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.
*Bart Bartholomhew. More parking is needed, 200 spaces or more. Too many employees park on the Alphabet Streets. There should be a third level of underground parking free to anyone working in town.
*Craig Au. Parking is a concern but larger houses are being built in the Alphabet Streets and younger people want to walk or bike to this project. The local use is not going to require lots of additional parking.
*Bill Bruns. Bill wrote an essay in the Palisades News objecting to a one way Swarthmore street. Alphabet Street residents want a third artery to get into town. If Swarthmore is closed, then folks go down Monument and Via and that just increases impacts on those two streets. The one way Swarthmore has advantages for the project but long term it is not a good thing for the residents.
*Erica Simpson. Small business owner (P2) on Swarthmore since 1999. Concerns are how construction is handled on Swarthmore and how that impacts other businesses, i.e., how can work be done without putting adjacent stores out of business. Rick said that ads and signage support retailers.
*Ron Aragon. His outreach efforts as a real estate agent have resulted in feedback from residents that is very, very positive and those voices (silent majority) are not always heard nor necessarily reflected in these meetings.
*LeeAnn Dailey. California modernism is part of the street now and the design should carry on. Culture and art should be reflected in the project with attention to noise and light. *Stacy Thompson – Riviera resident who is concerned with traffic and the draw of people into the Palisades. Her concerns are with the level of development overall in the Westside and this project is too large for such a small area with one road in and one road out (Sunset). She would like to see the project downsized and an EIR done for traffic, density and construction. Rick pledged to work to resolve construction issues.
*Flo Elfant – spoke in support of the project.
*Ron Dean – was on Marvin Braude’s Specific Plan committee. Ron stated that the Specific Plan committee did anticipate development like this and the committee was created back then to deal with big projects. Ron said that only one building is entitled to a 2.0 FAR and that applies just to the building. The 2.0 FAR applies only to one building with residential and the remainder of the project should be subject to a 1.5 FAR. David Kaplan responded by stating that it was possible to conceive a project going into that property with residential in each second story. Rick Caruso stated that he has met with Ron and they have a large disagreement on the Specific Plan but it is a moot issue because the proposal is to build less then what the Specific Plan allows. There is a FAR problem and spreading out does not solve it because CA is not proposing to build residential. The height is being measured from average height and not from the lowest height that is what the Specific Plan requires. Ron is not saying the height is terrible but where is the red line measurement for the Specific Plan? Ron reiterated that the plan did envision a large development. The 2-foot set back was to allow canyon views and open space between the buildings. David responded by stating that at the 1.5 FAR the development still complies at 107,767 square feet.
*Jewel Fahr – lives on Fiske and is worried about people who don’t want to pay for parking and how does that affect the Alphabet Streets. The street is already so congested and homeowners cannot park in front of their own homes. Rick said parking would be validated for people shopping at the project. Rick agreed that parking is already difficult in the Alphabet Streets and is supportive should the residents wish to pursue permit parking.
*Esther – retail store owner. Employee parking is not being addressed. Permit parking is inconvenient in terms of number of permits and how to meet guests. Her employees have a hard time parking and getting to the location.
*Jon Tower – how are people going to access the underground parking? They would come up Swarthmore. No one crosses Monument to get in.
*Ali Karimi – suggested that the Grove generates crime and he wants residents to look at the houses near the Grove that have bars on the houses. This project will bring crime and people who don’t leave in the Palisades to the Palisades. Rick stated that LAPD statistics are that crime around the Grove has dropped 42%.
*Bobbie Farberow. People wanted to be walking distance from Morts. This project gives residents a variety of businesses to walk to in the village. The City Attorney screwed up the Specific Plan and did not put in the ability for people to eat on the sidewalks and to have a drink in town. Mort paid for tables outside at their restaurant and in the streets. People want to eat out and sit on the sidewalks.
*Cabell Smith – lives on Fiske Street and wonders what the process is after the project is built if there are problems, i.e., what if it gets rowdy, what if valet parking is a nightmare? How does CA interface with the community after the project is done? Rick says he owns every project he has ever built, he lives 10 minutes from here and wants to visit with his family and be happy. There is an onsite management company. The residents are his guests and operations will be adjusted, like they have done with every project, as necessary.
*Kat Smith – moved to Pacific Palisades from Santa Monica; she does not want people coming here who did not live here. She is concerned about traffic, the one-way Swarthmore and how many future stores vs. how many stores there are now. She also wonders if the open space has been reduced in favor of more store space. Rick said the 10,000 square feet has always been the same as is on the plan and is larger then what CA has at the Grove. There are no destination retailers in the project, the market is only 10,000 square feet and given the amount of markets in adjacent communities it is not a real draw, and people from Brentwood/Santa Monica/Malibu already come to the Palisades. The theater is very, very small and an idea is to give 90272 residents priority when making a reservation.
