By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
The Department of City Planning held a public hearing on Wednesday, July 7, to discuss a proposed convenience store at the existing Shell gas station at Sunset Boulevard and Via De La Paz—a project that dates back to 2017.
The reason for the meeting was a change in the environmental clearance, which would require a public hearing, according to zoning administrator Charlie Rausch, who was added to the case recently.
“Because this is a controversial case with a number of legal questions being raised on it,” Rausch said, “I wanted to take the testimony directly so that I could hear it instead of working off of somebody else’s notes.”
He said there were over 70 letters in the file, with comments made during the project’s first public hearing still part of the case file. The project had its last public hearing in August 2017.
Owner Saeed Kohanoff’s representative Neill Brower explained that the Shell gas station has been operating since 1962 and is one of a few gas stations in the commercial Village area. Brower previously argued that the new Shell would replace the Mobil station, which Kohanoff previously owned. Kohanoff operated the Mobil station that was demolished as part of the Caruso Palisades Village project.
He said there have not been any changes in the design or appearance of the property since the last hearing. The project previously received approval in 2017 from the Palisades Design Review Board after 18 months of deliberation.
The project would construct a new 2,440-square-foot market and requested limited sales of alcoholic beverages.
“Simply beer and wine,” Brower said.
The current hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the project no longer requesting a change to its existing operational hours. Brower said 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. would be the window for alcohol sales.
“The Palisades Specific Plan limits this site,” Brower explained. “What we’re proposing is entirely consistent.”
Community activists and neighbors called in to express their views—a number of residents previously argued that the project would significantly reduce their quality of life, as well as introduce more noise, traffic and crime to the neighborhood.
Attorneys Tom Donovan, who represents the Via De La Paz Association, and John Murdock expressed their opposition during the July 7 hearing.
“Now it’s a market, not even a convenience store,” Donovan said. “This is a major change to the primary use of the project site. Selling alcohol is going to have a prevalent effect on our residents … there’s no public benefit to allow the sale of alcohol. It’s available at other nearby and more appropriate locations.”
Pacific Palisades Residents Association President Jessica Rogers also called in to express her perspective.
“We welcome a gas station … we welcome business in our community,” Rogers said. “As the president of the [PPRA] our mission is the safety of our residents and protecting our environment. In that matter, we’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis in Los Angeles … allowing alcohol sales at this mini-mart is only going to increase the risk that we would be presenting to our community.
“We’re a community of young families, this is just not a good idea.”
A resident of the Huntington expressed their approval of the project and said concerned neighbors should drive their attention to the root of the problem instead of taking away from a business owner.
“Being a resident of Pacific Palisades, yes it is a quiet town,” the Palisadian said. “That being said, anybody driving, going down PCH … if they are looking to pick up a bottle of wine or a craft beer … people that want these things are going to find a way to get it regardless. I think a lot of these claims that have been made to this establishment … are a bit excessive.”
Rausch said he would not be making a decision at the end of the hearing, but as the zoning administrator, he makes the final determination and decision on the case.
He said the record will remain open for two months through September 7, before a determination is released.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.