Thursday, September 10, 2015
Court of Appeal Upholds Remedial Order Resulting From Demolition of Hollywood Landmark
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday upheld a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s order requiring the City of Los Angeles and a developer to remedy the illegal demolition of the façade of the Hollywood building that housed the Old Spaghetti Factory.
Justice Madeleine Flier, in an unpublished opinion for Div. Eight, rejected claims by the developer, 5929 Sunset (Hollywood), LLC that the case is moot because the demolition cannot be reversed, construction is finished, temporary certificates of occupancy were issued, residential re occupied, and a public park that is part of the project is open.
The justice noted that the petitioner, La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association of Hollywood, is seeking to void the demolition permits and temporary certificates of occupancy, and bar the city from issuing further certificates until it has fully reviewed the project in accordance with the ordinances that the trial judge found were violated.
“The voiding of these certificates and a stay on further ones pending reapproval is not a meaningless act with no practical impact,” Flier wrote. “The residential building and park cannot be occupied without valid certificates of occupancy....If La Mirada is correct that all permits including occupancy certificates are void pending reapproval, this clearly affects the tenants of the building, the public who use the park, and the Developer, who will have to deal with a project that may not be occupied for some period of time.”
The present developer, 5929 Sunset, took over the project, located at Sunset Blvd. and North Gordon St., from Sunset & Gordon Investors, LLC, four years ago. The project includes a 23-story building housing 305 residential units, retail and office space, and the park, along with subterranean parking.
The initial plans, recognizing the historical value of the building—it was built in 1924 as a luxury automobile showroom, and later housed the KNX and then the KMPC studios—were to incorporate the original façade into the project. That aspect of the project was incorporated into the “plot plan,” and vesting tentative tract map and the city approved several parking-related variances which the original developer said were necessary because the retention of the façade would limit the number of subterranean spaces that could be built.
In 2008, the La Mirada association filed a writ of mandate challenging various approvals by the city, but the trial and appellate courts sided with the developer, which cited the requirement to retain the façade as justification for the parking variances.
The original developer applied for a partial demolition permit in 2008, but stopped work before any demolition occurred. 5929 Sunset took over in 2011.
The new developer’s engineer and architect concluded that maintenance of the façade was impossible because the walls would be heavily damaged by vibrations during construction, and workers might be injured even if the walls were braced. The architect, who said the façade had deteriorated during the time the property was vacant, suggested that the building be demolished but the original appearance reconstructed based on visual records.
The developer said it could reconstruct the façade, while retaining four wood trusses and a fireplace mantel from the original building. In 2012, the city granted a permit for full demolition, which began in February of that year, with building permits issued and construction beginning the following July.
The La Mirada association then brought a new mandate petition, arguing that the city violated its own ordinances by allowing full demolition of the façade, contrary to the plot plan and the prior approvals. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant agreed and ordered all permits voided and a new environmental review commenced before any further changes could take place.
The Court of Appeal granted a stay earlier this year, allowing the developer to continue occupying the property after the temporary certificates of occupancy expired and the city said it would not issue new certificates due to the litigation.
Flier, in her opinion yesterday, said the city’s Central Area Planning Commission had abused its discretion by not voiding all of the permits and licenses, including the certificates of occupancy. The city’s code, she noted, says flatly that “no permit or license shall be issued in violation of any provisions of this Code or any other ordinance.”
The city violated that provision, she said, by finding that the building permits substantially complied with the prior conditions of approval.
“If completely demolishing the OSF building did not substantially conform to the plot plan—as the zoning administrator determined—then a development plan in which the façade was completely demolished did not substantially conform to the plot plan,” the jurist wrote.
The case is La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association of Hollywood v. City of Los Angeles (5929 Sunset (Hollywood), LLC), B259672.
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