Alliance BOD discusses the violations of the stop work order at 901 Strada Vechia with Ray Chan and Jeff Napier of the LADBS

Raymond Chan Wrote:

Good afternoon to all of you,

For the past few years, construction activities have been rising in the City of Los Angeles.  While this has been good for the economy, some development projects have impacted the community in various aspects such as noise, dust, and traffic related issues.

The Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) is the agency that issues construction permits in the City of Los Angeles.  There is a belief by some that LADBS should thoroughly consider the effects of a construction project on a neighborhood prior to the issuance of a permit, even when the project complies with all applicable codes and ordinances.  To an extent, there were false accusations towards me and my staff, Jeff Napier, for not doing our jobs.

The reality is that LADBS is mandated to issue a construction permit once a project complies with all applicable codes and ordinances and cannot withhold or delay the issuance of a permit. 

With that said, LADBS understands how the inconvenience and safety concerns created by construction projects can impact a neighborhood.  We are committed to minimize these impacts, particularly for those neighborhoods with narrow streets and limited access such as the Bel-Air community.  Since July 2014, LADBS has been working with the office of Councilman Paul Koretz to take the following actions to reduce the impacts of construction:

•         Assigned a full time inspector to monitor the hauling and construction activities of more than 40 projects by driving the haul routes and visiting every construction site twice a week.  The Monitoring Inspector verifies number of flag persons, sequence of truck access, etc. as stated in the haul route conditions of approval. 

•         The Monitoring Inspector is responsible for responding to complaints and performing field investigations expeditiously.  If a violation is observed and is within LADBS’ jurisdiction, a verbal warning, an order to comply, or a stop work order will be issued based on the severity of the violation.  If the violation, such as parking, falls within the jurisdiction of other agencies such as Department of Transportation, Public Works Bureau of Street Services, etc., then the Monitoring Inspector will contact and follow-up with these agencies to assure compliance.

•         A Map and a Matrix were created to reflect the result of the above monitoring effort. They reveal the location, violation records, and compliance status of every haul route and the major construction project.  The map and the matrix are being updated on a weekly basis.

•         Coordinated meetings to mediate conflicts and resolve issues between neighbors and projects.  For example, neighbors of a project complained about excessive truck traffic, dust, and noise created by delivering and pouring concrete on Saturday.  LADBS and staff from Council Office coordinated a mediation meeting between the contractors and the neighbors.  As a result, Saturday activities were reduced by 80%.  In addition, multiple projects, with our suggestions, now agree to park workers off-site and van pool them to the job site, reducing impacts for hillside residents.

With the aforementioned processes in place, most projects have been sensitive and neighborly by complying with all the conditions of approval.  However, there are still some challenging projects that generate the following complaints:

•         Illegal parking/staging of construction and hauling vehicles on streets that block access to the residents and for emergency response.

•         Construction and hauling starting before allowable hours (in general 7 am for construction and 9 am for hauling),

•         Lack of, and improper placement of flag persons as indicated in the haul route approvals.

•         Not following the travel routes as indicated in the haul route approvals.

•         Not providing cross-traffic signage as indicated in the haul route approvals.

Below are some of these projects where LADBS has responded to complaints and addressed the violations expeditiously:

•         944 Airole Way                             (LADBS issued stop work order and suspended haul route activity for one week)

•         734-800 Tortuoso Way               (LADBS issued stop work order)

•         908 Bel-Air Road                          (LADBS issued stop work order)

•         642, 670, and 675 Perugia Way (LADBS issued verbal warning)

•         924 Bel-Air Road                          (LADBS issued verbal warning)

•         360 Stone Canyon Road              (LADBS issued verbal warning)

To further ensure compliance, and protect the quality of life in the community, LADBS will be increasing our monitoring and enforcement efforts with the following measures:

•         Assign an additional Monitoring Inspector to monitor the hauling and construction activities and to increase the haul route and site visit from twice a week to four times a week.

•         Create a list of standard haul route and construction conditions based on our recent enforcement experience.  These best practices will be used as required conditions of approval for future haul route applications.

•         Meet with all the project representatives to discuss these conditions and require them to abide by these conditions.  Violations will trigger very strict enforcement.

