Dear Mr Ashikian Thank you for the reasonable tone of your post, and for the recognition that this is about what the Los Angeles codes require. Codes are complex instruments, and views about them may differ. Nothing wrong there, and everyone is entitled to make his or her case. But at the end of the day, the case has to be made to the City, and only the City has the authority to decide. I’m sure from what you say that we can agree at least on that. Just to clarify, previous posts about the codes were not written to debate them through all their twists and turns, but only to show that a slew of unjustified and very poorly substantiated allegations and assertions had been made by Dianne Lawrence, to the effect that an Order To Comply had been improperly issued because of political interference; that a rock had been placed in an otherwise open path to the necessary permits; and that the operators of a new use could decide themselves whether or not the codes applied to them, without official review.
I intended to address just these. I don’t see a whole lot of point in debating the code at length now either. What I think about the code is not really relevant, and you, I am sure, will want to hear from the City, not from me. But I will express a few additional opinions, mainly for purposes of clarification. The existence of non-conforming rights is, obviously, significant to any use change case. In fact, my own initial presumption was that non-conforming rights did, most likely, exist. If the relevant City agencies had identified such rights, my conclusion would have been that there was nothing more to say. This presumption eroded rapidly, however, because various City officials who make land-use decisions every day looked at the City’s records for the McCarty property, and said that there were no non-conforming rights. The permits, on subsequent examination, seemed to say this too, and very clearly; and the Order To Comply concurred. Every Order identifying a use or occupancy violation is a statement, among other things, that there are no non-conforming rights; and it has always seemed sensible to me to assume that the conclusion here was reached at a level in the City’s Code Enforcement section where the concept of non-conforming rights would have been understood very well, and carefully considered. Of course, you will want to come to your own view on the basis of whatever you find. I agree that the existence of non-conforming rights is always the key to what will or will not be required. This is not a new issue, though. It has always been on the table, and so far, no one has come up with anything convincing to assert any non-conforming right of any kind. This is a technical question, not necessarily subject to common-sense assumptions about the meaning of words. However, I don’t follow you when you say that it is now established that the school use is only a zoning code issue. This cannot be correct. You say “that no change in the Use and Occupancy permit is required under 91.802 of the LAMC, so long as a school has a right to operate there as an acceptable non-conforming use of the building”. This is obviously true; but the equally obvious corollary is that a change to the CofO would be required, if there is no such right. That there is no such right is the current default position. The Order says it; nothing to suggest otherwise is known to exist in the permit record; and so far no-one has produced anything to demonstrate otherwise. If a new CofO is required, it would be issued under the building code, because all CofOs are issued under the building code. Therefore, by definition, the building code is still very much on the table, and will be for as long as a CofO might be necessary. What is not set in stone is what is necessary to obtain a CofO, as I pointed out in a previous post. In some cases it might be possible for a change in occupancy to be addressed merely by writing out a new piece of paper; or, a life safety evaluation might be necessary, and extensive life safety upgrades as a consequence. Though I would be surprised if a life safety evaluation were not required in this case, I have never suggested that any specific requirement was inevitable. Actually, I don’t think I am entitled to try to influence this particular decision. It is a purely technical question, to be resolved on technical grounds by those whose job this is. The main points I was trying to make all along were only these 1) That both building and zoning code issues were in play, as identified by the Order; 2) That these codes address, respectively, the issues of due process and public safety; 3) that no matter what applications might have been required in respect of either of the codes, it was impossible for anyone in the City to prevent them from being made, as seemed to me to be the implication; 4) that occupancy changes always bring up potentially serious life-safety issues; 5) that the proper authority must decide how to they should be dealt with; 6) and that this is never the operator of a use, or a journalist advocating for that operator, or, for that matter, a resident or a neighborhood. I see no reason to change my view on any of these points. The Building Official of the City of Los Angeles is the proper authority for building code determinations, including what must be submitted to obtain the new CofO that will – in my view - be required to operate a school, in the absence of non-conforming rights. We shall see how this pans out. It seems to me that the City’s general requirements for occupancy change applications are pretty clearly stated. Someone may, of course, decide that they do not fit this case. That is always possible. So I don’t think I misunderstood anything at all when I said, following from what the Order put in black and white, that there was a building code issue on the table. As you yourself say, there still is, unless there are non-conforming rights, which, so far, no-one has identified. Thanks again for your response. Regards