Updates on 115 N Rossmore HPOZ Issues

Photo of new landscaping underway at 115 N. Rossmore Avenue. Photo was taken on November 12

Earlier this week, the Buzz published a story about the front yard landscaping work underway at 115 N. Rossmore Ave. We had been watching the progress on the project and wondered if the construction had been approved by the Department of City Planning. We were also curious about which aspects of the work were subject to the review of the Hancock Park HPOZ Board. At the time our first story appeared, we had not heard back from the Department of City Planning, but we had spoken to the Hancock Park HPOZ board chair, who said the Board had not reviewed the project. We also spoke to owner Jay Griffith, who told us all the work currently underway had either been approved by the City or was not subject to review by the HPOZ because it was specifically listed as exempt from review in the Hancock Park Historic Preservation Plan.

Since the originaly story appreared, however, we have heard back from planning department staff and we have also received additional information from Mr. Griffith.

Here’s what the Buzz learned from the Department of City Planning’s public relations specialist, Lauren Alba:

“Fences, walls, and hedges in the front yard as well as new hardscape must be reviewed by the Director of Planning (HPOZ Planning staff) and may require additional review by the HPOZ Board. What currently exists, based on the photographs provided, has not been reviewed by Planning staff,” wrote Ms. Alba in a e-mail to the Buzz. Below are the photos that were provided to the Planning staff by the Buzz.

Mr. Griffith, who also posted a comment on our first story, has since provided us with the approved plans (below is a screen shot of the first page) for the wall that was constructed, along with a determination letter from the Planning staff, confirming that the project as described qualified as “conforming work on contributing elements.” (In other words, the project as originally described in the application complies with HPOZ rules about what can or can’t be done to significant features of the property.)

Screen shot of the first page of the approved plan provided by Mr. Griffith. Click here to view the complete plans.

Ms. Alba confirmed that the 42″ low wall was approved by the Director of Planning through the Conforming Work process, but she added that, “We cannot confirm whether the applicant has any permits for the proposed project.”

Regarding the site grading and the berms up to the 42″ wall,  Ms. Alba replied, “According to Section 3.5 (h) of the Hancock Park Preservation Plan, grading and site development is exempt from review if the natural features are not called out in the Historic Survey Landscape notes. In this case, they are not,” wrote Ms. Alba.

And to our request for a clarification on this, Ms. Alba said, “Yes, the grading and berms up to the wall (42”) are exempt from review.” 

Regarding the awnings, however, Ms. Alba said:

“While awnings are exempt, the structure supporting the awnings would require review from the HPOZ Board. In this case, it has not been reviewed and the applicant will need to obtain approval from the HPOZ Board. The walkways are subject to review by the Director of Planning (HPOZ Planning staff). Since both the structure and walkways were installed without Planning staff approval, both will be heard by the HPOZ Board as part of code enforcement.”

Finally, in addition to the landscaping rules for the HPOZ, we learned that trees in the parkway are also addressed in the Hancock Park Preservation Plan, and that planting of new parkway trees should also be reviewed by the HPOZ Board. (The plan calls for Elm trees in that block on Rossmore; Mr. Griffith planted Camphor trees.)

So what seemed at first to be a fairly simple question about the kinds of approvals necessary for front landscaping work under the Hancock Park HPOZ rules turned out to have a much more complex answer than we first expected.  In short, in this particular case, it seems that some of the work at the property so far has been approved, some of the work is exempt from review and some of the work will require further review as the project continues.

 

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

4 thoughts on “Updates on 115 N Rossmore HPOZ Issues

  1. I’m glad to see you holding builder’s feet to the fire. There’s no point in having an HPOZ if it isn’t enforced. Now, let’s see if this developer accedes to the process he tried to skirt.

  2. Oh, Lord.
    What to do with this one.

    BUILDER
    Yes, of gardens. I have been doing garden design since 1972. I am fiercely proud of my career which has been chronicled in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, many Conde Nast magazines and journals, the Japanese press, the English press, public television and public radio- to name a few.

    DEVELOPER
    What I am most noted for developing is the Venice Garden Tour which turned into the Venice Design Series and has raised over 4 million dollars for at risk youth in the Venice community.

    SKIRTER
    It’s hard to skirt when you’re working for heads of State- the King of Jordan, the Governor of California; industry heads- Paul Allen, Ron Meyer; celebrities- Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt; institutions- Huntington Art Museum, J Paul Getty Trust.

