Caruso Project Moves Forward

By SUE PASCOE, Editor



Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 5.27.48 PM.pngRick Caruso’s Palisades Village development cleared an important hurdle on April 28 when the L.A. City Planning Commission approved the project.

Caruso’s plans must now be approved by the City Council’s Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) Committee before a vote by the council itself, likely in June. Construction could start in mid-July.

After the hearing, Brentwood resident Caruso said, “We are thrilled that we received this approval and that the appeal by Jack Allen was denied. The community did a tremendous job of working together to help make this happen. Although we are not yet done with entitlements, and need final City Council approval, this is a big step forward.”

Palisades Village, covering 3.11 acres on Swarthmore, Monument and Sunset, will require demolition of six buildings, the Mobil station and two surface parking lots. New construction will include eight buildings, eight residential units (overlooking Sunset) and a subterranean parking structure for 470 vehicles.

Last Thursday’s four-hour hearing in Van Nuys was conducted in front of Planning Commissioners David Ambroz (president), Renee Drake Wilson, Robert Ahn, Caroline Choe, Richard Katz, Veronica Padilla-Campos and Dana Perlman, plus director Vincent Bertoni.

The Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce paid for two luxury buses to transport residents who wanted to speak at the hearing.

First considered was Jack Allen’s 24-page appeal of the City’s Advisory Agency decision regarding Caruso’s application. Allen, a former Beverly Hills city attorney, filed on behalf of the Palisades Preservation Association. He could not attend the hearing and was represented by his lawyer, John Murdoch.

Allen argued that unless the applicant provided free parking to employees and validated parking for customers, they would park in adjacent streets; that the City document (Mitigated Negative Declaration) did not discuss hours of operation for establishments serving alcohol; that the MND did not address entertainment events that could result in excessive noise; that the MND did not address the impacts of the haul route; that key elements of the Palisades Specific Plan were either ignored or incorrectly interpreted; and that although Caruso’s traffic consultants had studied nearby intersections and said there would be no significant impact, they had not adequately studied traffic circulation and that converting Swarthmore into a one-way street should be denied.

City Planners Michelle Levy and Lekisha Hull then presented their findings, and Caruso spoke on behalf of his project and showed a video.

During the public comment period, a long line of residents endorsed the project and said they wanted Allen’s appeal denied.

One resident, concerned that mall patrons would drive into the adjacent neighborhood looking for parking, asked if sensors could be placed on Swarthmore to let people know via a sign that on-site parking was available. Another resident worried that if employees are required to park in the subterranean lot, there might be little room for customers.

The commissioners then began their deliberations.

They asked about the haul route and were told that it was not part of the planning deliberations; the issue will go before the Building and Safety Commission.

Two commissioners addressed the architecture and felt that perhaps blending the early mission style and 1950s contemporary that is found in the Village area should be addressed. They were booed by residents in the audience who wanted Cape Cod. The other commissioners did not take a stand on the architecture, with Ahn stating, “I’m hesitant to go into design. Rick Caruso has a good track record.”

The commissioners addressed one speaker’s belief that the 100-plus trees growing on the property are healthy and should be replanted, rather than destroyed. She was told that a City arborist had concluded that the existing trees have lived their useful lives, and will be replaced at about a 2:1 ratio.

The commissioners addressed parking and asked Caruso to have a seasonal parking plan. If stores hire extra workers and there’s no room for parking in the garage, Caruso will shuttle them free to off-site parking.

According to the MND, 60 of the 470 spaces in the structure will go to employee/ tenant parking. Caruso said he would enforce it to keep employees off neighboring streets, and he would investigate parking sensors on Swarthmore.

The commissioners liked the green space inside the project, but wanted it more open, so that people could use it as a public park and wouldn’t feel they had to buy something to use the space. To that end, the commissioners requested a low wall (4 ft.) and if there’s a gate, it will remain unlocked.

Commissioner Wilson said she was glad to see that the farmers market would continue on Swarthmore, but wondered why the Community Room was removed.

“Not enough parking,” said Caruso, who offered to reinstate a modest community room if the City will allow parking requirements to be lessened.

President Ambroz commented, “I’m shocked at the lack of opposition for a project this size. Mr. Caruso has done a lot of outreach. I see a united community behind this project.”

The commissioners asked for the following from Caruso before his project goes before the PLUM Committee:

1.) During construction, where possible, the use of solar or electric generators instead of diesel.

2.) A minimum number of transportation passes for employees.

3.) A Transportation Demand Program in place, which helps reduce vehicle demand and peak-hour trips associated with the project.

4.) A lower wall along Monument and permeable paving where allowed by code.

5.) EV charging stations to be placed on Swarthmore.

6.) A community room.

The commissioners then voted, beginning with Jack Allen’s appeal. His lawyer, Murdoch, said that all the issues had been resolved, with the exception of a one-way Swarthmore.

The Commissioners voted to deny the appeal, and then voted to approve the project.

 

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