THE VIEW FROM HERE - Virtually the entire world knows that the Duchess of Sussex, Los Angeles’ own Meghan Markle, went to high school at Immaculate Heart (IHHS) in Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. The dividing line between Los Feliz and Hollywood is Franklin Avenue. Since the school is on the north side, it is officially in ritzy Los Feliz. Minor note, Meghan’s father lived in a house which Immaculate Heart owned in the Hollywood Grove HPOZ where he was our next door neighbor. No, we never met Meghan; maybe we said “Hi” a few times as she walked past our house, but that was years before she was the Duchess.
Los Angeles’ recent city council elections had the major issue of corruption. Immaculate Heart shows how L.A.’s rich and well-connected treat the rest of us peons like garbage. For them, laws are something to be ignored. Acting as if other people are dispensable objects is the essence of moral corruption. Thus, Immaculate Heart is one case study how Los Angeles’ corruption impacts every day people.
History of Abusive Behavior
Around 1908, Immaculate Heart bought land at the corner of Western and Franklin Avenue. They bought the land up to the lots along the eastern side of North Saint Andrews Place. Starting in 1916, modest craftsmen homes were built along Saint Andrews.
Immaculate Begins Tearing Down the Homes
In 1967 after the school tore down the home at the corner of Franklin Ave and Saint Andrews, the city issued a CUP, Conditional Use Permit, allowing a parking lot but with strict conditions. Back then the city did not demand houses be replaced. A house built 1916 was only 50 years old in 1966. In 2023, we wouldn’t consider a home built in 1973 to be historic. Nonetheless, the city was unhappy with IHHS’s high handed behavior.
In 1978, Immaculate Heart ignored the CUP prohibition and tore down the parking lot’s west wall in order to install an illegal driveway. They did it on Saturday when no inspector could issue a stop order. I supposed if one is a Trump type, this would be considered smart – as an example of honesty for children, not so smart.
On January 3, 1979, the City ordered Immaculate Heart to rebuild the wall and replace the landscaping. Back story, Scotty Bowers, author Full Service, was one of the neighbors. He had a very brief closed-doors meeting with the city, who immediately enforced the CUP. Coincidentally, Scotty was good friends with Meghan Markle’s future relatives, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.)
In 1999, Immaculate Heart bought the house at 1912 Saint Andrews (the home of Meghan Markle's dad), but the Probate Court said it had cheated the elderly owner. IHHS had told the owner that selling to the School for under market value would help him get into heaven. Immaculate Heart is NOT part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Immaculate Heart Community was more or less “excommunicated” by Rome back in the 1970's. The court forced the school to pay considerably more money – nice lesson for children to see their teachers tell a senior citizen that selling his home at under market value would help him get into heaven.
In 2008, the school tore down the house at 1912 Saint Andrews despite the fact the ordinance said “no demolitions.” The school said it meant “demolitions” which did not increase the house square footage were OK. (No, that’s not a typo – demolitions which do not increase square footage are OK.) Since they destroyed all the living space, the demo was legal. This time Scotty didn’t know the right people but the councilmember’s sister belonged to the Immaculate Community and his daughter had gone to school at IHHS. Listen up kiddies; if you say up is down and have good connections, right and wrong evaporate.
At about the same time, IHHS tore down the wall along the parking lot. Remember that lot had the 1967 CUP requiring the walls and CUP had been re-enforced in 1978. The School denied tearing down the wall and said it had just fallen down. The neighbors had videotape of the industrialized back-ho which the School had used to tear down the 130 feet of wall. Another nice lesson for children. Ignore the law, lie, break the law again, tell a whopper of a lie, get caught and then refuse to repair the wall – more lessons in morality for Immaculate Heart students.
Why Immaculate Heart Cannot Build on the Lot?
Since Immaculate Heart had told so many bold faced lies over the years, in 2009 the city put a stringent burden on the lot. The legalese says: “For the record, any future development or use of the subject R1 zoned site that might involve a discretionary land use entitlement should be subject to environmental review (i.e., no CEQA exemption) due to the demolition of a contributing structure that occurred on the property.”
The reasonable translation into English is that before the School can use the lot for purposes other than a detached R-1 home, it will have to do an Environmental Impact Review and it may not rely on any CEQA exemption (California’s Environment law) to evade the doing an EIR. This is a very serious restriction. Without betraying confidences, city officials do not like being pressured to do the wrong thing, i.e., saying “no demolitions” only prohibits demolitions which increase square footage. In return for the city’s allowing the demo, the school had to live with this strict EIR requirement. The Hollywood Grove HPOZ limits the lot’s use to “residential.” The school is “institutional.”
Would You Be Surprised That the School Again Ignored The Law?
Recently, the school decided to use the lot as an athletic field. Did it ask the neighbors to cooperate to have the 2009 restriction removed and for an HPOZ exception? Nope. The IHHS Board is composed of very entitled people, but they did not want baseballs and volleyballs hitting cars in their parking lot or going into the streets. The maximum height for fences in residential areas is only 6 feet (city height code, HPOZ and Hillside Ordinance.) So, Immaculate Heart tore down its low fences and erected a huge 12 foot tall black chain link fence including across its neighbor’s south facing windows. The school denied knowing about the 2009 restriction or the HPOZ! Did it also not know it was in the City of Los Angeles? Of course, with “ Best Lawyer Mark R. Attwood, Esq.,” as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, one cannot expect Immaculate Heart to know anything about the law. Best Lawyers
How many tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will the forthcoming legal battles with the City cost the School? It cost IHHS $488,610.26 (in 2023 dollars) to get the property from the old man in 1999. Now it is worth only $451,870.00 (Zillow). After violating the city fence codes, the Hillside fence code, the HPOZ use restriction and the law requiring permits, they’re losing the ability to use it as an athletic field. Do IHHS parents want their children’s tuition squandered by such incompetent hubris? On the other hand, if parents want self-centered, narcissistic children who think the law is only for suckers, then IHHS may be a good place to send their kids.
(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor. You may email him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed by Mr. Abrams are not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)