LADBS Approves Haul Route Despite Residents’ Objections

View the full LADBS ruling here

The following article was published by the Beverly Hills Courier

Despite the opposition of dozens of residents, attorneys for the Bel Air Association (BAA) and the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance (BAHA) and Shawn Bayless, Planning and Land Use Deputy for Los Angeles 11th District Paul Koretz and Leonard Nimoy, beloved star of Star Trek -Los Angeles Board of Building and Safety Commissioners approved the hauling for a massive project at 10697 Somma Way. The project will require the removal of 50,000 cubic yards of soil, revealed the lawyers, including a previously undisclosed 19,634 cubic yards to excavate and install 270 soldier piles, for which the City of Los Angeles does not require disclosure in the goal route permit or Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND).

In support of the residents and homeowners, Bayless, speaking on behalf of Paul Koretz’ office, did affect certain conditions on the hauling permits. Among the conditions are flagmen, haul hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., truck identification placards and a “no-crossover” rule, where two trucks cannot be at the site at the same time; one leaves and then the other can come. 

Attorney for the BAHA Richard Zeilenga called the new, massive projects that are springing up in the hillsides, “hotel-sized construction projects masquerading as ‘single-family homes.’

The 40,000 sq. ft. residence will be replacing a single 3,799 sq. ft. home on a lot that the engineers testified is fraught with deep landslides. The engineer said the removal of dirt was a “fix” for the property that would benefit all the homeowners. 

The affirmative action will send the project before the City Council where it is expected that counsel will oppose it again. From there, if approved, the residents can take the project opposition to court. 

The project that galvanized Bel Air resident’s opposition to fight back against LADBS’ approvals for haul routes will come back to Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety for another pass Tuesday. Residents of the Bel Air Somma Way neighborhood are expected to be present for public comment on the project in opposition to the permit approvals. 

The project came before LADBS in July, but residents in the immediate vicinity were outraged that they had either not been notified or were notified with only two days notice. It was then continued until Tuesday’s hearing.

The developer of the project at 10697 Somma Way is seeking approval of permits to remove 29,474 cubic yards of dirt to excavate a massive 40,000 square foot home. The plans call for a residence that has 16,000 square feet above ground. The rest of the property would be underground, requiring the massive excavation of soil. A 16-car garage is also planned for the property.

The property being developed abuts 22 residences on a narrow, winding and steep “road.” The “road” is a pathway, really, and remained dirt until about a decade ago. Then, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaraslovsky persuaded homeowners to put up $20,000 each to pave it over with concrete, like a sidewalk. The “street” is only 211 inches to 239 inches across.

Upon this street, the developer proposes to haul 29,474 cubic yards of soil away from the property, past homes and vehicles on a street that can only allow passage of one vehicle at a time. To pass, one car must back down the street to let the other pass. 

To haul that much dirt, it will take hundreds of truck trips and a couple of years. 

Bel Air residents have been besieged with mega-mansion developments, many of them like this, almost two-thirds underground, since the hillside ordinance was formed (2011) and legacy CC&Rs have expired.

The Bel Air Homeowners Alliance (BAHA) has emerged at the forefront of a battle between Los Angeles City departments, commissions and city council members  and the residents of the community who oppose these massive, hotel-sized structures that are being permitted as if they are ordinary residential buildings. 

In fact, say the homeowners, buildings over 20,000 square feet should be subjected to the same permitting and approvals as commercial buildings. These  properties should be subject to the same environmental review process. 

The organization is gaining traction throughout the hillside areas of Los Angeles, which are all experiencing these issues. Such excavations, fear residents, are creating geological instability, opening up the possibility of landslides and mudslides. 

Oversized construction vehicles, such as those that killed two LAPD officers in the Trousdale area of Beverly Hills, are used to haul away the dirt and cement mixers shore up the excavations. Residents have endured blocked streets, unpermitted hauling and excavations, sideswiping and even, as reported in The Courier, a rolled vehicle. Yet, LADBS continues to issue permits and approvals. 

It is only a matter of time before the hills of Los Angeles experience the same tragedies that occurred in Beverly Hills. It is a potentially lethal combination of steep, winding and narrow hillside streets, speeding oversized vehicles which fail to stop at intersections, blind curves and limited, if any, alternate routes.

Perhaps most significant on Somma Way, the residents have only one method of ingress and egress. The street is the only means for emergency vehicles to reach residents. And it is also the only way that residents could leave in the event of a fire or other natural disaster. That road would be blocked by one single oversized vehicle, trapping the entire neighborhood.

Developers are not required to obtain plans and permits for excavations. They are only required to file for haul routes and grading permits. The LADBS hearing is a request for inspection/grading by applicant Shannon Nonn to export 29,474 cubic yards of earth from the project site. 

Staff recommendations find “that this project will not have a significant effect on the environment pursuant to the City’s Environmental Guidelines, and is in compliance with CEQA; that the MND reflects the independent judgment of the Lead Agency, the City of Los Angeles.”