Westside Coastline

Westside Coastline
Westside Coastline

Monday, August 18, 2014

PPCC Elections


The results of the election are final and I was unsuccessful in my bid to be re-elected to the position of Area 3 Representative.  I do wish to continue to serve the community and accordingly have applied to serve as the Area 3 First Alternate Representative.  If I am appointed to that position, I will continue to sit on the Pacific Palisades Community Council Board, will be actively involved in a number of board related activities and issues and will vote on Board resolutions at those times when the current Area 3 Representative is not present at meetings to vote.

As many of you who live in Pacific Palisades know, the Pacific Palisades Community Council is holding their once every two year elections for Area Representatives in the coming weeks.  I have served on the PPCC as the Area 3 Representative for the last four years and this year I am running for re-election.  Unlike prior elections, this year one candidate is running against me and several other Area elections will see multiple candidates running for office.

I thought it would be informative if I posted all of the public comments that I have made in the media and at public forums and elsewhere to give those who are interested a better understanding of my views on a variety of subject.  I'll also give fair warning that there are a lot of similarities in some of these statements because the main issues are pretty clear in my mind.  In any event, I hope you find this informative and enjoyable and if you live in Area 3, I hope I can count on your vote.

Voting in This Year's Election

Area residents have three ways to cast their vote this year for their PPCC Area Representatives
 1. Vote by mail ballot postmarked no later than September 5, 2014
 2. Vote in person at the Palisades Recreation Center on September 6, 2014
3. Vote in person at the Farmer's Market on September 7, 2014
Remember: only one vote per household is allowed.  Multiple votes from a single household will result in the cancellation of all votes from that household. 

Area 3 Boundary Definition
AREA 3   Marquez Knolls and both sides of Sunset Boulevard from Palisades Drive to Bienveneda Avenue, Saint Matthew’s School, and the Bel Air Bay Club, including the following:
1.      From Sunset Blvd. the western border is the eastern boundary of Area 2, north to 16882 Charmel Lane.
2.      The northern boundary is the southern border of Topanga State Park.
3.      The eastern boundary is the rear lot line of properties on the east side of Bienveneda and Shadow Mountain Drive., Via Anita and Via Cresta and thence westerly from 1479 Via Cresta to Bienveneda.
4.      Both sides of Bienveneda Avenue south to Sunset Boulevard excluding Las Pulgas Road.
5.      West on Sunset Blvd. to Baylor Street, south on Baylor and Las Casas to its southern terminus at Grenola and directly south to the Pacific Ocean

My PPCC Candidate's Statement

As a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty and a twenty year Pacific Palisades resident, I understand the importance of a strong community with dedicated volunteers.  I have supported that ideal through my service on the PPCC for the last four years as the Area 3 Representative.  I also support the community through active service on the boards of the Autry National Center, the California Art Club and the Central Coast Wine Classic charity auction.  It would be my honor and privilege to continue this service to the community as the Area 3 Representative for the next two years.

Richard Cohen, a former chair of the PPCC and an activist in my area sent a set of questions to both candidates.  Here are his questions and my replies.

I am interested in learning about your positions on various Area 3 issues.  Could I trouble you to let me know your views on a few matters?  
Where do you stand on the DWP distribution station issue?  Are you absolutely opposed to the proposed station being built on the DWP property adjacent to Marquez Elementary School?   Or do you see pros and cons of various locations?  Would you favor carving out land from Los Liones Park behind Fire Station 23 as a preferable location?  (Note that State Parks has indicated that that will not be allowed.)  What would you think of Bernheimer Gardens as a possible location?  How would you describe your attitude toward this set of issues? 
Are you familiar with St. Matthew's Parish request for relaxation of various conditions and restrictions on their use?  There is a pending case in which St. Matthew's have asked for city permission to increase enrollment to 384 (currently capped at 325), park in front of neighbors homes (currently forbidden) and relax other restrictions.  Many neighbors on Beinveneda and in the surrounding area organized to oppose expansion of St. Matthew's.  There is an unfortunate history of St. Matthew's violating their conditions. In the school year 1999-2000 and in every school year since 2002-2003, St. Matthew’s – by their own admission — has been in violation of their enrollment cap. Where do you stand on the issues pertaining to the tension between St. Matthew's and its neighbors? 
I look forward to hearing from you as I consider my vote for Area 3 representative. 
Warmest regards,
Richard Cohen   

