City Approves Haul Routes for Highlands Eldercare Facility

By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter

The Board of Building and Safety Commissioners approved the exportation of over 19,000 cubic yards of dirt from the controversial lot at 1525 Palisades Drive on Tuesday, April 30.

Destined to be the site of an incoming eldercare facility, developer Rony Shram and his attorneys faced off yet again with Highlands residents and the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, who have been fighting the development since the beginning, and are in the middle of a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles and California Coastal Commission.

The latest battle took place at a downtown Los Angeles hearing room where both sides of the argument presented their findings, both for and against the project, to Van Ambatielos, president of the BBSC, and his fellow board members as they weighed whether to approve the exportation of 19,308 cubic yards of dirt from the project site and whether the project met California Environmental Quality Act guidelines.

Several Highlands residents, including attorney Robert Flick, presented their usual concerns of the project that include traffic congestion, environmental damage and placing a large living facility in a high fire danger zone, that so far have not granted them any victories at appeal hearings.

“First of all, what’s the developer’s relevant experience in developing this type of project, which is basically seeking to establish a pit mine in our neighborhood?” Flick asked the board.

He questioned why the developer changed geo soils engineers in the middle of the project and suggested Shram might be trying to game the system to avoid further environmental reviews.

Flick further tried to avoid haul routes being done on weekends, when many Palisadians and Angelenos drive to The Highlands to hike the neighboring trail heads.

In rebuttal, Shram’s attorney Kevin McDonell reiterated that their soils reports had been “thoroughly reviewed by the [Department of Building and Safety].”

“The environmental review is done, it’s been adopted through the city planning department process,” McDonell said. “As they mentioned, it’s a subject of litigation so that’s not an issue before you today because as far as the city’s processes are concerned, it’s over.”

McDonnell said the developer would be willing to work with city officials to implement any tools necessary to be as prepared as possible in the event of a fire and has been working with local homeowner associations to address concerns, which Flick visibly denied.

But the commissioners ultimately sided with their fellow city officials and voted unanimously to approve the haul routes, which will consist of one truck load at a time, with several trucks staged and turned off at another location.