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Valerie Lynne Sacks
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Valerie Sacks’s Answers

13 total


  • 2 adjacent land parcels in LA one zoned r1.5 the other r3. Land use and zoning options to bump FAR?

    What are my options if I want to avoid a lengthy entitlement process and avoid dealing with community boards and neighborhood councils and CEQA. Any relatively fast and simple strategies to get the 1.5 parcel bumped to r3? or any other viable str...

    Valerie’s Answer

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the answer to this question is, probably not. You can't just tie the RD1.5 lot to the neighboring lot and get extra density, though there may be ways you can move the density around or perhaps provide some of the parking for the denser-zoned parcel on the RD1.5 zoned parcel. But you would definitely need to retain a land use attorney or a well qualified land use consultant to help you with this. I strongly advise against attempting to save money by trying to avoid hiring someone with the requisite expertise when you are trying something complex like this. In any case, depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you may need to go through the entitlement process anyway.

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  • Land use attorney vs. land use consultant

    Is there any benefit to using a land use attorney as opposed to a land use consultant when working on rezoning a land parcel in Los Angeles? Is an attorney actually needed for this process?

    Valerie’s Answer

    I would say it depends on a few things. First, there is a broad range of competency with consultants. There are some that are quite good and can handle very complex matters. Others not so much. If there are environmental issues--for example of it would potentially require an EIR or if there are contamination issues, you want an attorney. Likewise, if there are due process issues, you will need an attorney--though generally due process issues arise after you have failed to win at the administrative level, and you can bring an attorney in at that point if necessary. Sometimes community groups think that if you have a lawyer involved, the developer is trying to game the system or has deep pockets, so that is a potential downside in that regard. So another factor is how well equipped the law firm is to handle community outreach. That is why I set up my practice as a consultancy, and you can hire me either as a consultant or as an attorney, depending on the nature of the matter. Generally speaking, rezoning is a major matter and you don't want to scrimp on that part of the process as it may cost you exponentially more if the person you retain isn't up to the job. Hope that helps.

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  • In Encino (city of Los Angeles) can 1 property give an easement to another if doing so reduces the sq.ft. below the zoned 17,500

    The one property has a 1000 sq.ft. triangular piece that it doesn't use, but makes the other property's path of travel to its garage easier.

    Valerie’s Answer

    I agree with the others but just wanted to add something in case what you are actually talking about would be moving the lot line. I had a matter just like that in the Hollywood Hills --lot line didn't match reality and there was a retaining wall and some drainage that were separated from the property owner that actually needed them, so they ended up doing a lot line adjustment. It ended up impacting the required setbacks and so forth so it was rather intricate to figure out a way to resolve it without having to go in for a planning approval. Either way, I concur that you should retain an attorney. This is definitely one of those cases where if you don't do it properly, it can end up costing you exponentially more than your legal fees.

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  • In Zoning, what is a Q Condition in Los Angeles and does it exempt

    property owners from the RSO? If I want to convert an existing property from office spaces to residential units does a Q condition allow me to do this and not come under the RSO? Can I have residents living in the units before a Certificate of Occ...

    Valerie’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    I agree with the above comment. In addition, you should be able to find the Q condition by looking up your property on zimas - http://zimas.lacity.org/. Under the "case number" section there will be at least one ordinance -- if you click on one of those links you should be able to see what the specific limitations are.
    However, in terms of the RSO, the Q condition would have no bearing on that but new residential units are generally not subject to rent control in the City of LA.

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  • My HOA has a "slope maintenance easement" without any dimensions. Is it legal for them to restrict partial use?

    The slopes running behind the houses on my street, all owned by the lot owners, all vary with the amount of "slope" that is left for the HOA to maintain. If there are no dimensions stated on the recorded CC&R's, only a vague "slope maintenance" e...

    Valerie’s Answer

    I'm not totally clear on the issue, but as I understand it, you should be able to use the portion of the easement area that is on your property, as long as you don't use it in any way that undercuts the purpose of the easement, i.e., slope maintenance. So landscaping it in a way that is consistent with that should be fine; building a structure or modifying the slope in a way that is not consistent with it would conflict with the purpose of the easement. I also agree with the other two comments.

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  • Los Angeles, CA Landlord-Tenant Issue: Is an unreg'd rental unit illegal? Is the 2002 CofO void? Does the RSO kick in?

    Sally owns a single family residence (SFR) in the city of Los Angeles (zone R2) with 2 bedrooms and a Certificate of Occupancy dated 1960. In 2001 she decides to make an "addition" which she intends to rent out as 2 studios to make $. She gets a...