Dear Richard, 
Thank you for your kind words, for your interest in Area 3 issues and for allowing me the opportunity to respond to your questions. 
As you know, I served on the DWP Taskforce before it was disbanded.  One thing I learned was that every site under consideration came with significant obstacles and limitations.  Among the parcels, four or five were located near schools.  We tried diligently (and successfully) to keep our recommendations focused on locations other than those close to schools.  I do not believe that such a facility should be placed near a school. 
The Tier 1 sites may or may not be the ones the LADWP ultimately decides to pursue.  We will not know until they announce their final candidates for CEQA review.  Regardless of which sites are under consideration, there will most certainly be lawsuits threatened or filed as the final location will affect the valuation of homes in the immediate vicinity. 
As for the two locations that you inquired about, the old Bernheimer Gardens site is subject to material geological issues that may make it unsuitable for development.  If selected as one of the candidates, it will be interesting to see how the LADWP intends to mitigate those issues.  As for the parkland, the State of California has made it very clear that they will not allow the use of any land in the Los Liones Park.  I do not see any reason to believe that they will change their position in this matter. 
All of this being said, it is imperative that we upgrade our electrical distribution infrastructure in the western portion of Pacific Palisades. We must work with the LADWP in whatever final site they decide to pursue while at the same time standing ready to challenge them on material issues that may affect the health and safety of the community.
I am very familiar with the St. Matthews Conditional Use Permit issues, more as a result of my prior membership on the MKPOA board than from the PPCC.  As you know, I have long supported constructive dialogue between St. Matthews Parish and the affected neighbors, something that St. Matthews seemed largely reluctant to pursue.  I am in agreement that St. Matthews must demonstrate its willingness and ability to stick with the current terms of the CUP, prior to entering any discussions regarding changes.  In my mind, those efforts to comply with the current CUP should be pursued at least during the entirety of the upcoming two year Area 3 Representative's term 
While I have your attention, i'd like to comment on a few other long term issues that are of interest to me.  I have been active in keeping an eye on bluff-side development proposals for multi-family properties along Sunset including the projects at 17000 Sunset and 17030 Sunset (Coaloa).  This is an area that is ripe for developer over-reach and one that requires constant vigilance. Also, I am anxiously awaiting the implementation of the Administrative Code Enforcement law to allow Department of Building and Safety officials to directly cite code violators.  Likewise, I would like to see improvements in the enforcement mechanisms for the Baseline Hillside Ordinance.  I see far too many new (post grandfathered) construction projects that completely baffle me as to how they comply with the ordinance. 
Certainly the central city redevelopment project to be undertaken by Caruso Associated is a project that many, including myself will be interested in monitoring.  Likewise, I am very interested in any efforts to amend and update the specific plan for the community. 
If you have any other questions regarding my candidacy, please do not hesitate to call or email me. 
I hope I can count on your support. 
Regards - Jim
Richard had one followup question to which I also replied.
I'm curious about your sentence:  " I am very interested in any efforts to amend and update the specific plan for the community."  I'm sure that we are all interested in this important issue.  As you know, there are those who feel that the specific plan is too restrictive and should be modified to allow denser development, third stories, mixed use, etc.  This has been couched in terms of possible trade-offs for other street-level benefits by some proponents.  On the other hand there are many community members who remember the pre-specific plan days of auto shops, billboards and general strip mall ambiance in the Village.  Personally I am on the side of those who consider themselves guardians of the specific plan.  Any changes to relax restrictions on development are likely to destroy the village feeling we have come to cherish.  Where do you currently find yourself on this question? 

Hi Richard,
In this instance, my general belief is that the specific plan that we have in place has served us well.  Though I know that a review process has been initiated by the city (and I don't profess to know a great deal about the details of it), my concern is that if we open up the plan for wholesale changes, the process will be so dominated by attorneys representing development interests that the citizen voice may well be overwhelmed ... something none of us wish to see (or hear).  Thus, if any changes are to be made, they should be done delicately, gingerly, sparingly and with great caution and careful consideration. 
I hope that helps clarify my thoughts on the issue. 
Regards - Jim 
Matt Sanderson, reporter for the Palisadian Post sent around a series of questions for all of the Area candidates and I replied to all of his questions.  I suspect his article will be published this week or next.