    This home will be the third in my adult life. I lived at my previous home at 719 Amalfi in Pacific Palisades for 14 years. Please see the video journal by Benjamin Kahle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2ux6clBDd4
    Prior to that, I lived at 725 Palms Boulevard in Venice for 34 years. At both homes I held numerous fundraising events for the Venice community, Library Foundation of Los Angeles, Santa Monica Museum of Art, LACMA, Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, The Garden Conservancy, Los Angeles Conservancy and Tree People.

    I know all this sounds defensive, but the jibes being hurled at me are, I think, a bit unfair.

  3. ARTICLE:
    Earlier this week, the Buzz published a story about the front yard landscaping work underway at 115 N. Rossmore Ave. We had been watching the progress on the project and wondered if the construction had been approved by the Department of City Planning. We were also curious about which aspects of the work were subject to the review of the Hancock Park HPOZ Board. At the time our first story appeared, we had not heard back from the Department of City Planning, but we had spoken to the Hancock Park HPOZ board chair, who said the Board had not reviewed the project. We also spoke to owner Jay Griffith, who told us all the work currently underway had either been approved by the City or was not subject to review by the HPOZ because it was specifically listed as exempt from review in the Hancock Park Historic Preservation Plan.
    Since the originaly story appreared, however, we have heard back from planning department staff and we have also received additional information from Mr. Griffith.
    RESPONSE:
    None of this was new information- I forwarded the HPPP Guidelines via email on 11.15.18:
    Patty,
    Good speaking with you over the phone this morning, just one point of clarification, please see enclosed the exceptions to the HPOZ, I’m sure you have seen this, and please forgive me if I’m being redundant, again call me if you have any more questions: (310) 415-7410.
    Regards, Jay
    http://preservation.lacity.org/files/Hancock%20Park%20Preservation%20Plan%20Overview.pdf

    ARTICLE:
    Here’s what the Buzz learned from the Department of City Planning’s public relations specialist, Lauren Alba:
    “Fences, walls, and hedges in the front yard as well as new hardscape must be reviewed by the Director of Planning (HPOZ Planning staff) and may require additional review by the HPOZ Board. What currently exists, based on the photographs provided, has not been reviewed by Planning staff,” wrote Ms. Alba in a e-mail to the Buzz. Below are the photos that were provided to the Planning staff by the Buzz.
    Mr. Griffith, who also posted a comment on our first story, has since provided us with the approved plans (below is a screen shot of the first page) for the wall that was constructed, along with a determination letter from the Planning staff, confirming that the project as described qualified as “conforming work on contributing elements.” (In other words, the project as originally described in the application complies with HPOZ rules about what can or can’t be done to significant features of the property.)
    RESPONSE:
    You had agreed you would ascertain this yourself as part of your due diligence as a journalist prior to publishing the first article.

    ARTICLE:
    Ms. Alba confirmed that the 42″ low wall was approved by the Director of Planning through the Conforming Work process, but she added that, “We cannot confirm whether the applicant has any permits for the proposed project.”
    RESPONSE:
    As a general matter, building permits are not required or issued in connection with landscaping projects. As to the elements of my landscaping project that you have written about, no permits are required. The LADBS, in its own bulletin a copy of which I attach, states that a wall that is 42” or lower does not require a permit.
    https://www.ladbs.org/docs/default-source/publications/information-bulletins/building-code/guidelines-for-construction-of-masonry-or-concrete-fence-walls-which-do-not-require-a-building-permit-ib-p-bc2014-080.pdf?sfvrsn=12
    Likewise, flatwork, i.e., the stairs, does not require a permit to construct. The same is true as to the grading work that I did.

    ARTICLE:
    Regarding the site grading and the berms up to the 42″ wall, Ms. Alba replied, “According to Section 3.5 (h) of the Hancock Park Preservation Plan, grading and site development is exempt from review if the natural features are not called out in the Historic Survey Landscape notes. In this case, they are not,” wrote Ms. Alba.And to our request for a clarification on this, Ms. Alba said, “Yes, the grading and berms up to the wall (42”) are exempt from review.”
    RESPONSE:
    That is correct and is what I have been stating as a fact of law all along.

