IN PROGRESS: A man exits Chez Jay, which is currently surrounded by the construction site for the Palisades Garden Walk, on Tuesday. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

OCEAN AVE — The landmark designation for the land around the Chez Jay restaurant is under fire from city officials who are trying to change the boundaries of the landmarked parcel to build a trash enclosure, restaurant supporters say.

Staff from the Public Works Department filed an appeal on Thursday asking to alter the landmark designation, which currently covers the entire parcel on which Chez Jay sits.

It would not impact the restaurant itself or the interior, which were identified in a consultant’s report as historically significant.

Although the appeal hasn’t yet been heard by the City Council, workers have already begun construction on the small building, which is expected to hold all of the trash from the restaurant, the Ocean Lodge Hotel and a park that is currently under construction, which is for now called Palisades Garden Walk.

Construction technically began during the summer and the department is exploring whether or not it has a vested right to move forward despite the designation, said Martin Pastucha, director of Public Works.

In a letter to city officials, land use attorney Kenneth Kutcher raised the point that there should be no construction during this appeal and that the landmark designation took affect immediately after it was approved on Oct. 8.

“The designation of the parcel was quite clear,” Kutcher said Tuesday.

Unlike decisions of other municipal commissions, landmark designations take affect immediately, whether or not an appeal is filed. The idea is that a landowner may not want the designation and choose to file an appeal if it would stall the designation itself, giving them the leeway to make alterations.

“It’s in place to bar exactly what’s been happening,” Kutcher said.

Construction on the small trash building began before the appeal was filed, and stopping it now would be unsafe, Pastucha said.

“We can’t stop because of safety and liability concerns,” Pastucha said. “To stop at this time with uncovered cells is an issue.”

That means that the only thing holding the walls together is the grout between the blocks, leaving the structure weak, Pastucha said.

On the topic of the appeal itself, Pastucha believes that significant alterations to the back of the building in 2001 left little of the original structure intact. That year, the owner demolished a portion of a motel that was built onto the back of the restaurant, exactly where the enclosure will be, he said.

There were other ways to get permission to build on the landmarked parcel than appealing the designation, like a certificate of appropriateness, which Landmarks Commissioner Nina Fresco described as “not nearly so contentious.”

“The reason the commission designated the whole parcel is to have input in the future adjacent development such as the park-facing outlet of the restaurant or other future expansions and alterations that could affect the context and thus the integrity of the restaurant,” Fresco said.

In fact, the placement of the trash enclosure has been at issue for some time.

The Chez Jay team objected to its location, which is between the restaurant and the park. If the restaurant were to construct some kind of outdoor dining for park-goers, they would be faced with the trash enclosure, said Abby Arnold, who has been working with Chez Jay to create a business proposal for when City Hall puts the restaurant lease out to bid again.

“It’s logical that you would want to put some outdoor dining opportunities on the outside of that building facing the park, and that’s where they’re putting the trash enclosure,” Arnold said.

 

ashley@smdp.com