By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
The fate of the so-called “superhomes”—three 10,000-square-foot mansions named whimsically after Marvel comic superheroes that have infuriated some Potrero Canyon rim residents—was in the balance at a California Coastal Commission meeting held near the Mexican border.
Appeals against the homes, under development by builder and Pacific Palisades Community Council representative Reza Akef, appeared to be on life support after a commission analyst rejected one key objection as “patently frivolous.”
One influential objector, Brett Bjornson of Earlham Street, who would be living next door to the mansions known as “Tony Stark,” “Peter Parker” and “Dr. Strange,” is believed to have paid a $300 fee to have issues discussed at a commission meeting at Chula Vista town hall on Thursday, Oct. 11.
Both Akef and Bjornson are expected to drive nearly 300 miles round trip to make their arguments about the expansive homes.
It is a mark of how deeply some residents will fight for their slice of Palisadian ‘blue heaven”—and how determined developers are to transform it.
Akef hoped to start construction on the three single-families with pools and 3,500-square-foot basements last June.
Akef and his father Frank have been seeking to develop the four lots since the 1990s, only to stumble into fierce residential objections over the last year.
Objectors have claimed that the mansions, which will be deeply sunk with poles into the rim, could cause water and landslide issues in the neighborhood. Some have raised the specter of an underground lake rupturing.
The plans, however, were approved in August at the city planning commission: They judged there were no insurmountable geological issues that engineering could not fix.
An appeal to the Coastal Commission may prove to be a last roll of the dice or threaten a killer blow to the superhero scheme.
Bjornson said that the project does not conform to the Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Community Plan and argues that the canyon rim is too steep to be stable enough for building.
Amrita Spencer, a CCC analyst, did not mince words dismissing such claims.
She also effectively spelled out the limits of the local community plan, which is set to be reviewed over the next few months.
“The plan is not used as a standard of review under the California Coastal Act,” wrote the analyst. In other words, the act trumps local plans, which have limited legal status.
“The policy of limiting development on hillsides having more than a 15 percent slope is not a [commission] policy. You have not demonstrated that building on a slope raises a significant geologic hazard or significantly contributes to landform alteration.
“Overall the appeal had been deemed patently frivolous.”
Bjornson is worried because he has been told a landslide fault, known as #5, runs through the canyon up into the middle of his driveway and further building could activate it.
Neighbors fume they will consider quitting the area if Akef wins. But they admit that, right now, that seems the most likely outcome from the meeting at Chula Vista.
“It is a last stand for our way of life on Earlham,” a neighbor said. “These houses are four times as big as the average home around here—once they are allowed through the door, there goes the neighborhood. We will be the next Alphabet Streets.”