Councilman’s office comes out swinging against controversial Playa del Rey project

By Gary Walker

The Legado Co. has been cited by the city for doing construction work on Jake’s Lot without a permit Photo by Johnny Davis

The Legado Co. has been cited by the city for doing construction work on Jake’s Lot without a permit
Photo by Johnny Davis

Citing safety concerns related to an underground chemical plume in the commercial heart of Playa del Rey, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office is now voicing strong opposition to the Legado del Mar project proposed for Culver Boulevard.

The Legado Co. is seeking coastal development permits for a four-story residential and retail development on a currently vacant triangular parcel of vacant land at 138 Culver Blvd., known locally as Jake’s Lot. The project would include 72 apartments, 14,500 square feet of commercial space and a two-level underground parking garage.

Opponents of the project are concerned that excavation work for the underground parking may disturb and spread dry cleaning fluid and other hazardous chemicals located underneath a former dry cleaner less than a block away from Jake’s Lot.

So are Bonin’s representatives, who raised the issue during a West Los Angeles Planning Administrator hearing last Thursday that drew more than
70 people, a majority of them speaking out against the project.

Tricia Keane, Bonin’s planning director, urged Associate Zoning Administrator Lourdes Green to deny the permit application for Legado del Mar.

“The project threatens not just the character of the community but also the safety of the community and the surrounding areas,” Keane told Green.

“Simply put, the project is out of scale and out of character with the quaint beachside community of lower Playa del Rey,” Keane explained. “We have a number of concerns with the project related to its size and scale as well as the environmental review that was done in connection with the project.”

Keane cited plans to pump potentially contaminated groundwater from the Legado del Mar site in order to build a subterranean garage, a process called de-watering, as Bonin’s greatest concern about the project.

While she stopped short of officially calling for a complete environmental analysis — an expensive and time consuming study that could slow the project — Keane argued that the Legado Co.’s existing environmental review process was inadequate.

Groundwater-related concerns “haven’t been sufficiently studied and, as evidenced by the testing that was conducted by the applicant recently, it appears that there are some very vague outstanding questions about whether impacts of the de-watering have been sufficiently analyzed. Without the appropriate studies, it can’t possibly be concluded definitively that there won’t be an impact on coastal resources,” she said.

Benjamin Reznik, an attorney who represents the Legado Co., said the company stands by the findings of its environmental review.

The recent testing that Keane was referring to involved plumbing and construction work that the Legado Co. conducted at Jake’s Lot last month.

That work was done without permits, however, according to city documents.

The company was ordered to stop work and fined $336 by the city’s Dept. of Building and Safety for performing work without city permits and for storing containers on the vacant lot without a conditional use permit.

Consultants working for the Legado Co. have previously issued a report stating that any potential environment hazards can be mitigated, but Playa del Rey residents disagree and have urged Bonin to ask for a full environmental review.

The toxic plume became an issue after a hydrologist was hired by project opponents to study the issue.

They cite the existence of the chemical plume under the former Del Rey Cleaners building and Legado’s de- watering plans, which they say could affect the area’s water table.

“Because the water table is so shallow, [Legado] has to de-water the site through pumping or drainage, and lowering the water table will create a greater driving force for moving the contaminants” toward Legado del Mar, Davis-based hydrologist Steven Deverel told The Argonaut in November.

Green said she would take several weeks to render her decision, given the amount of testimony, documents and exhibits.