Editorial: Mr. Caruso and the Protect Our Village Agreement

By Bill Bruns
Palisades News Adviser

On April 27, 2016, following four meetings with residents who had organized under the name Protect Our Village (POV), developer Rick Caruso signed a four-page agreement related to his Palisades Village project.

Caruso’s plans for his major commercial development on Swarthmore Avenue, adjacent to a residential neighborhood, faced a crucial vote by the L.A. Planning Commission the next day, and he wanted a guarantee that POV would support his project and not litigate at any point in the city’s approval process.

In return, the POV group (with more than 120 signed-up members), sought specific guarantees and restrictions that would help protect the Alphabet Streets neighborhood from traffic and street-parking issues and early-morning and late-night commotion.

Rick Caruso speaking to a packed Mercer and Gilbert Halls at Palisades High School in 2014.

The resulting Caruso-POV agreement contained “a set of mutually acceptable project features and operating requirements for the Palisades Village Project,” Caruso wrote, and he vowed that Caruso Affiliated “shall be obligated to cause the project requirements summarized here to be set forth in either (a) city-imposed conditions of project approval, or (b) a private agreement.”

As we know, Palisades Village construction is progressing on schedule, tenants are signing up (a movie theater, an ice cream store, an Italian restaurant, a jewelry store and a specialty grocer), and we can anticipate a grand opening about a year from now.

The restoration of Swarthmore was long overdue, and Caruso’s projects are all successful, yet it’s vital to neighboring residents—and the community at large— that we not lose sight of the important conditions and guarantees in the Caruso-POV agreement.

A glitch in this whole process occurred on September 6, when the West L.A. Area Commission rejected POV’s appeal of the city’s decision to allow Vintage Grocers to operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Caruso agreement limits retail hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but there’s no mention of grocery stores in the agreement because the POV negotiators were adhering to the Palisades Specific Plan, which defines grocery stores as retail. So for now, Caruso’s tenant wins the case.

Vintage Grocers, which has signed to open in Palisades Village, has asked for store hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. According to an agreement signed, the store is only entitled to hours 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As the Palisades Village plans unfolded, and public meetings were held, Alphabet Street neighbors began to realize they needed to find a way to protect themselves against the impacts that will be inflicted by this shopping, dining and entertainment complex. Lacking any supporting actions by Councilman Mike Bonin, the Community Council and the Chamber of Commerce to effectively protect their neighborhood, residents created POV. And ultimately, the POV reached a number of important agreements with Caruso, several of which benefit the entire community. For example:

  • POV secured 2-hour free validated parking for everyone at Palisades Village, and 3-hour free parking for the movie theater. This should help lessen the temptation to park on neighboring streets.
  • POV obtained a commitment from Caruso that all Caruso tenants are required to have their employees park onsite—a critical issue that should help minimize parking impacts on Via, Monument, Embury, Fiske and Galloway and could prevent the need for permit parking on these streets.
  • POV secured commercial pick-up and delivery hours and locations that will not interrupt residents in the early hours and late at night
  • POV set guidelines restricting on-site advertising, and limited signs readily visible from the adjacent residential streets.
  • POV saved the proposed community room for various organizational meetings (hours will be 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven days a week, with 3-hour free validated parking).
  • POV got Caruso to agree to provide funding for traffic or roadway improvements in the immediate vicinity of the development. Caruso Affiliated will meet with residents to identify the specific improvements to be funded.

Caruso ended his POV agreement document by stating, “We look forward to continuing to work with you to make the Pacific Palisades Village Project a reality that the whole community can enjoy.”

We trust that this optimistic and cooperative spirit will continue to prevail after the VIPs cut the ribbon on opening day.

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