Palisades Highlands Trail Gate Re-Opened

By Sarah Stockman
Palisades News Reporter

The gate to the parking lot and restrooms at 16701 Via La Costa at the base of the Temescal Ridge Trailhead in the Palisades Highlands was re-opened to the public as of August 5.

The action was in response to the Palisades News article and a Notice of Violation of the Coastal Act sent by the California Coastal Commission to 1205- 1207 Wooster Street LLC on August 3.

In the Notice, Jordan Sanchez, enforcement officer at the Coastal Commission’s South Coast office, explained how closing the parking lot and restrooms violated the original permit granted to Headland Properties Associates in 1993.

The gate to the Temescal Ridge Trailhead was reopened. Photo: Sarah Stockman
The gate to the Temescal Ridge Trailhead was reopened. Photo: Sarah Stockman

“Un-permitted development activities and development inconsistent with the Permit have occurred on the . . . property owned by 1205-1207 Wooster Street LLC including, but not limited to, the placement of a locked gate or other structure that blocks access to a public parking lot and public restroom facility and the locking of the public restrooms,” the Notice states.

Wooster Street was given seven days to respond before incurring a fine of up to $11,250 per day.

Ben Kalaf, who has owned the property since 2013 along with Henri Levy and Meir Peleg under the umbrella of 1205-1207 Wooster Street LLC, found the Coastal Commission notice concerning.

Kalaf, who is a developer for Planet Construction, was attempting to sell the property for residential use. In fact, the property was in escrow when the Palisades News began its reporting.

“We received a letter from the Coastal Commission telling us that they are the legal owner of the property,” Kalaf told the News.“[Which means that] the county sold us a property that belonged to the state. The city is telling you that you can build, no problem. Then the Coastal Commission says they’re going to fine you.”

Kalaf ’s concern is one shared by the Coastal Commission, which prompted Sanchez to send a letter to Son Leao at the County of Los Angeles Department of Treasurer and Tax Collector on August 5. In the letter, Sanchez laid out why the Coastal Commission was unhappy that the County had sold the property at auction to pay for back taxes.

“Transfer of this parcel to a private entity is clearly inconsistent with the terms and requirements of the CDP (Coastal Development Permit), especially if it results in obviating the public access amenities specifically required by the Permit,” Sanchez wrote. He then noted that the Coastal Commission had not been made aware of the sale by the County.

“It appears that under the Coastal Act, such a transfer would require a permit amendment, and none was applied for nor obtained,” Sanchez wrote.

Kalaf sent men to open the property on August 5. However, the men’s bathroom remains closed because Kalaf does not have the key. Kalaf is currently trying to find out who was maintaining the property prior to it being closed in January.

“I’m trying to find out which yard was taking care of this place,” Kalaf said. “I’ve called six maintenance yards and nobody knows.” According to the Coastal Commission Notice, the property is supposed to be maintained by the City of Los Angeles through the Department of Recreation and Parks. At press time, the department was still checking its records.

On August 11, Sanchez and Aaron McLendon, deputy chief of enforcement for the Coastal Commission, visited the property to confirm the gate had been opened. They noted that the men’s rest- room remained locked.

CouncilmanMikeBonin’sofficeisaware of the situation and is doing research, hoping to discover whom the property rightfully belongs to.

“In order to put the genie back into the bottle, we’re working with the Coastal Commission . . . [and] making sure the people who bought it and originally fenced it off are not getting the raw deal here. They paid for property they’re not able to use,” said David Graham-Caso, Bonin’s communications director.

Graham-Caso also noted that the Councilman thinks it’s important that the facility remain open to the public.

“Our goal right now is to make sure the property is open for people to use the restrooms . . . and making sure it is maintained and the ownership is in the proper place and thetaxesarebeingpaid,”Graham-Casosaid.

The Pacific Palisades Community Council has placed the issue on the agenda for its August 25 meeting at the request of the Temescal Canyon Association.

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