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Homeowners Sue to Block Public Beach Club

By Jorge Casuso

June 26 -- Four homeowners filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Friday to block construction of a public beach club at the former estate of Marion Davies at 415 PCH in Santa Monica.

Filed by the Palisades Beach Property Owners Association and resident Jonathan G. Ornstein, the lawsuit charges that the environmental impact report (EIR) for the project does not adequately address traffic and parking problems.

The suit also claims that the project would violate Proposition S, which limits the development of restaurants or food service facilities along the coast. In addition, the suit claims that the City's plan to raze a 58-year-old locker building at the site would violate rules for properties listed in the California Register of Historical Resources.

“Unless restrained by this Court, the City’s actions expose Petitioners to irreparable harm,” the lawsuit states. “City’s actions also subject Petitioners and the public to loses related to the untimely destruction of a historic structure which, once destroyed, cannot be rebuilt.”

Friends of 415 PCH, which gathered more than 1,000 signatures on petitions in support of the beach club approved by the City Council last month, denounced the lawsuit filed by the “wealthy neighbors.”

"These four neighbors have kicked sand in the face of the public,” said Joel Brand, who chairs the group. “They are using their enormous wealth to act like modern day beach bullies, using high-priced lawyers to try and keep the public away from their beach."

Supporters of the proposed beach club counter that the EIR adequately analyzes the potential impacts of the nearly $30 million project funded with a private grant by the Annenberg Foundation.

They also point out that the locker building was a later addition to the property built in 1929 by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and is not historic. The guesthouse and swimming pool are all the remains of the estate.

Among the four neighbors is the owner of Raleigh Studios, the CEO of regional airline Mesa Air and a prominent LA real estate investor, Brand said. None of the opponents live immediately adjacent to the former Hearst property at 415 PCH.

Although the City agreed to conditions that the plaintiffs said were acceptable, they threatened to sue unless they had the right to enforce these conditions themselves.

The council, however, said the City could not grant those enforcement rights, but would require Coastal Commission approval for any changes it would make.

“Most PCH neighbors, including those immediately adjacent, are satisfied with the proposed mitigations,” Brand said. “Still, there are four neighbors who remain unsatisfied with the city's concessions and are willing to spend hundreds of thousand of dollars to fight the public facility.”

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