Palisades Residents Question Hampden Project

By Sue Pascoe

Hampden Place is an odd little street. Just one block long, it has small homes, families that have long ties to the town and is the site of a double murder that led California to execute Louise Peete in 1946 (one of only four women executed in this state).

Located off Swarthmore, one-way Hampden loops from just south of Village School, overlooks Patterson Place homes and Potrero Canyon, and returns to Swarthmore.

There are four undeveloped lots on Hampden, and the proposed construction of two large houses by businessman Ali Pourmola has come under criticism. His project was stopped on October 20 so that U.S. Fish & Wildlife can investigate if the owls and hawks that nest in the trees are protected. 

These trees may be cut down for two new homes on Hampden Place. Photo: Bart Bartholomew

But this is only the latest wrinkle in the development saga of 712 and 724 Hampden Place.

According to Parris Ward, who has lived on the street since he was a child, the undeveloped building sites were once the town’s “dump.” Charles and Martha Patterson owned Potrero Canyon and were trying to fill it in, hoping to build a golf course.

“There are washing machines, tires and all sorts of things buried there,” one neighbor told the News.

Ward said that the hillside remained undeveloped after the City of L.A. took possession of Potrero Canyon, and served as a private garden maintained by Alma and Fritz Meier, longtime homeowners on the block.

The lots were known as “Alma’s Garden,” and she sold them to Ward’s parents, who had a lot contiguous to the gardens. When the parents moved, they sold the house and two lots to a couple, who preserved the open space.

The couple eventually sold the lots to Pourmola, who is listed as president of Total Infusion Care, Inc. He wanted to build two new homes on four narrow lots at 712 and 724 Hampden. He received building permits from L.A. Building and Safety in December 2015 for one-story dwellings with attached two-car garages.

Construction never began, and the permits were revoked in August 2017, but replaced with permits for two two-story dwellings with basements, two-car garages, retaining walls, pools and a spa.

Before work could begin, neighbors contacted the city. Since earth was going to exported from two contiguous building sites, it was considered a single site and a haul route was required because the total dirt to be excavated was more than 1,000 cubic yards (699 cubic yards for 712 Hampden and 958 for 724 Hampden).

Hired expediter Steven Somers told Pourmola that the L.A. Department of Building and Safety determined the haul route would be required if he owned both lots, and that he would have to sell one if he wanted to move forward without waiting for a haul route approval. (Approval usually takes about nine months.)

Subsequently, Pourmola gave one of the lots to Fahad Vakil.

At a meeting arranged by Councilman Mike Bonin’s District Director Debbie Dyner Harris, neighbors met architect Brian Biglin, builder Albert Mikaelian (Echogreen), Somers, Vakil and Pourmola’s lawyer, Lindsey Tabgan. Pourmola was absent. After the meeting, resident Stephen Henning asked Vakil if he was related to Pourmola. “Only an acquaintance,” Vakil replied.

“We worked something out.”

During the meeting, neighbors argued that there should have been a haul-route hearing because trucks would have to go by Village School, Palisades Elementary and (on La Cruz) Seven Arrows, none of which were informed about the project.

Hampden Place resident Louise Peete was executed after her second murder conviction.

Smaller haul trucks would need to be used because of the narrow street, which meant more frequent trips.

Depending on whose figure you use (the developer’s, the city’s or the neighbors’) that amount of dirt placed in a smaller truck (holding 5-6 cubic square yards) would require about 301 truckloads.

Neighbors also raised concerns that Pourmola had circumvented a haul-route hearing. They also noted the potential slide danger on hillside property above homes on Patterson Place and said the size of the proposed houses were out of character with the neighborhood.

Mikaelian was asked about parking for his construction crew. He said they would park on one lot, while working on the other and if more parking was needed, he had made arrangements for off-site parking in the Huntington neighborhood (but not at the Rec Center).

Additionally, residents were told the owner had received a permit to chop down two California oaks and 10 stone pines, as well as all other trees on the site. It was learned that a landscaping plan had not been presented to the Pacific Palisades Civic League for approval.

Then on October 20, Somers sent attorney Tabgan an email: “It has been brought to the attention of the neighborhood that there are protected species [of birds], which reside on the lots in question. Removal of the trees and natural habitat on these lush landscaped lots would completely destroy this habitat and expose your clients to penalties including both civil and criminal charges.

“Harry McMahon, by and through his email to Fahad Vakil, placed Fahad on notice of this issue. Understanding you represent both owners, please consider this email as notice to the owner of the other property. I understand the United States Fish & Wildlife office has also opened a file on this matter and is investigating as well as other individuals/entities.

“Kindly advise them [clients] that this is the formal notice of the protected species and explain the penalties associated with removal of the protected habit. Based on this extremely serious issue, we trust no further work will proceed until this serious issue is resolved or otherwise resolved to preserve the endangered species in question.”

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