Hi Matt, 
Thank you for your questions.  It will be my pleasure to respond to them. 
Regards - Jim 
1. How long have you lived in Pacific Palisades and what are the three most important changes you’ve seen in that time? (100 words max) 
I have lived in the Palisades for 20 years in Marquez Knolls.   The most important changes that come to mind are the death of the downtown merchant district and the potential redevelopment of the area by Caruso Affiliated.  The PPCC has grown in stature, recognition and importance over the years.  The Farmer's Market on Sundays has proven to be a healthy gathering place for the community at large.  Finally, the impact of the internet on community relations activities is a very important development. 
2. What local issues are most important to you? (150 words max) 
The location. construction and operation of the new LADWP distributing station is an important development for the whole community, but particularly for my area where several highly controversial potential sites are located.  
We are always concerned with developer overreach, particularly in the areas along coastal bluffs on Sunset and stand ready to challenge inappropriate developer's plans with local planning authorities. 
The redevelopment of the central business district is likely one of the most important things to happen in the next 20-30 years and we must insure that it is well done without disabling specific plan protections that have guarded the community for several decades.
I look forward to Administrative Code Enforcement becoming law, allowing Building and Safety to cite code violators on the spot. 
We all have to become more mindful of sustainability / climate change issues such as water and energy availability, sea level rise and wild fire conditions. 
3. Where is Pacific Palisades going from here? (150 words max) 
I hope we manage to maintain the small town charm of today's Pacific Palisades.  There is little room for development growth, so new development will have to take place by creative reuse of existing properties.  I hope that such reuse is done with the spirit of our specific plan and character of our community in mind. As we look to refine our specific plan in the coming months and years, I hope that we do so with great care, protecting the planning laws that have protected our community so well in years past. 
4. Optional: What is your career and educational background? What are your hobbies? (50 words max) 
I love working in residential real estate with Sotheby’s International Realty serving Pacific Palisades and surrounding areas.  I have a BBA and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.  My professional specialties include finance, technology and marketing.  My hobbies include, photography, fine wine, fine art and travel. 

Finally, the PPCC held a candidate's forum last week where each candidate delivered prepared statements and answered questions from the audience.  This is the prepared statement that I delivered.

My name is Jim Rea.  My wife Jodie and I have lived in the Marquez Knolls neighborhood of Pacific Palisades for the last 20 years.  I work here and in surrounding communities as a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty.

I have served on the PPCC as the Area 3 Representative for the last four years.  I also served on the LADWP’s special taskforce regarding the location of the proposed Distributing Station in the western part of Pacific Palisades.  I also worked for four years on the board of the Marquez Knolls Property Owner’s Association.

I know that in order to maintain the value of our communities it is important to protect against unfair and unsafe development while at the same time respecting and protecting individual’s property rights.

I believe there are a number of highly relevant issues in my area including enforcement of the baseline hillside ordinance, the ability of the building and safety department to issue on the job citations for code violations (otherwise known as administrative code enforcement), protection of the coastal bluffs from irresponsible development and a strong and effective community care facilities ordinance.  That said, the upcoming site selection for the LADWP’s Distributing Station No. 104 will be a highly contentious event for the community in Areas 1, 2 and 3.  I am committed to doing everything I can to prevent the station from being built near any of the many schools in the area and will assist any property owner who has legitimate concerns about the location of the station.

As a Realtor, I regularly reach out to members of my local community and I always include a reminder that I am available as their Area 3 representative to assist them with any issues they may have.  In addition, I am excited about the ability to use Nextdoor.com to message local area residents about current issues.  I intend to continue and expand that outreach in the next two years.

As for the community at large, certainly the redevelopment of the central business district looms large on anyone’s radar screen, including mine.  As well, any efforts to reform, modify or update our specific plan is of vital interest to the community and to me.  Our specific plan has served us well in the past and any efforts to modify it must be done carefully, judiciously and sparingly.

Thank you.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pacific Palisades Parklet - To Be or Not To Be


At its September 11, 2014 meeting, the Pacific Palisades Community Council after hearing input from the community, passed two resolutions regarding this Parklet project and future proposed Parklet applications.

Passed 16 / 4

“The Pacific Palisades Community Council finds a consensus in favor of parklets in general but is opposed to the specific parklet proposed for the Alma Real and La Cruz intersection. Accordingly, PPCC requests that PRIDE withdraw its application and/or that the City reject or rescind its approval.” 

