Event space planned in Portuguese Bend
The loudest noise these days among the 92-home Portuguese Bend Community located above Abalone Cove typically comes from the local peacocks or the rustling of a horse. Even backyard conversations in hushed tones can be heard from hundreds of feet away.
But lately, developer Jim York has a plan that could threaten the serenity for some.
York wants to host 30 events per year such as weddings and private parties on a patio that’s already built overlooking his 94-acre Point View property just adjacent to the Portuguese Bend Community. The event space sits on a bluff with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
A plan to allow the so-called “event garden” for commercial purposes along with a small organic farm, a paved road leading up from Palos Verdes Drive North and a private golf course are all being considered by the Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission.
York, a Rolling Hills Estates resident who is part owner of Terranea Resort, said the local residents in Portuguese Bend should be doing back flips that he’s not trying to build 90 homes, which had previously been proposed for the property and subsequently withdrawn.
“Think about how much noise 90 houses would produce. Right now I have no partners and no debt,” said York, who bought out his partners, including former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, three years ago. “I’ve decided I want to do this for the time being.”
York said he hasn’t ruled out building some number of homes in the future, but probably not within the next 20 years. The property is just too valuable to not develop forever, he said. For now though, York wants to carry out his passion for vegetable gardening on some of the peninsula’s most prime real estate.
The most contentious part of the plan is the event garden, which neighbors fear will bring traffic and excessive noise to their quaint little community. York already hosts around 10 events per year on the property, for which he reportedly does not accept compensation.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula Education Foundation hosts an annual event there. So do the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department and other organizations with which York has some relation, if not distant. The property is also available for movie, television or commercial shoots. The final episode of 90210 last year and a Heineken commercial were both shot on site.
Neighbor Gordon Leon, who sits on the planning commission, lives across the street. Leon said opinion over the event center among the community is mixed.
“An event center really is not a compatible use in a residential area,” said Leon, who recused himself from the planning commission discussion because he lives so close. “People are willing to have an event center, though in lieu of 90 houses.”
Leon said a lawyer is currently looking into the legality of York’s use of the local roads for events that currently take place on the property. Noise has also been a nuisance, Leon said. Some gatherings are fairly quiet, while others go until two in the morning.
“The bottom line is I want to see the noise mitigated. I think there are architectural techniques that can reduce the noise,” Leon said.
York agrees, saying a sound engineer has made several recommendations to build padded walls and position directional speakers away from the neighborhood to reduce unwanted noise. The event garden patio sits on the top of a hill where prevailing winds push sound toward the neighborhood.
“If we keep the volume at 85 decibels or less, then until 10 p.m. it would not exceed the ambient noise level in the neighborhood,” York said. “We figured it out, so we know how to do it.”
Unless he can prove the sound can be controlled, city staff still recommends shutting events down at 6 pm, which York calls ridiculous.
“From our standpoint we still believe at this point that a 6 p.m. cutoff is appropriate because of the noise levels that were obtained during our analysis,” said Eduardo Schonborn, RPV senior planner, who reported the city receives occasional complaints from events held now. “There was a certain noise threshold we felt that if he exceeded that it was an impact that needed to be avoided.”
This isn’t the first time York has tried to win approval for the outdoor event space. Two years ago, the city denied a permit for just the event garden because it did not fit in a residentially zoned property.
“I said, well Trump is zoned residential,” York said. “And the city said, well, he has a golf course. So I said I’ll build a golf course.”
With a golf course, the event garden could qualify as an ancillary use.
York doesn’t hide the fact that he designed the course to earn approval for the event space with the city. The course has just two holes, fashioned from artificial turf, and five tee boxes so that golfers have the illusion of playing a 10-hole course.
“It’s a silly rule, but I just follow the rules,” York said. “I don’t make the rules. If they told me to put an archery range I’d do that – whatever the requirement.”
Schonborn said the city code does not specify what constitutes a golf course.
“It’s a unique design,” Schonborn said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
To those residents who feel the city might grant York special treatment because of his stature in the community, Schonborn said not true.
“Obviously he has a big piece of property,” Schonborn said. “We don’t give him any special privileges or treatment. We give him the same respect we give anyone else.”
Jim Herrera, a 25-year RPV resident representing the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce told the planning commission in May that the business group supports the project.
“I can’t think of a more gentle use for this property,” Herrera said. “It should be an easy and digestible proposal.”
Chef Michael Schaeffer, who caters events throughout Palos Verdes, said homes on the hill typically host between 200 and 800 people, not unlike what York is proposing in a residential neighborhood.
“To have a place that’s so beautiful and not be able to use it is almost a sin,” Schaeffer said. “We’re missing out in a jewel in this neighborhood.”
The commission is expected to vote on the proposal in August. ER