Hilltop construction project to move forward

Neighbors below a residential construction project at 4224 Beresford Way have exhausted their limited means of appeal. The La Cañada Flintridge City Council on Tuesday night unanimously denied an appeal launched last fall by the neighbors.

The council discussed the project and appeal during three previous council meetings, each time sending the plans back to city staff for additional details on the project, which includes a two-level, 3,525-square-foot addition to the existing home, and a swimming pool to be perched behind a 5-foot-tall retaining wall.

“We're confident everything on their plans will work; at some point you have to trust the county to do their due diligence,” Councilwoman Laura Olhasso said after the council unanimously approved the planning department's recommendation to allow the project to move forward.

City staff recommended Tuesday the council deny the neighbors' appeal based on an OK of the plans by Los Angeles County's building department. The city of La Cañada Flintridge has a contract with the county to look over grading plans, said city planner Patrick Clarke, who briefed the council Tuesday night.

In this instance, the county reviewed the plans and comments were sent back to the city with “very minor corrections, just to clarify a few things,” Clarke said. A specific person within the department did not sign off the plans, he said.

Olhasso said having the county approve the plans made the council confident the project is safe and acceptable. “We always send plans to the county. The final arbitrator of what's acceptable for building is the county's building department. That's normally done after [plans are] approved by the city; but, this time we asked them ahead of time,” she said.

The city also had asked for sandbagging to be done at the property, which had not been done as of the previous council meeting — one of the reasons the council was then displeased with the homeowners' lack of compliance. The sandbagging was since completed and it appears there was not movement as a result of recent rains, Olhasso said.

The appeal came about after the city's planning department in September approved an application by homeowners Roobin Ghazarian and Arax Baghramian for a second floor review and hillside development permit. Neighbors appealed that decision based on traffic concerns (Beresford is a narrow winding road, and the construction site is at a corner of the roadway) and a fear of erosion potential based on removal of vegetation and the addition of non-permitted loads of fill dirt.

On Nov. 19, the City Council reviewed the appeal and listened to additional public comment, then sent the project back to staff for additional review and recommendations. In December, the project again came before the council, who continued the discussion to Jan. 22. That continuance was based on the council having learned that the property owners had not completed the requested form of temporary erosion control, sandbagging; a traffic plan had not been completed to address traffic concerns, necessary flagmen, or parking for construction vehicles; and, after a geotechnical expert provided by the homeowner told the council and neighboring property owners there would never again in their lifetime be a substantial rain, such as occurred in past years, “so there is no need to be concerned” with soil erosion and mud and rain washing down into their yards.

At Tuesday's meeting, Clarke presented revisions to the traffic plan, which include a requirement for flagmen at the site, all construction parking to be on-site or on off-site private property, vehicle and pedestrian access for residents to be provided at all times, with notification to residents after city approval of any road closures. Hauling and material delivery at the site also will be restricted and not allowed on weekends or holidays.

Neighbors appeared somewhat pacified with parking restrictions added to address their concerns; however, several were not pleased with the council's decision on the overall project. “It seems to me like passing the buck,” said John Marshall, a Beresford Way resident. “I don't know why [the council] turned the project over to the county. The council had specific concerns at their last meeting. I don't think those concerns were alleviated. There was no new hydrology report, no new geo-technical report, so I don't know why they shipped it over to the county and are saying it's OK now,” he said.

Marshall said he and other neighbors will have to wait and see if the council was right in denying the appeal. “We'll just have to hope nothing comes sliding down into Kevin and Millicent's yards,” he said, referring to neighbors Millicent and Kevin Efting who live downstream of the project and were applicants in the appeal. “I mean, what else can we do?” Marshall asked.

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