Calabasas planning commission relaxes story pole requirement for Raznick

BUILD IT HERE–Story poles such as these in Old Topanga show the dimensions of a building before it is constructed.
                                                         Acorn file photo

Residents urged the Calabasas Planning Commission to uphold the city’s story pole policy at the Raznick commercial and residential development at 23480 Park Sorrento. City policy requires story poles—wooden shafts with bright ribbon strung between them—be installed at development sites to outline the dimensions of a proposed project so that people can see what it would look like.

But at its Oct. 19 meeting, the planning commission issued a limited story pole requirement and told the property owner, Robert Raznick, to erect only four-story poles— two at the front and two at the rear of the    property— showing the height of the buildings he is planning to construct. The commissioners also told Raznick to install a large sign on the property with a rendering that depicts the finished project.

Raznick submitted plans last year to demolish an existing two-story office at the site and replace it with a 44,000-square-foot mixed commercial and residential development.

At a commission meeting on July 20, Raznick and Ken Stockton, the project’s architect, requested a waiver on the city’s story pole policy. They asked that they be allowed to install two-story poles at the front of the property, as any more would be impossible without interfering with the businesses on the property.

Joanne Suwara of the Calabasas Coalition, a local citizens’ organization that monitors development in the city, said she was against the waiver and that the city’s story pole policy should be strictly followed.

“Redevelopment is happening all over the city now,” Suwara said. “There’s so few empty parcels left. It’s going to have a big impact. If we can’t figure out a way to have developers work with what’s there and show people what’s happening, we’re just going to go back to pushing everything under the rug, pushing it through without being transparent to the public. “It’s important to take a stand and try and get them to be as accountable as possible at this point,” Suwara said

On Oct. 11, Stockton submitted a letter to the city saying he had determined that two-story poles could be placed on the roof of the existing building to indicate the height of the proposed structure. The letter also stated the developer’s intentions to erect a sign with photos showing what the completed project would look like.

Calabasas mandated the use of story poles for all development projects in 2015 following a petition by concerned citizens.

In a separate development on Las Virgenes Road, the city had approved the construction of two, four-story hotels and residents felt that they hadn’t been made properly aware of the developments before they were approved. They argued that story poles are the most effective way to educate the public about proposed development projects in the city.