Many of you may have read about the recent West LA Planning Commission decision to overturn the development permit for the proposed Gabaee apartment project at 17000 Sunset. Each of us in the neighborhood felt like they wanted to participate, wanted to oppose this monolithic structure on a geologically unstable lot above a 29 home community, but we all have busy lives and other obligations and somehow the desire to be involved seems to slip away.
It took a group of highly committed neighbors who worked tirelessly with the support of MKPOA, to successfully oppose the Gabaee project. MKPOA used its authority as the voice of Marquez Knolls to help protect our neighborhood from the risks of this project, which included landslides, increased traffic and density, and the loss of a magnificent view of the ocean from Sunset. MKPOA wrote a strongly worded letter opposing the project to the West LA Planning Commission to protect the healthy environment and safety of Marquez Knolls. In addition, MKPOA representative, Cheryl Zomber, spoke forcefully at the hearing.
The City’s Zoning Administrator had granted the developer (M&A Gabaee LP) a building permit in 2014. Eleven appeals were filed in opposition to the project. The hearing on these appeals initially was set for January 2015 but the developer postponed it four times. On December 2, 2015 the hearing finally was held even though the developer tried to postpone it yet again. The West LA Planning Commission noted that a large number of people had assembled for the hearing and it would be unrealistic to expect all of them to reassemble at a later date. In fact, fifty-two members of our community were there, along with representatives of MKPOA and several other residential associations. It was a formidable gathering and made quite an impression on the Commissioners.
The Commission listened carefully to presentations from both sides and rigorously questioned the Zoning Administrator, Charlie Rausch, who had granted the building permit. Ultimately, the Commission overturned the building permit in a lengthy decision citing numerous errors and abuses of discretion by the Zoning Administrator. The result is that the proposed 49-unit, 100,000+ square foot apartment complex on Sunset at Marquez will not be built, with the developer having to go back to the drawing board and apply for a new development permit with an appropriate alternative project design.
Given the strong development pressure on the vacant properties along Sunset, we all need to stay aware of developers’ plans and remain engaged to protect our community. There are several other projects of similar size and dimension and with similar geological issues planned for the coastal bluffs along Sunset. If any of these projects is approved and built, dangerous precedent will be set that will forever change the beauty and safety of where we live. If one of the projects gets a “go-ahead,” then all the others will have an easier time proceeding. Just take a look at the bluffs above the corner of Sunset and PCH to see what could happen on Sunset directly across from our neighborhood. We need to be vigilant. We, as individuals, and associations like MKPOA, need to continue to stand firm and protect our community.
MKPOA jumped in with respect to the proposed 17000 Sunset project and vigorously represented our residents. Even though this property is not within MKPOA boundaries, the association recognized that the traffic, toxicity and density issues, as well as the increased landslide and hydrology risks, associated with this project would have a dramatic impact on the properties and people in Marquez Knolls.
The issues and risks in the developer’s plans were numerous. The land is designated as a landslide area. It is a steeply sloping coastal bluff and the site of a former coastal canyon that drains the Marquez Knolls area, so has complex hydrology issues that were not adequately addressed by the developer. Below the project site is Malibu Village, a community that could be devastated by any slide activity. The project was enormous (larger than the entire Caruso project on one-third the amount of land, most of which is steeply sloping) and would have obstructed the entire public ocean view from the corner of Marquez and Sunset Boulevard, which is a designated scenic highway. Traffic was another significant issue, including the increased risk of accidents and fatalities that are too common along that part of Sunset. In addition, construction on this site could increase the release of toxic hydrogen sulfide fumes (which already seep out of the soil in this area) increasing health risks.
MKPOA assessed these dangers and recognized their potential impact on our community. They decided to write a letter to the West Los Angeles Planning Commission and speak at the hearing to represent and protect the homes in our neighborhood. The importance of the role MKPOA played in urging the Commission to overturn the permit for this project cannot be overstated. We are very fortunate to have the valuable representation of our interests that the dedicated volunteers on the MKPOA board provide.
For more information and to sign up to receive updates on proposed developments along Sunset, please go to facebook.com/savethebluffs or http://www.dangerousdevelopment.com.
Author and MKPOA representative, Amy Greenwood, has been actively involved in fighting non-conforming developments along Sunset since 2011, having led the successful opposition to the proposed Coaloa project at 17030 Sunset and actively participated in the opposition to the Gabaee project at 17000 Sunset.