PPRA Files Opening Brief in Eldercare Facility Lawsuit

The site of the facility in 2017
Photo courtesy of Chuck Larsen

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

The battle to build an eldercare facility in The Highlands continues as the Pacific Palisades Residents Association prepares to take the city of Los Angeles and California Coastal Commission to court.

The PPRA is appealing exemptions and approvals by the city and CCC of the project: a four-story, 45-feet-high, 64,646-square-foot eldercare facility by Brentwood developer Rony Shram.

The PPRA filed its opening brief on Tuesday, January 7, which contains the petitioner’s argument and the grounds of why the suit should go forward.

“The Residents Association filed this lawsuit so that a judge—an impartial person who’s not influenced by lobbyists—can decide the issues,” said Sarah Conner, PPRA president.

The lawsuit was originally filed on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, as a “petition for writ of mandate”: a request for a court order that demands a government agency to follow the law or correct prior actions.

The brief alleges the numerous ways the project violates city ordinances and state laws. Notably, the city exempted the project from the California Environmental Quality Act as an “infill development” and was granted a Class 32 exemption.

The brief argues that the project site is not an infill site, is not an infill development, that the city illegally granted the Class 32 exemption—and that the court must reverse that illegality.

When exploring the technicalities of the site, it was found that the project does not comply with building regulations. At 64,646 square feet, the project exceeds what the Zoning Code would allow by 20% and should be no more than 54,000 square feet.

The Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Community Plan states that no structures should exceed 30-feet in height: The proposed project is 45 feet in height and would be the tallest building in the area. Currently, all the structures in the neighborhood comply with the height limit.

The brief goes on to state that the project is not in conformity with the Coastal Act in accordance with Public Resources Code provisions, which state that a new development should “minimize risks in high fire hazard areas,” as the project site is in a Cal Fire Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone with limited access.

At large, Highlands residents are concerned about safety, having experienced fire evacuations in 2019.

“The fire department protocol requires them to address the needs of the proposed eldercare center as a priority, limiting the ability to address the needs of the rest of the community in an emergency,” Highlands resident Joe Halper said. “We have learned a great deal from the recent Paradise and Woolsey fires and our own fire on Palisades Drive that did not permit the Highlands residence to evacuate the area.”

PPRA tried to engage in settlement negotiations with the developer, but he “failed to respond to the PPRA’s settlement overtures,” according to PPRA attorney Tom Donovan.

Developer Shram was unable to comment to the Post on the litigation.

The city, CCC and Shram must file their Opposing Briefs on or before February 14 and the PPRA may file a Reply Brief on or before March 2.

The trial is scheduled for 9 a.m on March 12 at the Norwalk Courthouse.