Vintage Grocers Proposed Store Hours in Pacific Palisades Upheld

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

The West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission voted down an appeal filed by Ted Weitz, on behalf of Protect Our Village, to limit the hours of operation by Vintage Grocers at Caruso’s Palisades Village on Sept. 6.

The appeal was listed on the agenda as addressing “A market offering the sale of a full-line of alcoholic beverages for off-site consumption.”

City Planner Kenton Trinh explained there were several appeal points, “specifically the hours of operation and the consistency between the agreement of the property owner [Caruso] and the appellant [POV].”

Vintage Grocers asked for operating hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but this differed significantly from the agreement with POV that developer Rick Caruso signed on April 27, 2016, after lengthy negotiations with several Alphabet Street neighbors who represented the larger POV group.

The West L.A. Area Planning Commission heard the appeal on September 6.

In the agreement, Caruso agreed that retail tenants in Palisades Village would operate daily between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Restaurant hours were specified as 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and bakery/coffee/breakfast operating hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Trinh said, “This document is not signed or authorized by City of L.A. and has no bearing on the decision for the Director of Planning.”

The Area Planning commissioners asked Planning Department representatives why the POV appeal was brought in front of them. They were reminded they hear all appeals.

Commissioner Lisa Waltz Morocco asked if a hearing was held about the determination. The answer was “no” and she said “a hearing is not necessary when a project is not controversial, but it seems like there are a lot of people here, so maybe it is [controversial].

“Is it under your purview to decide if it was controversial?” Morocco asked Planning staffers Trinh and Griselda Gonzales. Commission President Esther Margulies said, “I’ve received letters of support for this project from the PPCC, the Palisades Civic League, the BID and PRIDE, but did you receive any letters of support for the expanded hours?” Trinh said, “No record of support for the hours.” Margulies asked, “We were provided information about this document between POV and Caruso, [so] what would be the jurisdiction if anyone has an issue?”

Gonzales replied, “That would be outside City Planning-in the courts.”

Weitz, an attorney, spoke first. He said he represented 120 local residents who had raised objections [that were not being addressed by the Pacific Palisades Community Council] about traffic and other issues. He said he had given City Planning the signed agreement. The agreement addresses hours, traffic, parking, alcohol licenses and other concerns shared by numerous residents in the adjoining neighborhood.

“This agreement enabled Caruso to obtain approval from the Planning Commission with no opposition from anyone in the community,” Weitz said.

Morocco asked, “How many meetings did it take to get to this agreement?”

“We had four sit-down meetings with Caruso,” Weitz said. “We signed it on the eve of the Planning Commission hearing.” (On September 8, former Community Council President Chris Spitz was asked about the issues that POV had negotiated with Caruso and if the council had taken similar action. She replied by email the same day: “It was not the role of the VPLUC (Village Palisades Land Use Committee) to negotiate with Caruso and it did not do so.

The committee vetted the project so that the board and community could understand the parameters of what was being requested, and it made recommendations to the board based on what the members believed were in the best interests of the community at large. Similarly, the board looked at the project through that lens and took positions which reflected widespread community consensus and the best interests of the Palisades as a whole.”)

Sharon Keiser, representing Caruso Affiliated, noted that Vintage Grocers would be located on Sunset away from neighbors. “We’ve had overwhelming support and we’ve had strong support from the Pacific Palisades Community Council,” she said. Vintage Grocers Executive Director Daniel Barth spoke next.

“I personally represent the 200 people who work on the team and the 100 new team members who will help us launch the new store,” he said. Other Vintage Grocers are located in Malibu and Westlake Village.

Then, it was time for public comment, with each speaker allowed one minute.

Four people spoke in favor of the appeal.

Sixteen spoke to deny the appeal, including five people who also identified themselves as community council members, four with Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce affiliations and one from the Pacific Palisades Business Improvement District.

Said Tricia Keane, Councilman Mike Bonin’s Planning Director: “We heard overwhelming support from the community. I offer the councilman’s support.”

In his concluding arguments, Weitz said: “All we want is to uphold the conditions that Mr. Caruso agreed to when he bought off our opposition. I’m not sure if Vintage Grocers even knew about the agreement.”

Commissioner Joe Halper responded, “Since we’ve narrowed the challenge, is it by right? Do we have the authority?”

Caruso’s Keiser interjected, “Clearly the agreement did not address a grocery store.” Planning’s Gonzales said, “A grocery store is defined as a retail store, but there is no definition of hours they may operate in the city.”

“The hours are in disagreement and I am disappointed that it [the signed contract] is not being honored,” Halper said. “But, our commission does not have jurisdiction over this matter.”

Commissioner Morocco told the Planning Department representatives, “I’m troubled that this [POV] agreement spoke for 120 people. I wish there had been a hearing.”

By a unanimous vote, the appeal was denied.

(A recording of the nearly two-hour meeting is available on planning.lacity.org.)

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