By Sue Pascoe
An agreement between neighbors may result in continued construction at 16815 Bollinger, in the Marquez neighborhood, after almost nine months of stopped work.
In early 2016, residents watched as the 1947 single-family dwelling and a detached garage on the 7,916 sq.-ft. lot was demolished. The posted notice said it was a remodel and that a Coastal Exemption had been granted.
New framing occupied much of the lot space and the roof line towered over neighboring homes. The neighbors repeatedly called the Department of City Planning, asking whether the city had seen the correct plans, and disputing that the project was a remodel.
After receiving numerous calls from neighbors, the city halted construction in April. In early July, the News contacted Luke Zamerini, chief inspector for residential inspection for the Department of Building and Safety, and asked for clarification on a remodel vs. demolition.
He replied in a July 11 email: “When a structure is completely removed, it is considered a demolition. If any portion of the structure remains and is built upon, it is considered a remodel.” (He added that the Los Angeles Building Code does not define a remodel.)
“These properties [house and garage] were both considered remodels with very specific plans as to what was to remain of the original structures. The Bollinger project was stopped because they removed more of the original structure than was presented to the Planning Department during the planapproval process,” Zamerini wrote.
The demolition plan indicated that at least 90 percent of the exterior walls would be removed, which exceeds the maximum allowed for a Coastal Exemption. This invalidated the Coastal Exemption and triggered the requirement to obtain a Coastal Development Permit.
When a project begins, a determination is made at the Development Services Center in City Planning on whether a project requires a Coastal Development Permit or if a Coastal Exemption can be granted.
A Coastal Exemption is given if the project involves 1.) improvements to existing single-family residence; 2.) improvements to any existing structure other than a single-family residence; 3.) repair or maintenance; or 4.) demolition required by the LADBA. “Per policy, under no circumstances should a Coastal Exemption be used for a project involving the removal of 50 percent or more of exiting walls,” according to Zamerini.
The 16815 Bollinger property was given an exemption on July 9, 2015, with the “understanding that less than 50 percent of the exterior walls would be removed,” the inspector said.
Upon discovering the error, City Planning instructed Building and Safety to issue an order to stop all work at the site.
The developer, Andrew Preston of Helios DRE (West Coast) Joint Ventures, based in Portland, Maine, appealed the order. He said that Building and Safety had erred its discretion in issuing a Notice to Stop Work and a Notice of Intent to Revoke the Building Permit.
At a Sept. 1, 2016 hearing, Bollinger neighbors told Associate Zoning Administrator Theodore Irving that work had been done without a Coastal Development Permit.
In his 14-page findings released on Oct. 27, Irving agreed with neighbors about a Coastal Permit.
Late November came and still the wooden frame and flapping plastic was an eyesore for neighbors, who wrote to Zamperini: “We have been made aware that private meetings are taking place with the developer, their representatives and the city. Why have permits not been revoked as you have stated previously? In addition, who within the City of Los Angeles government has met with the developer and/or their representatives?”
Zamperini responded that the September 1 hearing was based on the city issuing a stop notice, and that it was not about building plans or construction or the Coastal Permit.
“The Director of Planning determined that Building and Safety did not err or abuse its authority in issuing the aforementioned Notice. Although the Notice has been determined to be valid, the permits cannot be revoked at this time due the existence of a Coastal Development Permit application on file with the Department of City Planning. The outcome of this process will determine what, if any, will need to be dismantled.”
The neighbors continued to complain about the construction site, which one woman said had become a home to raccoons, and that the plastic that had been placed over the wood was tattered and an eyesore.
Zamerini responded in an email, “In the interim, I have contacted a representative for the developer regarding the state of the plastic sheathing that is intended to protect the structure from the elements. I am hopeful that they will do something to tidy it up.”
Steven Dersh, one of the neighbors, was contacted by developer Andrew Preston, who told him that someone in the city had asked Preston to call him.
Dersh contacted Zamperini and asked why Preston would contact him. “I don’t know who would have asked the developer to contact you,” Zamperini responded.
Dersh met with Preston and on behalf of his neighbors, and came to an agreement on December 20. In his letter to Zamperini, he wrote: “The owner of 16815 Bollinger Dr., Andrew Preston . . . has agreed to lower the height of the partially-framed home at that address. Mr. Preston agreed to lower the ceiling height of the second floor to eight feet and make the roof an unobstructed flat roof while not adding to the framing as it currently exists.
“Additionally, Mr. Preston agreed that they will not have a roof deck and will leave the room in the rear as single story. Based upon this agreement, we and our neighbors do not intend on opposing the development.”
Zamponi responded, “It is always good news when neighbors have reached consensus.”