    Valerie’s Answer

    Are you asking on behalf of the landlord or tenant, or a prospective purchaser? I would want to pull up the address on the City planning departmnent's website to answer and advise. It might be a quick answer -- you can email me with the address and your contact information and I can look into it on Monday or Tuesday and call you.

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  • What are the consequences of buying a property that has modifications without using permits?

    I'm buying a condo and I am now in the due diligence period (10 days). The current owner added a couple walls, a closet, and a platform to the condo. I do not believe the modifications were completed with permits. I also believe that the platform ...

    Valerie’s Answer

    I agree with the comments above. I would definitely be concerned about the modifications fromn both a CC&R and City perspective. An additional concern is that, if these improvements were done without permits, you don't know whether they were done in a way that is structurally sound. It depends on the nature of the improvements, of course. I would definitely seek a credit or other concessions from the seller.

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  • I bought my house in 2005 with 1 APN number, but 2 lot numbers. A year later, we separated lots and now each one has its own

    APN number. On vacant lot, we started construction of a home, which is now 90% complete. On the deed, it shows lot 1 and lot 2, if property forecloses, what happens then? Will the sell individually or all as one package?

    Valerie’s Answer

    I'm concerned as to how you separated the lots. Did you process a parcel map with the city or county in which you are located? If you didn't properly subdivide the lots (and just having separate APNs doesn't cut it), then the bank would still have the right to foreclose on all of it. Whatever the bank lent against, it would have rights to.

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  • Real estate property line encroachment, abandonment law

    Our neighbor pushed back the slope on their west side of front yard and installed a 9 foot retaining wall leaving about a foot of their property line next to ours. Leaving us to maintain it since 1998 when we all first moved into the development....

    Valerie’s Answer

    If this is really just about the removal of ground cover, it's a very heavy handed approach. If it's just ground cover and it's on their property, why don't they just remove it themselves? It would be a lot less expensive then hiring an attorney to sue you. In fact, if the amount of damages is less than $7500, then they are in small claims court and must represent themselves (unless they want injunctive relief but you said damages). So I sense that there is more to this story. In terms of you gaining ownership of it, in California, you can't get adverse possession over another's property unless you've been paying the property taxes on it. There are various other possibilities, but I concur with the prior person who answered this -- boundary line issues are complex and there is a lot of law on the subject. I'm also not clear on what you want. It sounds like it would be better for you if they maintained their own property, and it sounds like they now want to do that. If what you really want is a prescriptive easement over this part of the property, then it's a different story.

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  • How do I report a neighbor who houses three families in a single family dwelling? They don't keep the house clean.

    I live in a single family neighborhood. But there is one house that visibly has three families living there. They have actaully converted the covered porch into a bedroom. It's not so much their living arrangments that bother me, but the fact that...

    Valerie’s Answer

    It sounds like you can report them on a bunch of different counts. If you are in the City of Los Angeles, you should go to this website and put in your neighbor's address: http://zimas.lacity.org/
    It will pull up a bunch of information. For instance, from the sound of it I doubt your neighbors actually pulled a building perm it for turning the porch into a bedroom. You can look at the Zimas report and determine what is actually permitted on the property and pull recent building permit history. I'm guessing this is an illegal improvement, so right there you can just go ahead and call Code Compliance -- dial 311 and ask to be connected. The Department of Building and Safety (who does code compliance) might be able to cite them for the trash and the state of their yard. There are probably other zoning violations here as well (like having 3 families live in a s.f. house) but you can tell all that information to DBS. The Code Compliance people will take the information and it's supposed to be anonymous.

    In terms of all the renters, you can also call the Los Angeles Housing Department and report the use. It's probably illegal on a number of fronts there as well. You are correct that they certainly can't reserve street parking for themselves, but you might want to reach out to your local police station and/or the neighborhood council for your area for support (you can also find that on your zimas report). They can be allies for you -- they are not going to want to see this kind of thing in your neighborhood either.

    In terms of the parties, you can call the police if they are excessively loud.

    If you're in the Los Angeles area but not in the City of LA, most of the same advice as above holds, except that I can't give you links without knowing what jurisdiction it is. But most cities have pretty detailed websites these days -- few that provide as much information as LA's does but there should be resources there for you. Basically, it's at least one building and safety violation, probably some zoning violations, some housing department violations, and some law enforcement issues. For smaller cities, even in the LA area, you can often get helpful advice on the phone.

    Hope that helps and good luck. They sound dreadful.

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