Insecure gate?
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

Plans by The Riviera Country County Club to transform a discreet service gate into a new members’ entrance has riled some Riviera locals to the point that its “bad neighbor” attitude will be on the agenda at the next Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting.

The blueprints prepared for city planners are not yet public, but, according to one insider, the new gate on Longworth Drive will be “magnificent” in contrast to its current low profile.

It would be in addition to the main gate on Capri Drive.
There are also internal changes, such as reconfiguring meeting rooms and converting a tennis court to parking, but residents have less concern about those.

Residents met at a private residence on Sunday, April 9 to decide how to challenge the new gate, that could add to traffic woes at Paul Revere Charter Middle School. They are expected to petition Councilmember Mike Bonin to find out more about the plans.

Reza Akef, who represents the area on the council, asked for the council discussion, saying that the club has no right to turn a service entrance into a new gateway into the private club.

“We have recently discovered a string of building applications for the Country Club expanding their presence with new facilities,” he told fellow-PPCC members. “For 20 years this access point has been regarded as a maintenance or service area. In past Professional Golf Association tourney meetings, it was exactly referred to as a service entrance. Now the County Club intends to change the purpose without any application for a Conditional Use Permit. How is this possible?

“Further, [West Los Angeles] planners have granted several exemptions to the club. This perhaps did not cause alarm at the planning counter.

“Exemptions should not be granted without knowing the total scope of what the club is trying to accomplish: They are seemingly ‘piece mealing’ the project to avoid greater review.

“Country Club permits should be placed on hold until the matter can be fully investigated,” he said. The community council could recommend this to West LA planners.

“Neighbors are very concerned and have been meeting about this,” Akef said. “The club is a guest in our neighborhood and should be more respectful. Right now, they are being a bad neighbor.”

The issue will be discussed at the next PPCC meeting on Thursday, April 12.

The club said the changes are being driven by changing needs.

“Due to some security issues and a desire to have an alternative emergency entrance and evacuation point, we will be adding a manned security gate and making other improvements to our lower tennis area,” Donald P. Emery, general manager at the club, told the Palisadian-Post. “These improvements will provide a safer and more convenient point for local authorities as well as our members in the area.

“We expect the improvements to be finished by the end of the summer.”

The golf and tennis club has been regarded as both the pride of the Palisades and also slightly apart from the town since it opened as the Los Angeles Athletic Club in 1926.

From the beginning it attracted celebrities: It was where Elizabeth Taylor learned to ride for her 1944 film “National Velvet.”

Apart from the occasional buzz of paparazzi, the nature of the security threat remains shrouded in mystery. Some would argue that is best.

But, counter residents, any decisions to keep such changes “under the radar” may not have made the club’s task or position in the community any easier.