-Jay Rosendahl – supports the project and making Swarthmore one-way on the grounds of safety.
-Allan Frankel – lives on Hartzell and is concerned with what the Grove has done negatively for surrounding areas and the noise factor. What is the illumination and will it impact seeing stars at night? The MND report from the City looks at noise and light illumination. The community has asked about operating hours and they are considering earlier closing hours for those businesses next to residential areas when compared to Sunset Boulevard. Tentative operating hours could be 9 pm or 10 pm closing during the week and perhaps a few hours later on the weekends.
-Ted Weitz – when discussed by PPCC in March 2015 it was stated that 80% would comply with the Specific Plan. Ted spoke in favor of the Specific Plan and how this project could be good without adjusting the Specific Plan (height, setbacks, etc.). Measurements are done so we don’t know what the heights really are.
-Lisa Morrin – are you aware of the changing sentiment in the Palisades, i.e., people don’t want the market now without a third level of underground parking and concerns over traffic. Would you eliminate the specialty market? CA says that their thousands of responses don’t reflect that sentiment. Rick addressed a rumor that there is not adequate parking and under any measure the project meets what Code requires, more than what the Code requires in fact.
-Rob Weber – lives next door to the park. He is concerned with parking and regardless of what the Code says the scope of development, employees and demand will bring people who don’t want to pay many of whom park at the Recreation Center. He would encourage CA to find more parking.
-Marge Gold – favors revitalizing the Palisades, however parking is a concern and there must be enough employee parking. The project started out as a face lift and now it is too large, i.e., the project should be scaled back. The Specific Plan should be supported and defended, now and for future developers.
-Mark Grinblatt – would like the alleyway kept as one way pointed towards Monument. If there was a light at the end and Swarthmore should be kept two ways. Alley way one-way and Swarthmore two ways.
-Rene Guardia – the community room is a very large space and where do those people park? Rick said the room was a response to what the community wanted and the intent is not for it to be general assembly; it is a local room for kids’ birthday parties.
-Robin Weitz – is concerned about the liquor licenses. In the Palisades why are more needed in the village, this is a family community and we are not all alcoholics. Rick explained that the area needs a diversity of restaurants and to attract good restaurants liquor licenses are needed. If someone has a full liquor license maybe they are placed closer to Sunset and away from residences. There are no bars or dance clubs proposed.
-Tracy Lundberg – when you exit the parking lot can you make a left on Monument? Rick said no. Tracy reiterated Sue Kohl’s concerns about how north residents of the Alphabet Streets get to their homes. Loading is back off the alley.
-Sandy Eddy – Via resident feels that the project is mansionizing the Palisades once again. She is hopeful that the project will be right sized to the community.
-Sean Masterson – lives behind the park. He is concerned about employee parking because employees use the park for parking illegally. Could the theater be a multi-use facility to include live acts?
-Andy Gavin – Goucher resident. Also concerned about traffic pattern of north Alphabet Street residents getting to and from home.
-Rena Repetti – the 2-foot setback in the Specific Plan seems like a wise thing and would add space to sidewalks. If the plan is to widen the sidewalks, then why is CA asking for a zero-foot setback?
-Reed Saxon – Wildomar resident. Concerned about parking not just in the project’s area but the overall affect on the community. He believes the project is under-parked and would like to see a third level of underground parking.
-Adam Glazer – President, Chamber of Commerce. Adam spoke in terms of supporting the project not only in 2017 but long term in the future.
-Kathryn – questioned the elevations at the Sunset corner being so much higher then the rest of the elevations. She would like to see the corner blend in with the rest of the community and not have the elevations go over 30 feet. Rick did say that there are 4 stories in the village and other buildings over 30 feet but CA is willing to adjust. Rick addressed the measuring using the average with the City because the street elevations decline.
-Lisa Peier – property values show a huge support for the project, people who buy here with young families are not represented here and they are very enthusiastic about the project. Please consider them although they are not represented tonight.
-Lynn Hylen – is employee parking included in the garage? Rick said that during peak periods employees are taken out of the garage or bussed in from other locations. CA has talked to Palisades High School about using their lot on off hours and over the weekend. Can the PPCC pass a resolution to require employers to provide employee parking?
5. Adjournment. Chris Spitz adjourned the meeting at 8:44 pm.