Coastal Panel Insists on Mid-Price Housing

Times Staff Writer

The state Coastal Commission has refused to budge on a 1980 agreement requiring the developer of the Palisades Highlands to provide 100 moderately priced units at the entrance to the wealthy community.

W. Charles Chastain, president of Headland Properties Inc., on Tuesday asked the commission to eliminate the requirement and allow his company to build 75 higher-priced condominiums. In return, Headland proposed paying the city of Los Angeles $1.5 million to finance senior citizen housing in West Los Angeles.

The commission rejected that proposal and one by its own staff that had suggested the panel agree to Headland's plan if the developer would increase the payment to $5.3 million.

"It's a late hit as far as I'm concerned," commission Vice Chairwoman Carolyn McNeil said. "We're committed on our end--he (Chastain) should keep his commitments."

The 1980 agreement required the construction of low- and moderate-income housing as part of a 740-unit project in the Palisades Highlands, which is in a steep scenic canyon above Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset Boulevard. Houses and condos there range as high as $2 million.

The moderately priced units, which Chastain said would cost $72,000 each, would be built on about seven acres at the intersection of Palisades Drive and Sunset Boulevard at the mouth of the Santa Ynez Canyon.

The commission approved that agreement after a long and bitter fight in which Headland repeatedly tried to get the Legislature to remove the development from Coastal Commission control.

After Tuesday's 9-2 vote, Chastain declined comment on the possibility that he would again seek state legislation to set aside the requirement.

Headland's proposal came up Tuesday because of a compromise reached last month between Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) and the commission. Wright agreed to drop a legislative amendment sought by Headland that would have voided the housing requirement and allowed Headland to provide "equivalent public benefits" at another site. In return, the commission agreed to consider Headland's proposal with no guarantee of approval.

Wright this week said it was too early to say whether she would propose additional legislation to help Headland.

Chastain said he requested the change in the 1980 agreement because the area lacked adequate transportation, shopping facilities, and job opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents.

Older, disabled residents also might face problems. "How are they going to get in their wheelchairs up and down the hills?" Chastain asked. The development would not serve the "really poor," he added, because buying one of the units would require a $16,000 down payment plus monthly payments.

Headland wanted to build condominiums at the site and pay $1.5 million to the city Redevelopment Agency to finance part of a senior citizen project, supported by Councilman Marvin Braude, near the San Diego Freeway and Santa Monica Boulevard.

The commission also rejected a Headland request to eliminate a requirement to build a 75-space public lot for beach parking along Sunset Boulevard. The commission staff had supported Headland because the city previously refused to approve the lot because of traffic and pedestrian safety concerns. Instead, the staff had proposed that Headland give $388,000 for construction of a lot in another location.

Headland still has several options. It could build the moderately priced housing, return to the commission in six months with another proposal or go the legislative route. Chastain said he also could donate the land to the commission or the city.

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