TO OUR STATE ASSEMBLYMAN RICHARD BLOOM AND THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION:
We, residents of Santa Monica Canyon and surrounding coastal areas, and constituents of State Assembly District #50, respectfully ask you to:
- PROTECT THE COASTAL SETTING OF SANTA MONICA CANYON FROM OVERBUILDING
- ENFORCE THE DESIGN MITIGATIONS YOU APPROVED IN NOVEMBER 2011 AND FEBRUARY 2012 FOR CONSTRUCTION AT 160 OCEAN WAY
- RESTORE THIS COMMUNITY'S CONFIDENCE IN THE FAIRNESS OF THE COASTAL REVIEW PROCESS
The Coastal Commissioners reviewed an application to build a 4-car, 4-level house in the coastal zone of Santa Monica Canyon, which has major public access routes to adjacent, heavily used public recreation areas, including Will Rogers State Beach. The Commissioners overwhelmingly rejected the design as "incompatible with community character" because of its bulk, height, and 4th floor roof-deck structures. On the record, the applicants agreed to withdraw, and did indeed withdraw, the design. The Commissioners directed them to use L.A.'s new anti-mansionization law (the "Baseline Hillside Ordinance," or BHO) as the design guide to achieve project consistency with the Coastal Act and community compatibility. The Commissioners specifically called for a reduction in bulk, height, and roof-deck structures.
The Commissioners reviewed a second design. It failed to conform with BHO. The Coastal Commission staff, in its report, concluded that the new design was not compatible with the Coastal Act and community character of Santa Monica Canyon, and recommended that Commissioners require the applicant to follow their earlier direction to conform with BHO. However, the Commissioners approved the design as submitted, citing three modifications from the original design that moved in the direction of BHO:
1. a 4' step-back of the building at 3rd floor;
2. the introduction of some sloped roofs;
3. a slight reduction of structures on the roof-deck.
Five months later, unbeknownst to the community, the applicants submitted a modified design to Coastal Commission staff that compromised or removed the key mitigations required by the Coastal Commission in February 2012:
1. The 4' step-back was totally filled in, thus reverting to a project similar in design to the one rejected by the Coastal Commission
2. Obtrusive structures on the roof-deck were added and enlarged
The Santa Monica Canyon community was shocked when the building's framing was completed and the new design was revealed. The community was never notified of these significant design changes, nor were they preceded by public review, much less approval from the Coastal Commissioners. The structure as it now stands fails to provide the mitigations that the Commissioners required, and its bulk comes close to the original design that the Commissioners categorically rejected.
This community's confidence in the fairness of the Coastal review process is shaken. Members of our community, many of them seniors, traveled all over the state - to Coastal Commission hearings in Long Beach, Oceanside, and Santa Cruz - to protect the character and aesthetics of Santa Monica Canyon, consistent with the protective provisions of the Coastal Act. We abided by every rule, made reasonable arguments, and treated the process and all participants with respect. There is a widespread feeling of dismay and betrayal that this public process, which was supposed to produce a compatibly designed structure for our coastal community, has allowed changes, hidden from the public, that revert to an incompatible structure under the Coastal Act.
We respectfully urge the Coastal Commission to investigate how City permit staff could allow this to happen, and to enforce the design the Coastal Commission required, including these two critical corrections:
1. restoration of the 4' step-back of the 3rd floor; and
2. removal of all roof-deck structures not shown in the drawings