kaplan, the Committee Chair, would deliver the report. She further explained that after the report there would be remarks from Mr. Rick Caruso. Questions and comments from Board members would follow Mr. Caruso’s remarks and after that there would be public comment. Chris stated that she would explain the ground rules for the public comment period later in the meeting. She noted that everyone in the audience who wished to comment was asked to fill out a Speaker Card. She then introduced Andy Frew as the public comment “timer” tonight. Board members also made their introductions. Chris further acknowledged and thanked Mr. Caruso and his team for attending, and the Rec. Ctr. staff and in particular Park Director Erich Haas for hosting the meeting and setting up the room. Thanks as well to the Chamber of Commerce and Movies in the Park for the additional microphones and audio equipment.
3. Certification of Quorum. Chris certified that a quorum was present at 6:40 pm.
4. Meeting Topic:
Village Project / Caruso Affiliated Land Use Application/Plans (“the Application”). The Application may be viewed at: http://www.palisadesvillageca.com/ (See FAQs, Sec. 9). Background: Chris stated that out of necessity, time for individual comments will be limited. Those who wish to submit additional comments may email their respective PPCC Area Representative, as indicated below, with a cc to firstname.lastname@example.org. No action will be taken on November 18, 2015. PPCC may or may not take a position after further discussion; any future position, if taken, would be advisory only to City officials. The City, not PPCC, is the decision-making entity with respect to the Application.
(1) Village Project Land Use Committee (VPLUC) Report.
VPLUC Chair David Kaplan. David Kaplan read the report. The report is located on PPCC’s website. Chris commended the committee for their hard work and efforts going forward.
The applicant/Caruso Affiliated (“CA”), Rick Caruso. Rick talked about the multiple meetings CA has had with the community. It has been the community that pushed and designed the project. The residents said they wanted the theater back, a park open to the public, more parking and a specialty market. With that input CA began its designs. CA believes it can build more than 200,000 square feet but under any scenario it is building less than what it is entitled to. Parking meets Code. CA is suggesting that Swarthmore become a one-way street with a mandatory right turn at Monument. The one-way street encourages a family friendly pedestrian serving area by slowing down traffic, encouraging walking and easy to cross. With the one-way street the Swarthmore parking will be in addition to Code, angled parking is easier to maneuver and adds 9 spaces. Sidewalks can be widened and cafes/seating can be added on Swarthmore. CA will go back to a two-way street if that is what the residents want but thinks that a one-way street is more beneficial. The Farmer’s Market will continue. The specialty grocer is accessed on the Sunset side and accessed from the two level underground parking. The entrance is off the alley that is why the widening of the alley is being proposed, i.e., traffic circulation will be taken away from Monument. The theater is located where it is due to sloping along Albright so the theater can be tucked underground and not visually be seen as a big box. The sign is the original design and has been reduced from 40 feet and is now back down to 30 feet which complies with the Specific Plan. The current Specific Plan requires floor to ceiling not be greater than 27 feet and CA complies with that; no more then 2 stories and CA complies with that; the exception is to have height beyond 30 feet for architectural articulation and the maximum for architectural elements should be no more then 4 feet above the Specific Plan. If the community does not want the variance, then 30 feet works also and CA will build flatter buildings. Residential is 8 apartments to be on the second floor at Swarthmore and Sunset. The amount of stores will vary with smaller, curated, community based stores desired. 60-70 stores would be possible if very small but likely many of the stores will be combined due to building codes requiring bathrooms and access. National tenants are not being sought. Restaurants should span from quick formats to restaurant dining. Good restaurants want to serve alcohol and one of those licenses will go to the theater. The theater has 300 seats and screens, very small and roughly the same size as the theater which used to be in the Palisades.
(3) Questions/Comments, PPCC Board members.
(1) Alan Goldsmith wondered what the gross rents per square foot will be and is concerned about national tenants. CA does not publicize rental rates and national tenants are not supported by the area or project size. CA is giving first priority to existing retailers. (2) Gil Dembo spoke in support of CA taking control of the project as one cohesive development, prioritizing that rather than maximizing revenue. (3) Nancy Niles asked about having Swarthmore become a pedestrian only street. Rick rejected that idea because convenient parking supports the businesses; however, he suggested that from a programming standpoint the street may be closed down for holidays and perhaps on Sundays were the community wanting to expand the Farmer’s Market feeling. (4) Eric Dugdale spoke in favor of CA as the developer, but stressed that the project is being done without an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Eric stated concern with the toxic remediation given the source of contaminants (dry cleaners) and compared a plume also caused by a dry cleaner down in Marina del Rey. Eric wants residents to be aware of the plume. Rick stated that an EIR is not needed to determine any environmental issue. When CA bought the property they were aware of the environmental issue and the State’s DTSC investigated and determined remedial measures for this site. The good news is that the toxic plume has already been dealt with. The Mobil site will be tested and that soil will be remediated as well. CA is well aware of the plume of water and any possible contaminants; currently enzymes and required measures are being taken. The state has a report and the soil is cleaned up. The water will likely be treated for years. The other alternative is to go down 50-60 feet and pump all the water out but the State does not require that and it is not physically possible. This site does not connect to the aquifer so there is no danger in terms of drinking water. The project will be processed under an MND such that an EIR will not be required. Eric spoke a second time about chemicals in the soil and the plume with cancers; he wants to know what an EIR would reveal. (5) Sue Kohl spoke on behalf of the northern part of the Alphabet Streets. The concern is that if with a forced right hand turn those folks will have a hard time getting home because they have to circle around also. Keeping it to be a right and left turn would help those residents and maybe leaving it as a two-way turn and seeing if there is a problem then later impose a right hand only turn requirement. Rick stated that it is up to the neighborhood. (6) Susan Payne spoke in support of the project and ability of residents to stay here and enjoy the Palisades village area without having to get into their cars. Also Rick Caruso will help ensure a better mix of tenants. (7) Maryam Zar asked about security and whether the project will attract panhandlers and transients. Rick stated that the project is being designed for the community not for people coming in from other areas. There is a homeless problem throughout the City and in the Palisades. Currently CA has 24-hour security that encourages transients to move along or they provide assistance for them to relocate. CA has a zero tolerance for crime, graffiti or trash. CA just agreed with LAPD to have a dedicated foot patrol at the Grove and would like to have that here in the Palisades. CA has also joined the BID and would like to be good corporate neighbors. (8) David Kaplan spoke in favor of residents being able to leave their cars and enjoy the village. (9) Reza Akef asked about what happens to the streets and sidewalks surrounding the property after the impacts of heavy construction equipment. Would there be a commitment by CA to improve the streets and sidewalks not only in their own project but surrounding? Rick stated that the design does include sidewalks and trees outside the project, CA has never left a pothole on any street surrounding their projects and is happy to commit to sound streets. Reza expressed that young families and parents really want this project but are not represented here this evening.
(4) Public Comment on the Application.
Comments were called in alphabetical order based upon preferences indicated first against, for and then mixed. Following completion of these remarks, Chris announced that public comment was now closed.
5. Adjournment. Chris Spitz adjourned the meeting at 8:44 pm.