Council cites Coastal Act violation
By Sam Catanzaro
The Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) voted August 22 unanimously to oppose a mixed-use housing complex on Sunset Boulevard near Pacific Coast Highway. It should be noted that this vote is non-binding and provides recommendations to other governing bodies.
The proposed project would redevelop the former Jack in the Box on Sunset Boulevard. The 15,000-square-foot property could soon be the site of a five-story mixed-use complex containing 40 apartments — mostly consisting of 1-bedroom units — and 2,900 square feet of retail space.
“At the proposed height and density, the Project is more than twice the size otherwise allowed under the applicable Pacific Palisades Commercial Village and Neighborhoods Specific Plan (SP),” PPCC said in a letter that was sent to relevant public officials.
Because the project as proposed would provide four affordable housing units among its 40 dwelling units, state law permits the proposed project’s height and density notwithstanding the SP limitations. However, because the project is also within the Coastal Zone, PPCC says a Coastal Development Permit is required and the provisions of the California Coastal Act must apply.
Under the Coastal Act, construction in any Coastal Zone requires a permit — the act addresses issues of shoreline access, “scenic and visual qualities,” landform alteration and more. The act requires all development in the Coastal Zone to be “sited, designed and landscaped to be visually compatible and integrated with the character of surrounding neighborhoods or areas.”
While there are six and nine-story buildings to the south and north all adjacent or similarly situated buildings fronting the south side of Sunset Boulevard are no higher than one story.
“The Project’s mass and scale are clearly out of proportion to all other similarly situated buildings which front the same (south) side of the street as the Project, and its visual impact on pedestrians as well as nearby residences is out of character and will be significant,” PPCC said. “The proposed 5 story Project building situated in the midst of 1 story structures along the south side of Sunset Blvd. would be strikingly inconsistent, out of proportion in terms of mass and scale and visually incompatible with all other structures which front Sunset Blvd. in this location; the Project would therefore violate the Coastal Act.”
In addition, because the project does not include upper-level setbacks and the plan does not appear to include any provision for trees fronting the building, PPCC believes the project building would present bleak streetscape and an imposing, monolithic façade.
“[This is] inconsistent with the across-the-street building façade and is not visually compatible with similarly situated buildings in the surrounding area,” PPCC added.
PPCC also took issue with a planned rooftop deck with open space for residences, which the council says could potentially negatively impact nearby residents in terms of noise, reduction of privacy and quality of life.
PPCC is asking the City and California Coastal Commission to consider the following modifications: a lowered building height, either four stories with upper-level setbacks along Sunset Boulevard, or three stories with no upper-level setbacks, with a reduction in the number of dwelling units if necessary to accommodate the lowered height. In addition, PPCC is requesting at least two tree wells with appropriately sized trees.
“The Project at such an alternative height and configuration would more closely comply with the Coastal Act requirement of visual compatibility with the surrounding areas and would mitigate negative impacts from the roof deck,” PPCC said.