In a report issued this week, the Department of City Planning has recommended denial of all three requests by the Larchmont Bungalow in its most recent entitlement application. The Central Area Planning Commission will take up the matter at a public hearing next week on Tuesday, October 14.
At a preliminary hearing last month, Bungalow representatives presented a request for a zone change to delete from its parcel the [Q] condition restricting the number of restaurants on Larchmont. The representatives also asked for a waiver from city parking requirements so the Bungalow can use its seven existing parking spaces instead of the 25 spaces required for a restaurant of its size…and a Conditional Use Permit to sell beer and wine at the 107 North Larchmont Blvd location.
In recommending denial of the zone change request, the planning staff said the Larchmont “Q” Conditions were put in place in 1992 to “facilitate the retention and expansion of a wide range of neighborhood-oriented shops and services that would ensure the continued economic vitality of the pedestrian-oriented shopping district.” The report concluded that based on testimony presented at the September hearing, there is strong support for the retention of “Q” conditions, which “indicates that the protection of the neighborhood-serving character of the street is still desired 22 years after the adoption of ordinance.”
Further, the report noted there is a more appropriate process for considering removal of the “Q” conditions and suggested following the procedures outlined in the Los Angeles Municipal Code. This public process, initiated by the City Council, City Planning Commission, or the Director of Planning would allow for a more thorough examination of how the ordinance applies to the entire street rather than one individual property.
“The findings cannot be made that the applicant’s request to remove the “Q” condition for this site only would be consistent with public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good zoning,” concluded the report. The report also recommended denial of the parking waiver and beer and wine permit, which it deemed incidental to the zone change request.
If the Bungalow’s requests are granted by the planning department, it would solve a host of legal issues that have plagued the business since 2009, when Bungalow owner Albert Mizrahi signed a covenant with the city agreeing to operate as a retail store and take-out with no tables and chairs. Upon opening in October 2009, the space was filled with tables and chairs and Mizarahi announced his intention to operate as a sit-down restaurant (though he did have price tags on his tables and chairs for a time, claiming the Bungalow was also a furniture store). By the end of that year, Mizrahi lost an administrative appeal challenging the revocation of his occupancy permits before the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety Board of Commissioners, clearing the way for then City Attorney Carmen Trutanich to file a criminal complaint against Mr. Mizrahi for failing to comply with a city agency, providing false information and continuing to operate without a Certificate of Occupancy. To stay the action, Mr. Mizrahi filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging it had improperly revoked his permit.
Even though the court upheld the city’s action in 2014, the Bungalow’s lawyers have been granted additional opportunities to present evidence on two other complaints in the civil suit. Recently, the Larchmont Chronicle reported that an LA Superior Court judge set a trial date of October 19, 2015.
But the criminal case has been delayed as well. In 2013, Mizrahi pled guilty to fire code violations for overcrowding and failing to file for a permit with the fire department. He is currently on probation and is subject to frequent fire department inspections. According to a city inspector, the restaurant has been shut down four times since the three-year probation began last year. The Bungalow can only allow 39 people (including staff) inside the restaurant at any time, which is why there is often a line outside. The city is continuing its prosecution of the criminal case and the next court date is set for October 30.
The Area Planning Commission is expected to consider the recommendation and rule on the zone change, variance and CUB application at a public hearing on Tuesday, October 14, 4:30 p.m., at City Hall (200 North Spring Street) 10th Floor. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend.
Parking reservations for the public hearing can be made through Councilman Tom LaBonge’s office by contacting CD4 Field Deputy Ben Seinfeild on Friday to set it up. You can contact Ben with name of driver, car make and license plate at email@example.com.
Note: Monday is a Holiday for the City of Los Angeles.