•         Work with the Council Office to create a multi-agency enforcement team dedicated to address and enforce haul route violations and parking issues. 

•         Create a mediation process between neighbors and projects on conflicts and issues.

•         Create a complaint hotline so neighbors will have quick access to voice their concerns and complaints.  Meanwhile, the most expeditious way for us to address a violation is to email or call directly to any of the following staff: Monitoring Inspector Rick Steinbach     310-914-3898

Principal Inspector Jeff Napier                 310-914-3904

In addition, the office of Councilman Paul Koretz and LADBS are in the process of setting a time to meet with the homeowner organizations in Bel-Air and surrounding areas.  The purposes of this meeting is to better the line of communication between the communities and the enforcement agencies and to explore more effective ways to reduce the impacts created by construction.  A meeting notice will be emailed to you soon.

In closing, even though LADBS cannot withhold or delay the issuance of a permit.once a project complies with all applicable codes and ordinances, we have been carrying out enforcement actions to reduce the impacts created by construction projects.  LADBS will be applying additional enforcement measures to minimize these impacts for the Bel-Air and surrounding areas.

Dan Fisk Wrote

Ray . . .  thanks for your email . . . a constructive move in the right direction . . . Gary Plotkin's responsive comments are helpful.  Query, why did you not include one of the most egregious and continuing infractions of all, viz. 901 Strada Vecchia ?

Raymond Chan Wrote

Hi Dan, Yes I like Gary's idea too and will include them as part of our enforcement measures.  Also please distribute my email to all your members.  Thank you! The reason I did not mention Strada Vecchia is because of the pending litigation.

Fred Rosen wrote:

Ray-- I want you to know that we all appreciated your email---its a place to begin--and we all look forward to getting other soon----which will be a better way to discuss all the concerns we have and ways to remediate them.

One more point---we all know about the house on Strada Vecchia--and we all know that its in litigation and has had 2 cease and desist orders placed on the property--and work continued after both. Mike Feuer is copied on this email also and he can respond if appropriate. We all want to know how that house got to be the size it did---why there were so many approvals on that house---and why work is still continuing--there were workmen there over last week-end. We all feel that we are being gamed---and would like answers--and the law to be followed.  I look forward to your response and our meeting.

Raymond Chan Wrote

Mr. Rosen, I do not have all the information about this job.  

I am referring your inquiry -- "We all want to know how that house got to be the size it did---why there were so many approvals on that house"-- to Mr. Ken Gill, the Assistant Chief of Inspection Bureau.  Mr. Kill will reply to you.

I am also referring your another inquiry -- "why work is still continuing--there were workmen there over last week-end" -- to Mr. Jeff Napier.  Mr. Napier will reply to you.

Raymond Chan wrote:

Hi Jeff, Please answer to Rosen on his 2nd inquiry on my behalf.  Thanks.

Jeff Napier Wrote

Hello Mr. Rosen, To address and answer your question  "why work is still continuing--there were workmen there over last week-end" regarding the project at 901 Strada Vechhia...

My staff checks this site almost everyday and sometimes twice a day to ensure that there is no ongoing construction.  The builder has a few maintenance workers at the site to monitor the slopes, and maintenance the property daily, in order to maintain and control brush clearance and basic cleaning, as well as watering and protecting the structure from the weather.

Early last December, there was a meeting at the project site.  Mr. Hadid and the contractor were present, as well as the district inspector, the grading inspector, a representative of our investigation division, myself and the Chief of our Residential Construction section Mike Tharpe.  Council Staff was also present.  The purpose of our visit was to investigate allegations of unapproved construction over the Thanksgiving weekend.  The resulting enforcement proceedings are ongoing and I am not privileged to discuss cases under investigation.

During this site meeting, we observed a potential hazard that needed to be addressed.  Exterior glass panels that were being installed when the stop work notice was issued, were not properly completed and secured.  A few of the glass panels were shattered, apparently due to a recent wind event and there was a potential for them and other panels to break free and possibly injure a maintenance worker or fall into the street below.  This type of installation requires that panels be locked together in order to stay in a structurally sound condition.  It was decided to allow the contractor to install replacement panels and the hardware to secure the panels together in order to eliminate the hazard.  There has been just a couple glass workers at the site on several occasions installing hardware and the builder notifies my staff when they are present.  We have followed up on this issue and it should be completed by the end of this week.

