Beverly Hills Citizens Group Files Suit Against Los Angeles Over Caruso’s La Cienega Project
Posted: Monday, February 27, 2017 – 11:02 AM
A lawsuit filed last week in L.A. Superior Court challenges the City of Los Angeles’ January approval of a 185-foot high-rise mixed-use project by developer Rick Caruso that sits just outside of Beverly Hills.
Filed against the City of L.A. by Concerned Citizens of Beverly Hills/Beverly Grove – the same resident group that filed suit against the 332-336 N. Oakhurst project in May – the lawsuit alleges, among other charges, that the project’s developer received favorable treatment in making amendment changes to allow the project to be passed.
The 145-unit residential tower at 333 La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Grove, near the Beverly Center, was approved in January after months of back-and-forth squabbling over the project between resident groups and L.A. city officials. Fourteen of the units are to be offered at below-market rents, and the development will include a market, restaurant and plaza with a fountain.
The high-rise was approved in a neighborhood zoned for buildings no taller than 45 feet. A General Plan Amendment was granted to the project, which changed the land use designation to General Commercial, allowing for it to be built at 185 feet.
“This is the definition of spot zoning,” said Jamie T. Hall of Channel Law Group, the attorney representing the citizens committee. “The rules are not meant to be bent for a project, that’s not the way it works.”
Spot zoning refers to an arbitrary or unreasonable zoning action by which a smaller area is singled out of a larger area and specifically zoned for a land use totally different from the surrounding land.
After strong pushback from resident groups, Caruso agreed to reduce the height of the building by 55 feet, cutting it from 20 stories to 16.
The project was the subject of much controversy after a Los Angeles Times article reported that Caruso, his companies, charity, employees or family members had given more than $476,000 to L.A. city politicians over the last five years. Those contributions added fuel to the fire of those who opposed the project and claimed that the variance it received to build higher was simply “pay for play.”
The lawsuit lists Caruso’s CRM Properties, Inc. as a real party in interest.
The suit also alleges that the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) does not comply with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that project used inadequate findings to gain approval.
A spokesperson for Caruso did not return a request for comment.