Bel-Air Association Wants More Excavation, More Hauling and More Truck Trips

This article was written by Victoria Talbot and published by the Beverly Hills Courier

Finally, after a spate of oversized, over-publicized and over-mansionized projects have focused attention on the portentous residential development in Los Angeles, the L.A. City Council has found a voice that resonates with residents and voters to stop over-building the City.

Tuesday is showdown time, setting the old guard pro-development Bel-Air Association against the newly activated residents of the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance in a battle for their Bel Air neighborhood.

A meeting of the Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use (PLUM) Committee Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 2:30 p.m. will consider an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that will limit excavation to 5,000 cubic yards of soil in Bel Air. The Bel Air Homeowners Alliance is requesting that the neighborhood show its support.

“Section 3 Prohibition F. Bel Air. Notwithstanding any section of the LAMC, no building permit shall issue for a Project in Bel Air on a Hillside Area lot where the exempted grading under Section 12.21.C.1-(f)(3)(i) of the LAMC exceeds 5,000 cubic yards.” 

The Bel Air Homeowners Alliance (BAHOA) sent out an email to residents, requesting that they express their support for the ICO. “The City Attorney’s office has drafted an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that is set to be heard by the City’s PLUM Committee . . . which, hopefully, will be followed by the City Council’s final approval. This is a major milestone. .  . The ICO will greatly aid in tightening up the loophole that existed in the Hillside Ordinance, which basically limits the building height, but failed to take into account digging down. This 5,000 cubic yard dirt removal limit will prevent developers from literally removing our hillsides as they dig their 40,000 sq. ft. basements,” said the BAHOA letter. 

But the Bel-Air Association, billing itself as a homeowners advocacy group, has sent out misleading emails telling residents not to support the measure in a ‘Hail Mary’ bid to blindside the Alliance, fool residents, and bring pressure to bear at City Council for the developer’s team.

The ordinance would prohibit mega-development single-family homes from excessive excavation like projects on Airole Way with the removal of 39,000 cubic yards of dirt with 8,000 truck trips, on Somma Way, with 6,000 truck trips moving 29,000 cubic yards of soil, Tortuoso Way, 10,000 truck trips. Other projects are on Linda Flora, Saint Cloud Road, Chalon Road, Nimes Place and many other excavation sites that dot the hillsides of Bel Air, threatening hillside stability, making roads unsafe, blocking access, and disrupting the neighborhood character and the peaceful enjoyment of the area.

Such projects mean residents endure years of excavation, hauling and unsafe road and hillside conditions. It also means that the excavation is undermining the hillsides. Until the formation of the Bel Air Homeowners Alliance, besides the removal of habitats, endangered trees, and entire ridge tops, these mega-developers worked virtually without oversight. Ordinances in place were ignored and rarely enforced.

Floods, mudslides, falling debris, trucks careening through narrow streets and stop signs, staging trucks in groups of 40, construction on weekends and during prohibited hours, the absence of flagmen – these are but a few of the many violations that have slid under the radar. Until now.

Cities such as Beverly Hills limit excavation to 5,000 cubic yards already – unless approved by the Planning Commission for a variance and then confirmed by the City Council. So does West Hollywood and Santa Monica, with limits as low as 3,500 to reflect the neighborhood character. 

The Bel-Air Association Blog, a product of the Bel-Air Association, said the following: “Unfortunately, some in our community have received a very misleading email from a group supporting the ICO which group appears more concerned with attacking the Bel-Air Association than addressing the dire construction related problems facing our community.” Instead, says the BAA, their goal is “real regulation,” “to deal with dangerous construction traffic, project coordination and oversight and infrastructure maintenance.” 

The result of a “no” vote on the ICO – is NO restrictions – at ALL – on anything! And that is precisely what the BAA wants. Dig, baby. Dig.  The BAA has demonstrated opposition to any limits on construction and the only infrastructure maintenance they have supported is the collection of funds by the BAA, from developers, in exchange for BAA support – slated to fix potholes.

The Bel-Air Association, a quasi-association set up at the dawn of development in the burgh to support development, feeds Bel Air residents with misrepresentation. With every square foot now accounted for and maxing out – increasing development is hardly an issue.
Perhaps a majority of residents realize that the Grand Dame BAA has seen better days. An organization that represents developers runs contrary to the wishes of the Bel Air residents, and in an area where some of the most wealthy and powerful reside, anything can happen.

The Alliance has created a petition for those who support the ICO measure. Please record support before the 2:30, Feb. 24 meeting.