This is the only work that was allowed other than gardening, cleaning and protecting the structure from weather.  I will assure everyone that construction is not moving forward and this decision does not in anyway vest the project.  Our only concern was to eliminate a potential hazard.  The permits are revoked at this time and the Stop Work Order is being upheld.

In the meantime, the owner and contractor are attempting to comply with the Orders To Comply that were issued.  Please feel free to distribute this email at your discretion.  

Fred Rosen Wrote

Still waiting for an answer to my question....why materials were allowed on site after initial cease and desist order?

Fred Rosen Wrote

I will have this disseminated---but it does beg the question--the project has been enabled by your department and by you----after the original cease and desist order, was issued,  please explain why building materials were allowed to come to the property--and the fact they were ordered is no excuse---that's what warehouses are for----in one of the last pictures I was shown, there are now lights in the house---how can that be allowed to happen?

At some point a full explanation is going to come forward----and someone needs to explain how all that grading was done......

Jeff Napier Wrote

Hi Mr. Rosen, Please see my response below to your question, “why materials were allowed on site after initial cease and desist order?”: 

As of today 2/12/2015, LADBS has not allowed materials to be stored at the site other than the glass panels that were being installed under the conditions I mentioned in my previous response.  In fact, on several occasions the contractor requested if they could store other materials such as cabinets at the project site, and the answer was NO.  The reason we denied this request, was to discourage a potential violation of the Stop Work Order.  

I understand that there are many questions regarding the project at 901 Strada Vecchia, which is a very complicated project with many complex issues.  In order to answer individual questions, if everybody involved would like to meet in person, I can arrange a meeting with LADBS Staff members from Inspection and Plan Check in the very near future. Please let me know your availability over next couple of weeks and who would like to attend the meeting. Thank you

Fred Rosen Wrote

Jeff and Ray--- That still doesn't answer the question----why as of today?--why not as of the original date of the first cease and desist order which was July 15, 2014----

this is the exact copy of an email I received from Joe Horacek--I'm just restating it for the group...

Materials delivered to Strada Vecchia after the initial stop order (most of which has since been installed/used):

glass plate and windows

siding and stone facing materials

steel beams


backhoes and bobcat

portable cement mixer

extensive scaffolding materials

Joe also sent me a note about the inspector to whom he pointed out the new installation of rebar for the driveway and who told him that the rebar was illegally installed subsequent to the revocation of the permits and would have to be removed.

Instead it was the base for the driveway installed about a month later.

I realize that this communication goes to the whole group---to be frank, the situation here is not that complex--and calls for readily available answers--why were any of this materials allowed on the property after the first cease and desist order? That calls for an answer--and as far as I'm concerned, you have always been part of the problem--not part of the solution--in my opinion, you have personally have enabled this project--and you attempt to hide behind concepts like complicated project --complex issues----somehow, in my opinion, I think you use those words to cover up your actions and your behavior. I think that most of us who have run businesses know when people are evading questions and being evasive---and, in my opinion, thats' what you have been doing for months---I know when I'm being BSed---and so do most of us.  Answer the questions fully and we will all be happy to attend the meeting.

Furthermore, its clear that Ray Chan's management style is to delegate---and he keeps shoving you down our throats-- your being respectful now doesn't ameliorate your behavior over the last 6 months-----candidly--we neither respect your judgment nor trust you---considering the emails that went around yesterday, I'm pleased to tell you that its not a shutout---but in baseball game, you would be losing 450 to 2.

If you plan on conducting this meeting the way I saw you conduct the last one I attended--like a 5th rate dictator ---I'm not sure I'm interested in attending----but if you are prepared to answer the questions set forth in this email prior to the meeting and conduct a truly open forum with a truly open dialogue--everyone gets to speak and you cut no one off---I would be amenable to that---as a matter of fact--suppose I run the meeting and I give you the opportunity to make your case---because,  in  my mind, as Desi used to say to Lucy---"you got lots of splaining to do." We all look forward to your response.

