Earlier this week, the Buzz published a story about the front yard landscaping work underway at 115 N. Rossmore Ave. We had been watching the progress on the project and wondered if the construction had been approved by the Department of City Planning. We were also curious about which aspects of the work were subject to the review of the Hancock Park HPOZ Board. At the time our first story appeared, we had not heard back from the Department of City Planning, but we had spoken to the Hancock Park HPOZ board chair, who said the Board had not reviewed the project. We also spoke to owner Jay Griffith, who told us all the work currently underway had either been approved by the City or was not subject to review by the HPOZ because it was specifically listed as exempt from review in the Hancock Park Historic Preservation Plan.
Since the originaly story appreared, however, we have heard back from planning department staff and we have also received additional information from Mr. Griffith.
Here’s what the Buzz learned from the Department of City Planning’s public relations specialist, Lauren Alba:
“Fences, walls, and hedges in the front yard as well as new hardscape must be reviewed by the Director of Planning (HPOZ Planning staff) and may require additional review by the HPOZ Board. What currently exists, based on the photographs provided, has not been reviewed by Planning staff,” wrote Ms. Alba in a e-mail to the Buzz. Below are the photos that were provided to the Planning staff by the Buzz.
Mr. Griffith, who also posted a comment on our first story, has since provided us with the approved plans (below is a screen shot of the first page) for the wall that was constructed, along with a determination letter from the Planning staff, confirming that the project as described qualified as “conforming work on contributing elements.” (In other words, the project as originally described in the application complies with HPOZ rules about what can or can’t be done to significant features of the property.)
Ms. Alba confirmed that the 42″ low wall was approved by the Director of Planning through the Conforming Work process, but she added that, “We cannot confirm whether the applicant has any permits for the proposed project.”
Regarding the site grading and the berms up to the 42″ wall, Ms. Alba replied, “According to Section 3.5 (h) of the Hancock Park Preservation Plan, grading and site development is exempt from review if the natural features are not called out in the Historic Survey Landscape notes. In this case, they are not,” wrote Ms. Alba.
And to our request for a clarification on this, Ms. Alba said, “Yes, the grading and berms up to the wall (42”) are exempt from review.”
Regarding the awnings, however, Ms. Alba said:
“While awnings are exempt, the structure supporting the awnings would require review from the HPOZ Board. In this case, it has not been reviewed and the applicant will need to obtain approval from the HPOZ Board. The walkways are subject to review by the Director of Planning (HPOZ Planning staff). Since both the structure and walkways were installed without Planning staff approval, both will be heard by the HPOZ Board as part of code enforcement.”
Finally, in addition to the landscaping rules for the HPOZ, we learned that trees in the parkway are also addressed in the Hancock Park Preservation Plan, and that planting of new parkway trees should also be reviewed by the HPOZ Board. (The plan calls for Elm trees in that block on Rossmore; Mr. Griffith planted Camphor trees.)
So what seemed at first to be a fairly simple question about the kinds of approvals necessary for front landscaping work under the Hancock Park HPOZ rules turned out to have a much more complex answer than we first expected. In short, in this particular case, it seems that some of the work at the property so far has been approved, some of the work is exempt from review and some of the work will require further review as the project continues.