Court Rules Palisadian-Post’s Illegal Signs Can Go Up

By Sue Pascoe

The Palisades Design Review Board and the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission ruled that the two proposed Palisadian-Post signs for the parapet of the 881 Alma Real building were illegal because they were oversized and did not follow the town’s specific plan.

The Post appealed these decisions, and on March 29 a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled not on the illegality of the signs, but rather on the Permit Streamlining Act. She said the city had violated this act and, pending further appeals, the signs will be allowed to go up.

Los Angeles Government Code section 65956 states: “In the event that a lead agency or a responsible agency fails to act to approve or to disapprove a development project within the time limits required by this article, the failure to act shall be deemed approval of the permit application for the development project.”

The proposed illegal sign for the 881 Alma Real Building is 27 ft. long x 51 inches high.
The proposed illegal sign for the 881 Alma Real Building is 27 ft. long x 51 inches high.

In its defense, the city did not argue that it had failed to approve or disapprove the application within the applicable time limits, but rather argued that “public notice required by law never occurred,” which meant the application was never deemed approved.

The attorney for Palisadian-Post owner Alan Smolinisky argued that the Design Review Board’s public hearing notice on April 30, 2015, satisfied the requirement.

Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue agreed with the Post in her ruling.

In making its determination in March 2016, the DRB ruled the signs illegal because of size and the Village Neighborhoods Specific Plan, which specifies “For all buildings occupied by several businesses or uses, the size of signs pertaining to each business or use is governed by the proportion of the building frontage occupied by that business or use.”

The three-story Alma Real building, owned by Eri Kroh, founder and president of Sandstone Properties, is 89,856 sq. ft. The Post rents a second-floor office space of 2,600 sq. ft.

The largest tenant in the building is Berkshire Hathaway, which does have a sign on the building. Regional Vice President John Closson was asked if he knew about the proposed Post signs.

“Yes, I am aware of it,” he said, but did not wish to comment. He added, “Our signage is consistent with the terms of our agreement with the landlord.”

A telephone message and email were left for Kroh, the building’s owner. The News was contacted by a representative who had not seen the latest court ruling, so the News shared a copy.

At last Thursday’s Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting, a board member asked if the council could sue the city for its inaction that led to the signage snafu.

President Maryam Zar said she had spoken to three lawyers, all of whom had told her it was not feasible.

Audience member Ted Weitz, an attorney, disagreed. He said that the “‘nonfeasance’ or ‘misfeasance’ of city government, which has resulted in damage to the community, is actionable.”

“In my opinion, the action by the Palisadian-Post in not accepting the findings and recommendations of the DRB, the determination by the city, and the later Area Planning Commission, that the Post’s signs were improper, warrants a formal response action by the Community Council,” Weitz said.

He noted that if the Post places the signs on the building, “The council should formally and publicly censure the Post for the Post’s disregard of the wishes of the community.” That would include that the members of the council who advertise in the Post should cease doing so.

“We have recently seen a proliferation of oversized commercial advertising and overly illuminated signs throughout the community,” Weitz said. “The concept of a what we once knew as a ‘village’ has now become a ‘city.’”

Rick Mills, the Area 4 representative and former DRB president, made a motion that the Community Council’s executive committee write a letter to Smolinisky asking him to show his support and respect for the community as demonstrated by the denial of his proposed large parapet-level signage at the top of the Palisades Village Center office building by both the Pacific Palisades Design Review Board and the West L.A. Area Planning Commission.

The council had previously written a let- ter to the WLAAPC in support of this po- sition. Mills said that the processing errors by the city’s planning department should have no bearing on what is appropriate and beneficial for our community.

After a friendly amendment to Mills’ motion, the PPCC will write a letter to Smolinisky asking him not to place the signs on 881 Alma Real. It carried 19-0, with Reza Akef abstaining.

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