Jeff Napier Wrote

Good Morning, Questions and comments regarding 901 Strada Vecchia will be discussed at th meeting on March 4th. See you then,

Fred Rosen Wrote

Jeff-- Your response is the problem we have with you--and why we don't want you in our community anymore. You behave like a bully--and you refuse to be held accountable and we are sick of it.  In the world of transparency, your answer is completely non-responsive--you have no understanding of what your obligations are. This behavior would not be tolerated in private industry and its not going to be tolerated in the public sector either.   We want to come to the meeting prepared-----and that means you have to answer the questions that have been posed in advance. Its not only your agenda---its the community's agenda. We expect our questions to be answered.

Ray---this is pure nonsense. You can manage by delegating --but the people who you give the responsibility to have to be forthcoming. Something is clearly amiss here--and the fact that he won't answer these questions must give us all pause. 

Jeff---if you're the guy Ray looks to , then you have helped engender the construction mess and chaos in the community---you have no clue as to the unintended consequences of the projects you enable. It should not be up to the Alliance to fix the parking mess on on Perugia way----it should be coordinated initially between your department  and the DOT in advance---not the Alliance with the DOT, & the Councilman's office afterwards. 

You don't have to like my attitude or my tone---but it doesn't make my words any less correct. We will not tolerate your arrogance or haughtiness any longer--you don't dictate anything---and you are obligated to provide answers---and if you can't do it--which I highly doubt--than Ray needs to have someone who can.  Let me remind you--and you clearly need reminding--that you are a public servant who works for the City of Los Angeles--and our community pays some part of your salary. You don't get to dictate...period. If you worked for me---with your attitude--you would not last very long---the City's view of the opinions of the residents is ass-backwards. We are the stakeholders and we are ignored --until recently---and treated with disrespect. 

We want answers to the questions posed before the meeting----and we want someone else to conduct it.

Jeff Napier  Wrote

Good Morning, Please bring your questions and concerns regarding 901 Strada Vecchia Rd. to the meeting on March 4th, where we will discuss the issues surrounding this project. See you then.

Dan Love Wrote

Jeff- I agree with Fred.  You have gone on for months, and now almost two years, in not providing information and answers to questions re 901 Strada Vechia and you have attempted to have us residents believe that you have stopped work at the site.  These are not “allegations” by the neighbors to be investigated……the fact is that you have not stopped work on the 901 site and you are complicit in aiding the developer to finish his project day by day. Jeff, we are not stupid people!  Many of us have run large businesses and we know a thinly veiled crock of BS when we see it! 

Further, by issuing multiple permits for construction and hauling, without regard to the safety and security of the residents and children living in the hills, you are responsible for the mess we find ourselves in.  The residents want answers from you and Ray and we want you to stop stiff arming us with ridiculous nonsense like there has been no new work at the 901 site. And we want accountability from a city department that is intended to serve our needs.

We have had enough of your attempts to bully the neighbors and not give us truthful answers.  We want someone new in your job and we do not want you in our neighborhood.  You have hurt us a lot and we want a fresh approach by new people and accountability to the people that pay your salary.

Answer the questions that Fred has put to you so that we can prepare for the meeting in March!

Dan Fisk Wrote

Jeff & Ray. . . Dan Love is a respected member of the Board of our Bel Air Homeowners Alliance and a Director of the Bel Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council, as well.   As Chairman of the Alliance, I  especially strive to be objective in addressing the serious matters confronting our community and appreciate that your jobs are challenging, with that said . . . I fully concur with the underlying concerns expressed so poignantly by Fred & Dan, and hasten to add . . . we all speak for a prominent contingency of our community, now numbering over a hundred homeowners and growing, who are enraged over what is happening in our community . . . it's time for serious attention and remedial action, not simply lip service or schmoozing to mollify protests in an open meeting.  Otherwise, the consequences will be grave for all qualified stakeholders . . . responsible, safe development consistent with the charming character of our extraordinary Bel Air community is essential . . .   If the meeting you have called is to be productive, we need fulsome answers in advance to the questions presented . . .       Dan Fisk, Alliance Chairman