To:        Los Angeles City Council
From:    Bel Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council
             Bel Air Homeowners Alliance

The Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council is deeply concerned about existing and future over development of residential property in the hillside communities in Los Angeles.  Specifically, we are dealing with oversize excavations and removal of dirt by trucks and related haul routes which range in scope from 10,000 cu yards to 50,000 cu yards. The excavations have included up to 3 levels of basement in one case plus subterranean garages.  This construction and dirt export, on a massive scale and often by speculating land developers, has resulted in a substantial burden on the surrounding community, which has been exacerbated by a lack of funding and necessary personnel at the Department of Building and Safety to enforce existing regulations and to protect public safety.  As a result, these communities have experienced:

A.    A loss of public safety and respect for basic rules of the road on the hillside streets of the Bel Air and other hillside neighborhoods;
B.    A continuing lack of oversight and enforcement of building permit conditions and requirements, including: a. hours of operation, b. demolition of properties prior to receipt of permits, and c. direct building and grading without permits; and
C.    A lack of coordination by the City of multiple commercial mega-mansion construction projects (greater than 20,000 square feet each), related excavation of lots, and haul routes from project sites for import/export of construction materials, movement of equipment, and export of soil up to almost 40,000 cu yards in one single instance.

We need a fresh approach!

The existing and continuing lack of public safety and security in Bel Air and other neighborhood hillside streets is a result of uncontrolled and uncoordinated large scale development and excavation. This condition leads to our request that the City Council prepare ordinances as soon as possible to deal decisively with the specific issues enumerated below. Even before the City Council acts, the Department of Building and Safety should adopt emergency rules to address the severe hazards currently faced by these communities.

The following specific actions, among others, need to be taken to address the current unacceptable speculative commercial development activities now proceeding in Bel Air and in other hillside communities.

1.    Limit the amount of excavation volume and related truck traffic allowable on the often-narrow hillside residential streets. This commercial style of development and excavation is changing the fundamental geography of Bel Air and other hillside neighborhoods and destroying hillside ridgelines and wildlife habitats. Consider limiting the maximum amount of grading export from a site to 5000 cu yards.  Specify the number of truck trips allowed per day.  
2.    Develop a process to provide additional oversight and permit review for extraordinarily large single-family residential projects (e.g., greater than 20,000 square feet). 
3.    Amend City of Los Angeles CEQA Guidelines to trigger elevated environmental review for single family residential projects greater than 20,000 square feet to ensure identification and mitigation of adverse impacts on air quality, erosion, stormwater quality, geotechnical stability, and traffic, both from the project and cumulatively. 
4.    Create a city coordination function to regulate and schedule allowable development when multiple permits have been issued and requested to maintain the safety and security of residential streets and neighborhoods. The coordinator should meet monthly with all construction projects in the area and then to follow up with the HOAs and the Neighborhood Council.

The recommendations above should be considered not only for Bel Air but other hillside neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles as well. The unrestricted and unlimited commercial overdevelopment of residential property needs to be addressed immediately.  

Other specific recommendations for consideration on R1 development permits greater than 20,000 square feet:

1.    Require $2 million bonding on (now limited to $50,000) excavation, haul routes, and major truck deliveries (concrete, steel, rebar, etc) and put a limit on the number of trucks hauling each day.  Currently the number of trips per day has no limit.  The $2 million bond would guarantee road repair at least within one mile on each side of these massive projects. Also, require Jake brakes on all large construction vehicles.
2.    Increase the special use fee or surcharge to $500-1,000 for each hauling and cement truck round trip to cover additional costs of inspection, repair of roadways, and replacement. 
3.    Withhold Certificates of Occupancy for properties where developers/owners have flagrantly violated conditions of hauling, building permit conditions, and grading permit conditions on a single or multiple projects.  It is essential to establish a meaningful penalty for violations such as work during unpermitted hours and not following codes. 
4.    Revise hours of construction to permit only quiet interior work on Saturdays (8-7) and no grading, hauling or cement trucks. Limit work during week from 8-6 and strictly prohibit late night work under lights. Allowed currently till 9 PM following the 1994 earthquake. 
5.    Require cement truck deliveries to establish haul routes and obtain a separate permit.
6.    Require a public hearing process similar to a conditional use permit for a commercial project.  This hearing should be triggered by the proper level of environmental review (e.g., Environmental Impact Report).
7.    Require notification of haul routes and permits to be sent to all property owners within 1,000 feet and along all requested haul and cement delivery routes. Provide a set of plans and the soils report for each such project to the relevant HOA and the relevant Neighborhood Council. 
8.    Require posting of a substantial completion bond with the City, similar to commercial projects.
9.    Provide for additional and supplementary inspection regimes and related direct charges to the developer for key elements such as grading, retaining walls, life/safety components, and permit conditions. 
10.    Limit or eliminate authority for Charter Section 245 motions in the City Council on Planning Commission matters, which has allowed councilmembers to overrule planning department and homeowner’s findings.
11.    Limit the amount of excavation and export of grading for single-family residential construction to 5,000 cu yards. We now have no limit and actual examples of up to almost 40,000 cu yards net soils export from a single site.  

Contact Information

Daniel J Love
Bel Air Homeowners Alliance
310 471 3291 home
917 648 8800 cell