Once again a developer is caught making a “mistake” that favors him financially. I’m referring to the three-story office development on Foothill Boulevard that was recently revealed to have a basic “error” in its design that allowed the developer a much taller building than was legal.
I’ve written previously about how the bulldozers showed up unannounced a couple months ago on this Foothill site west of Rosemont. Calls to the County revealed that a three story office building was fully approved, and no one locally had ever seen the plans or even heard of the development.
Since the County won’t let communities have copies of upcoming development plans, I made the trip to downtown LA, and asked to view the plans over the planning department counter. This was allowed, and I used my 007 spy camera to shoot some photos of the plans. It looked bad, three stories straight up from the sidewalk, and edge line to edge line. A real ugly monster too, but all within code. Thirty-five feet from ground level is the height allowed, and this building hit that mark exactly.
Community members pored over the photographed plans until one sharp-eyed guy spotted the key to this drama – the big “mistake.” Buildings can be 35 feet high from the ground. On the developer’s blueprints submitted to the County, the “ground” that the 35 feet measurement was taken from was an imaginary line that floated eight feet above the actual ground level at the building site. The plans showed the ground running back horizontally from the sidewalk, a flat pad, rather than sloping to the south, as every other lot in the Crescenta Valley does.
The County was alerted and had to admit that the plans didn’t reflect the actual building site (it wasn’t a flat pad after all!) and that the plans would have to be redrawn. Gosh, apparently the architect had made a “mistake”! A huge mistake that would favor the developer financially! It boggles the mind that an experienced, licensed architect, teamed with a developer with years of experience in building on the sloped lots of CV, could have made such a basic “error,” but there you go! It was a “mistake,” an “error,” a “miscalculation.”
Will the developer be penalized at all for this mistake? Of course not! It was a “mistake”! Granted it was a “mistake” that would allow a much larger building than was legal, but a “mistake” nonetheless. He will not be penalized, he will not be fined, he will not have anything adverse happen to him other than he will now have to follow the legal code. Absolutely amazing!
There has been a call for the County to share the plans of these supposedly legal developments with the community in the future. Their response? They say it’s not County policy to share the plans of legal projects with the community (and here’s the kicker quoted from an actual statement made by a County official), “… and frankly we’ve heard from people who don’t want that.” Well of course they don’t want their plans shared with the public when they contain errors that benefit them financially! And why are developers given more importance than us residents anyway?
How many other builders have made “mistakes” in their buildings here in the valley? The developer in this case has done work for the Glendale Unified School District. Is it possible he made “mistakes” there that “accidentally” increased his bottom line?
I demand that if the County is not going to check the plans of developers they give us the power to do so. It’ll ultimately save the County embarrassment, and save us from some of these illegal “legal developments.”
But I suppose the County’s attitude could work out in our favor. On my way to work the other day I got a ticket for going 80 mph in a 65 zone. But I won’t have to pay the fine. I’m going to tell the judge that it was a “mistake,” a “miscalculation.”
I understand there isn’t any penalty if you tell them it was a mistake!
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.