Passed Unanimously the following motion recommended by leadership of the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils (coalition of all 13 Neighborhood and Community Councils on the Westside of Los Angeles, of which PPCC is a member):

“WRAC urges the Mayor, LADOT and the City Council to amend the process for consideration of design and location of L.A. People St projects (including Plazas, Parklets and Bicycle Corrals) to include a requirement for advance notice to and consultation with Neighborhood and Community Councils. To the extent applicable, designs and locations should comply with local Specific Plans. We also urge the program to comply with CEQA as necessary.”
The City of Los Angeles introduced a program named "People Street" that is intended to transform neighborhoods across the city.  Administered by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LA DOT), the program seeks to transform portions of the 7,500 miles of streets into public spaces.

The program features three different types of spaces: Plazas, Parklets and Bicycle Corrals.  Working in collaboration with Community Partners, the program re-purposes a portion of the street in front of a designated property and converts it into a public space.

A Plaza is the largest facility and it converts a portion of a street into a public space with tables and chairs.

A Parklet expands the sidewalk into one or more on-street parking spaces to create people-oriented places.

A Bicycle Corral installs bike racks within on-street parking spaces or Plazas.

According to the program materials, the goals are to:

  • Convert underused street space into people space  
  • Emphasize streets as venues for social interaction and vibrancy
  • Support high-quality streetscape experience and improve the day-to-day life of the street
  • Create venues for community gathering, events and celebrations
  • Increase safety for people who walk, bike and take transit
  • Encourage increased levels of walking and bicycling which, in turn, support local business communities
  • Foster future investment in more capital intensive infrastructure to support walking and bicycling

 Community Partners can be a Business Improvement District (BID), a Community Benefit District (CBD), a Chamber of Commerce, a ground-floor business owner, a fronting property owner or other eligible Community Partner.  Those Community Partners agree to be responsible for the design, installation, operation, management and maintenance of the facility.

Here is an example of a completed Parklet (before and after) on Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles.

A Parklet Proposal for Pacific Palisades

Pacific Palisades PRIDE (PRIDE) is a non-profit organization that seeks to undertake projects to enhance the visual appeal of the Palisades, particularly in the business areas of the community.

A member of PRIDE's board brought information about the Parklet application process to the attention of the board which then voted to submit an application to see what happens.  PRIDE searched for property owners willing to participate in the program, which involves a commitment to maintain the Parklet and found a willing owner in Elliott Zorensky, owner of the property where Palisades Garden Cafe is located at the intersection of La Cruz Dr. and Alma Real.  PRIDE then submitted the application which LA DOT approved.

The PPCC invited various parties from PRIDE, City of Los Angeles and the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce to come discuss the project at the PPCC's July meeting.

At the PPCC meeting on July 10th, it became apparent that there were two principal concerns with the project.  The first concern was the lack of community input.  LA DOT had determined that the project was not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and so no environmental impact studies would be required.  At some indeterminate time in the future, according to LA DOT's schedule, they will open a 10 day period when the public may submit their comments regarding the proposal.

According to the City's People Street website, these are the next steps:
What’s next for these projects?
Prior to installation, LADOT will post public-notice posters at all approved project locations for 10 business days.  During this time, members of the public can submit public comments directly to LADOT via our website.

Additionally, LADOT will work with these Community Partners to collect baseline information about the site before project installation,  and guide them through the design development process.  People St looks forward to continuing to work with the approved Community Partners to create these innovative people-oriented spaces throughout the City!
The second concern focused on the proposed location.  Looking at the map above, it is clear that the site for the Parklet is at a (very busy) T-Intersection.  Furthermore, it is to be located a block away from Seven Arrows Elementary school and in the nearby proximity of two other schools (The Village School and Palisades Elementary Charter School).

Notwithstanding any decisions coming as a result of the public comment period, if the project goes forward, it will require a substantial fundraising effort to cover the cost of construction and maintenance of the Parklet.

After its meeting, the PPCC did address a letter to the City of Los Angeles pointing out a very recent traffic accident involving a downtown Parklet, asking the City to "reconsider the advisability of proceeding on a fast track with this or other parklets in light of potentially serious liability issues" while at the same time making it clear that the PPCC has no objections to the goals of the Parket program.  The full letter is available here.

A public forum is scheduled to be held this Thursday, August 7th at 7:00 PM at the Palisades Garden Cafe at 15231 La Cruz Dr.  The public is welcome to attend.

The PPCC will hold a second forum on the Parklet project on at its regular meeting on September 11 to solicit community input regarding the project.

For further information:

Pacific Palisade PRIDE

Pacific Palisades Community Council

LA City Parklet News

City of LA Parklet Manual