Jannice Lazaroff's attorney Victor Marmon provided this summary of last weeks trial.
On Friday, January 23, Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell ruled that the Los Angeles City Council relied on improper evidence to grant a 50-foot height variance for a 27,000 square foot house at 360 N. Stone Canyon Road in Bel Air.
In her decision Judge O'Donnell said that the findings adopted by the City Council were based upon a declaration submitted by developer M & A Gabaee's engineer, rather than actual evidence before the Zoning Administrator, which is the only evidence that can be considered by the Council.
The Council repeatedly cited as the basis for its findings the declaration from Gabaee's engineer, a declaration that was submitted to the Council more than six months after the January 2013 hearing before Associate Zoning Administrator Jim Tokunaga. The judge's decision states that the Council is ordered to "excise" this evidence from its findings and file a response to the court's order by March 27 to clarify the findings.
A variance allows a property owner to exceed the zoning height limit only if all five of the very specific code requirements are shown by evidence presented to the Zoning Administrator.
When Mr. Tokunaga denied the height variance, he wrote that none of the five required variance findings could be made. The developer appealed Tokunaga's decision to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission. The Commission heard the appeal in June 2013 and voted unanimously to adopt Tokunaga's findings and deny the appeal.
At Councilmember Paul Koretz's request, the City Council asserted jurisdiction over the developer's appeal. The declaration from Gabaee's engineer was submitted, and the Council voted in July 2013 to send the appeal back to the Area Planning Commission for reconsideration. The Commission held a second hearing in August, analyzed the evidence, and unanimously voted again to deny the appeal. The Commission also adopted additional findings showing why the variance could not be granted.
At Mr. Koretz's request, the City Council took jurisdiction over the appeal a second time and voted in September 2013 to grant the height variance, adopting findings prepared by the developer based on the declaration from its engineer. In December 2013 a suit was filed against the City and the developer to overturn the variance.