The Los Angeles Board of Building and Safety Commissioners decided Tuesday that the city Department of Building and Safety "erred and abused its discretion" when it granted a building permit for a proposed In-N-Out Burgers restaurant.
The issue turned on whether building officials had erred in their interpretation of a city law that requires significant development projects to undergo a special site plan review, which includes a public hearing and an environmental review.
Under the law, a project must undergo the review if it is expected to draw 500 or more additional vehicle trips a day, and if it is a change of use--in other words, a different kind of business than the previous business.
The restaurant is expected to generate at least 577 new vehicle trips, city officials said.
Building department officials did not require the review after they decided that the restaurant would not be a change of use because the gas station on the property, at the northeast corner of Cahuenga Boulevard and Regal Place in Studio City, would be torn down and construction would start from scratch.
But Studio City and Cahuenga Pass residents, who have concerns about the fast-food restaurant related to traffic and its appearance, contended that the building department misinterpreted the intent of the city law, which is to require greater scrutiny of projects thought to have a significant community impact.
Building and safety commissioners apparently agreed.
Board President Scott Adler said that under the building department's way of thinking, a 1,000-square-foot building could be torn down and a 39,000-square-foot building constructed in its place without a site plan review. "That's a complete violation of the spirit and intent of the site plan review ordinance," he said.
Fred Gaines, attorney for the Studio City residents, said he believed the building department would now have to issue a stop-work order on the project and issue a ruling that a site plan review is necessary before a building permit can be regranted.