The Pacific Palisades Community Council, concerned about development in the affluent community, is attempting to organize 50 homeowners associations and get them to enforce building restrictions in the deeds to their 11,000 homes.
The 12-member council, which represents local civic organizations, is seeking to act as a clearinghouse for the sometimes helter-skelter hodgepodge of covenants, conditions and restrictions concerning building height, area and aesthetic design contained in homeowner deeds.
The council also is trying to inform residents of these restrictions, in part out of fears that new buildings will be inconsistent with the area's ambiance.
"We don't want to stop all development, only obnoxious development," said council President Jean Graves.
Last year, Palisades residents won a three-year struggle for a local ordinance that places a two-story height limit on buildings in the commercial village.
Worry Over Development
Now, there is concern over recent development in some residential areas, especially along Sunset Boulevard, where builders have begun replacing older two-story apartment buildings with larger condominiums, Graves said.
Many residents consider the new buildings aesthetically inconsistent with the community's small-town atmosphere and believe they will lead to higher population density and more traffic congestion, said Harold Waterhouse, a 47-year Palisades resident.
Waterhouse is circulating a petition to limit construction in residential areas of the city to three stories or 35 feet high. City codes call for a four-story or 45-foot, height limit.
Graves also said that in older neighborhoods, small 1930-style bungalows are being replaced by homes that are too large for the lots.
In some cases, she said, the structures loom over homes, while others block highly valued ocean and mountain views.
Over all, Graves said, many property owners are in violation of building restrictions written into property deeds 50 years ago.
Theoretically, if a property owner violates a deed restriction, the homeowners association has the authority to seize the property.
The Palisades homeowners associations have infrequently exercised their authority, Graves said. Each of the associations has its own set of restrictions, she said. In some cases, she said, restrictions vary every four or five blocks.
Up to now, there has been no effort to coordinate the associations and to clarify the restrictions, many of which date back to the 1930s, Graves said.
"While some developers have chosen to ignore the building restrictions, others are honestly unaware of them," she said.
The Community Council has formed a committee to assemble updated versions of the deed restrictions throughout the Palisades. The goal, Graves said, is to computerize a list of the restrictions and produce a brochure that will tell residents and builders what the limits are and how they can be enforced.
The council hopes to have representatives from each homeowners association on their committee, Graves said.
The Civic League, largest of the associations, monitors building restrictions for about 4,000 of the Palisades' 11,000 homes. Ronald Dean, Community Council and Civic League member, said he would like to see an agreement between the council and the league that would give the league authority to monitor building restrictions throughout the Palisades.
"We have the expertise and the experience," Dean said of the league whose members include architects, planners, builders, lawyers and real estate brokers.
It would be impossible for some of the small homeowners groups to tackle all the steps necessary to enforce their building restrictions, he said.
Concern Over Time
According to Doug Uhler, the league's former president, the biggest problem facing the associations is the amount of time required to monitor each remodeling or new construction site.
If such monitoring is to be done, it should be done for everyone, including residents who may resist it, he said. "It takes a great deal of time."
Each week Dean scours his area looking for dumpsters or other telltale sign of remodeling. When he finds them, he said, he reminds residents that their project may need league approval.
"We all want the same thing," Graves said, "and we'll work as hard as we can to protect our Palisades life style."