    ARTICLE:
    Regarding the awnings, however, Ms. Alba said:
    “While awnings are exempt, the structure supporting the awnings would require review from the HPOZ Board. In this case, it has not been reviewed and the applicant will need to obtain approval from the HPOZ Board. The walkways are subject to review by the Director of Planning (HPOZ Planning staff). Since both the structure and walkways were installed without Planning staff approval, both will be heard by the HPOZ Board as part of code enforcement.”
    RESPONSE:
    Correct, awnings are exempt.
    As I told you, these are temporary- the house will take years to fully restore.
    The HPPP refers to “pavement and hardscape” materials – the wooden walkway is neither pavement nor hardscape. The walkway is made of wooden skids sitting on the ground and not anchored in any way. They are floating, independent pieces of furniture- a tabletop with no legs, if you will.
    I want to reiterate this emphatically: Both the awning and walkway are temporary so I can live in my home comfortably until I go through the entire planning and approval process as well as have contractors bid the work, schedule the work and do the work. This is not a construction site. This is my home.
    These articles are leading to a typification of me as a builder, a developer and a skirter- see comment from Clif Lord below. I will answer his comment in due course.

    ARTICLE:
    Finally, in addition to the landscaping rules for the HPOZ, we learned that trees in the parkway are also addressed in the Hancock Park Preservation Plan, and that planting of new parkway trees should also be reviewed by the HPOZ Board. (The plan calls for Elm trees in that block on Rossmore; Mr. Griffith planted Camphor trees.)
    RESPONSE:
    Every Elm tree on Rossmore from Wilshire to Beverly has died, been removed, and/or is in the process of dying. All of the 11 Elms remaining on this block of Rossmore are sick and dying. Not to mention- all of the sidewalks and curbs have been destroyed by the Elm trees.
    These trees are susceptible to Dutch Elm disease as well as the new scourge through our urban forests- shot hole borer. This borer is attacking over 100 different species of trees and spreading unchecked through Southern California. Descanso Gardens and Huntington Gardens have been ravaged. This scourge should be the focus.
    Many of my neighbors have switched to Camphor trees [Cinnamomum camphora] – which have no known diseases, pests or problems at this point and make an excellent street tree.
    On my block, the closest Camphor trees in the same cadence and positioning are at Marlborough School- the largest single frontage on Rossmore, tantamount to 8 houses.

    ARTICLE:
    So what seemed at first to be a fairly simple question about the kinds of approvals necessary for front landscaping work under the Hancock Park HPOZ rules turned out to have a much more complex answer than we first expected. In short, in this particular case, it seems that some of the work at the property so far has been approved, some of the work is exempt from review and some of the work will require further review as the project continues.
    RESPONSE:
    As an overview, what strikes me is what started as an inquiry with the primary questions being the berming of the earth, entry stairs and landscaping has grown into a discussion about a temporary awning, a temporary walkway and street trees.
    I’m kind of feeling like were off on a fishing expedition, aren’t we? This is fine for me- I like fishing.
    Usually, I am lauded for my work, my efforts and my community spirit. Vilification is new to me and you’ll have to forgive my being a bit hurt with all of these jibes.

    One of the first things I said to you in our phone interviews is if there is something I need to make right with the neighborhood, I will do it. Not once have you made that caveat to my neighbors nor have you let them know the number of times I’ve returned your calls, instigated calls to you and sent you information. I have been completely transparent in every way, shape and form to you. However, the entire tone of your writing paints me in an unfavorable light.

    In my mind the only thing I need approval for is the steps- which I will endeavor to do. This lies in an exchange between the Planning Department and myself.

    In closing – and I want to be very clear – I will go through the Planning Department for anything that needs to be done for long term site planning.

  4. Mrs. Lombard, I think you agree that juding someone mid sentence is not smart. Same goes for judging someone’s work in progress. Did you ever ask Mr. Griffith if the items of your concern are going to be permanent or temporary? I don’t think you did. Your two articles are very inconclusive and pointless to read. You should have communicated further with Mr. Griffith and you would have realized that he knows exactly what he is doing and is not intending to ignore the HPOZ codes/restrictions. Read his comments; there’s not a single sign of an intend to violate/ignore the City codes nor the ones from the HPOZ. You owe him an apology. Why bashing someone online if you clearly haven’t done enough research? You could go to any construction site and find temporary items which might violate codes/restrictions. But that’s not the content and quality of journalism I want to receive as a reader of this news site. Spare us with any follow up articles until Mr. Griffith has finished his work. Thank you.

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