By Sue Pascoe
The proposed senior assisted living facility in the Palisades Highlands was approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Department on Jan. 26.
According to Henry Chu, the associate zoning administrator who heard the case and wrote the 32-page letter of determination (with an additional 31 pages of exhibits), the project is well within the city zoning requirements.
Chu also approved a Coastal Development Permit for the 82-unit facility that will be located at the corner of Palisades Drive and Vereda de la Montura on a 43,033-sq.-ft. vacant lot located between a small business complex to the south, condominiums to the north and parkland to the west.
The project also received a categorical exemption under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“We are extremely pleased with the city’s recent decision to approve our application for the eldercare facility in the Highlands,” said developer Rony Shram in a February 2 email to the News. “We are happy to move one step closer to bringing much needed, quality senior living to this wonderful community.”
Resident Robert Flick spoke for Highlands residents who opposed the project and were united under HUG (Highlands United for Good).
“I was disappointed in the ruling, which approved the developer’s applications for site plan review approval, coastal development permit and categorical exemption from CEQA review,” Flick wrote in a February 1 email. “Although the project might pass muster under the city’s zoning ordinance, that is only part of the equation.
“The ZA’s approval ignored the dozens of neighborhood and regional protections contained in the California Coastal Act, the California Environmental Quality Act and the Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Community Plan,” Flick said. “Accordingly, I plan to appeal, and I understand that many others intend to do so as well.”
Zoned Commercial. According to Chu’s Letter of Determination, under “Findings of Fact,” the land is designated commercial, and an assisted living facility falls under that zoning.
FireZone. According to the January 26 determination letter, the building would be located in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, but correspondence from September 26 and 27, 2017 from LAFD’s Assistant Chief Patrick Butler says that there is nothing unusual or dangerous about the eldercare facility use or the property that pose any realistic or unique risk of danger to the residents or the surroundings. According to Butler, “Stringent building codes and brush fire clearance in Los Angeles provide the necessary safety for these buildings to be properly built and protected.”
Environment. Chu wrote that in a study prepared by Meridian Consultants who analyzed the project, they determined the project would not have a significant impact on the environment, and also determined the use would have less of an impact than an apartment/condo, office building or shopping center.
Traffic. The project does not exceed the threshold criteria established by LADOT for preparing a traffic study, according to the Letter of Determination.
Height. Within limit for the C1 Zone and LAMC Section 12.21.1-B, 2. “The proposed building ranges from 25 to 45 feet within four stories and complies with the transitional height provisions of the Municipal Code. The building does not exceed 33 feet in height between 50 feet and 100 feet from the open space-zoned property area. The remainder of the building does not exceed maximum height of 45 feet,” Chu wrote.
CALIFORNIA COAST ACT
Chu approved the Coast Development Permit because the facility will not interfere with public access or recreational opportunities to coastal waters, since it is 2.5 miles from the coast. The marine environment will not be impacted.
He notes that regarding land resources, the site is void of vegetation and no trees will need to be removed. There are no archaeological or paleontological resources known to exist on or near the property, and since the project is 2.5 miles from the ocean, scenic and visual qualities of coastal areas will not be impacted.
The project also received a categorical exemption under CEQA Guidelines (page 19 of the document) because it follows: 1.) the general plan and applicable zoning regulations; 2.) the project is within city limits on a site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by urban uses; 3.) the site is not a habitat for endangered, rare or threatened species; 4.) there will be no significant effects relating to traffic, noise, air quality or water quality; and 5.) it can be served by all required utilities and public services.