DEEGAN ON LA-The continuing degrading of our communities by developers may reach a startling low point if mega-house-party-impresario Michael Scott (photo below, center) gets to build his Bigger Party House in the hills (photo above). Consider this:
- Traffic on Benedict Canyon Drive will grind to a halt for 15 minutes, once every hour of the work day, for up to forty-one months of construction, allowing haul trucks to remove dirt from a canyon hillside being leveled by owner Michael Scott. He wants to build his hillside party house at 10101 Angelo View Drive, between Benedict Canyon Drive and North Beverly Glen Boulevard, in Council District 5.
- Existing wildlife corridors between these two roads will be destroyed by this project, isolating and ultimately starving to death wildlife such as mule deer and coyotes.
- A neighborhood of 93 one-family 1,500 square foot homes could be clustered in the space being plotted for this 139,062 square foot mega-mansion.
- Up to one-quarter million people a year may attend house parties at the Michael Scott Party House.
- The region’s most famous party house, Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion, is one-quarter the size of this hillside party house.
The scale of this project is so huge that the normal metrics will humble you -- so consider two environmental tragedies to gain some perspective: allowing this party house to be built will require the removal of a mountain top and it will result in the crushing of existing wildlife corridors, ultimately killing the wildlife that rely on them.
In a letter to their Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5), a coalition of 44 resident and homeowner associations, representing what they say is approximately 200,000 constituents, has notified him that they oppose this project, calling it a “grossly out-of-scale project.” They list several other objections in their three page letter filled with complaints about the party house project, sent to Koretz on June 22, 2015. These people are unhappy and are waiting for an answer and some action…mindful that he must start running for reelection in several months.
There is a big conflict here between the personal desires of owner Michael Scott versus the civic responsibility and resolve of Councilmember Koretz and the City of Los Angeles.
The City Council has the power to shut this project down. The only question is, will they?
Michael Scott is well known in some circles as a mega-partier, hosting very large and well-attended house parties. His publicists have provided a glimpse behind the gates to celebrate him, at this link.
He has outsized ambitions for a global reputation of having the party house with the toughest velvet rope to get past. If his new party house is approved it will have space for up to 500 guests at a time to party with him, including any that might descend from the sky to his proposed hillside helipad.
The scale of the proposed house is such that if Michael Scott threw a party every night for the 500 guests that his house is designed to easily accommodate -- not an unreasonable speculation for someone with his reputation and passion for partying -- he could theoretically invite 182,500 guests to Angelo View Drive over the course of a year. By doubling up afternoon and night parties on special occasions and holidays, he could easily have the capacity to bring a quarter million partiers to his proposed party house in 12 months.
This is the number of partiers that you expect at densely packed, very loud Hollywood nightclubs. If he is given permission to build it, Scott’s party house will be like a nightclub in the hills.
An argument could be made that this is not a home, but an industry. The reality is there is no place in our hillside neighborhoods for “this grossly out-of-scale project.” The hope is that Councilmember Koretz and his colleagues will immediately call a halt to this development.
If anyone at City Hall can resolve this, it’s Paul Koretz, who has been working hard to bring sense and order to the hillsides by personally authoring two key pieces of legislation: the City’s Anti-Mansionization Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) (City of Los Angeles Ordinance No. 183497) and a proposed Ordinance to Establish and Protect Hillside Wildlife Corridors, Council File 14-0518.
The Koretz-sponsored ICO was specifically designed to prevent the construction of buildings like the Scott project, in part, because "the proliferation of such construction poses a current and immediate threat to the public welfare, including degradation of neighborhood character, loss of neighbors' privacy, curtailment of development potential, and negative impacts to aesthetics and general quality of life."
Portions of the Scott project were allegedly approved just weeks before this ICO became law. If so, that may require the city council to enact another ordinance grandfathering the Scott property into compliance to the ICO.
The Koretz-sponsored wildlife corridor motion, on track to become an ordinance, that is on an upcoming council agenda, moves to “require the city planning department and department of building and safety to consider wildlife corridors in any new building plans in the hillsides and provide scientific guidance to keep wildlife habitat linkages and corridors open”, among other tough provisions to protect our hillside wildlife and give them the ability they need to survive.
Councilmember Koretz and his colleagues, and the public that will be allowed to make public comment at the hearing, can tell the LA Building and Safety Commission not to approve this project when it meets on Tuesday, March 22nd at 9:30 am at 201 North Figueroa Street; Room 900. That hearing is to review and approve or deny the Haul Route application, and to certify the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the project.
Koretz, his council colleagues and the public can tell the commissioners that they want this project stopped until a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) can be conducted, as was promised to the community, they say, by both Paul Koretz and Michael Scott.
A petition directed to Councilmember Koretz, to require an EIR pleads with Koretz as follows: “Councilmember Koretz, after successfully leading the charge for and exacting a promise from Michael Scott to perform a full EIR, I’m confused why you have not spoken up when he broke his promise to you and to our community. I’m unclear why you aren’t opposing the Haul Route, and I don’t know why you aren’t opposing this disastrous project as a whole. The loopholes he’s exploiting and the decimation of a wildlife corridor is prohibited under legislation and motions you authored. Those protections need to apply to our community and to this giga-mansion too.”
What’s the difference between what the community has been offered, a mitigated “Negative Declaration” and what they are demanding, an “Environmental Impact Report” (EIR)?
A Negative Declaration is a document that states, upon completion of an initial study, that there is no substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment. A Negative Declaration can be prepared only when there is no substantial evidence in light of the whole record before the lead agency that the project may have a significant effect on the environment.
An EIR is an informational document which will inform the public agency decision-makers and the public generally of:
- the significant environmental effects of a project
- possible ways to minimize significant effects
- reasonable alternatives to the project
An EIR must be prepared when there is substantial evidence in the record that supports a fair argument that significant effects may occur.
A lawyer for Michael Scott would not answer when asked by CityWatch, “Would Michael Scott consider having an EIR prepared for the Angelo View Drive property?” Scott, says the community, initially agreed to the EIR, but then reneged.
Councilmember Paul Koretz has not said why he changed his mind from supporting having the EIR, but has the opportunity, at the March 22 hearing, to state publicly and emphatically that a project like this in his district will not be allowed to go forward without an Environmental Impact Report.
Koretz provided this general statement to CityWatch: "My staff and I have worked very carefully and diligently to make certain that all parties have been heard and that the community’s input has been fully taken into account. We appreciate that the City Attorney and various other involved city departments have weighed in throughout the process, to ensure that we have an appropriate outcome.
"I certainly take quite seriously the community’s varied and important concerns, and that’s why I called for an extensive environmental review.
"The haul route aspect is going before the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners on Tuesday,” he continued, “and we are expecting an important decision at that time. It is absolutely essential that safety be the number one priority in the Commission’s deliberations."
What does neighbor Jeff Franklin have to say about this? The Scott giga-mansion will be a mere 20 yards from his bedroom window. He has made direct appeals both to owner Michael Scott and to Councilmember Paul Koretz.
To Michael Scott: “There are a number of existing laws to ensure that hillside development in residential communities is done thoughtfully to protect neighbors, wildlife corridors, protected trees, city infrastructure, and the environment, and to ensure that a project doesn’t have an adverse impact on the community. All of your neighbors simply wish that you’d comply with the current regulations and make sure your project doesn’t damage our quality of life or threaten our safety.”
To Councilmember Paul Koretz: “In the beginning of this process, you were a champion for our community and demanded a thorough Environmental Impact Report which Michael Scott promised to do. But Michael Scott broke his promise and still plans to haul away half a mountain and build a 139,000 sf, six story, 82-foot tall entertainment complex masquerading as a ‘house,’ in clear violation of City rules. He’s neglected to protect a wildlife corridor and protected trees, issues you have championed. The traffic and quality of life impacts will be devastating. His plans are secret, and ever changing. Please, make Michael Scott respect the rules you helped put in place.”
If you were owner Michael Scott what would you say?
If you were Councilmember Paul Koretz, what would you do?
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.