After a lengthy discussion last night, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC Board support the Uplift Melrose streetscape improvement project proposed by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services. The committee also voted to recommend support for one new residential apartment project, and voted to oppose – pending design revisions and community outreach – three other new applications.
At last night’s meeting, project representatives Alexander Caiozzo and Jeff Palmer presented the details of the Uplift Melrose program, which would provide a “road diet” to reduce and slow vehicular traffic lanes on Melrose Ave. between Highland and Fairfax Aves., and provide more room for pedestrians and “active transportation” riders (with wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes). The proposal would also include many other streetscape improvements, such as better lighting and an increased tree canopy, to make the street safer and more welcoming.
Overall, the presentation was very similar to the one given to the Mid City West Community Council earlier this month (see project details from that presentation here), but Caiozzo and Palmer also included some new information about planning being done with the Melrose Business Improvement District to address the reduction in parking spaces that would come with the project, and the locations of alternate parking sites being investigated. According to Palmer, those sites (gold boxes in the map below) could actually proved a greater number of parking spots overall than the number of street parking spaces that would be lost under the new plan.
Also, as both Caiozzo and Palmer were careful to note, the city is planning to apply for a CalTrans Active Transportatino Program Cycle 5 grant to fund the project, so officials are currently in the very early planning stages at this point and are simply seeking general buy-in on the project idea so they can move ahead with the grant application, which is due in mid-September. If the grant is awarded, they said, it will fund things like traffic studies, planning for traffic and parking solutions, and the implementation of those solutions, as well as the actual streetscape improvements.
In public comment on the issue, nine of the 15 speakers last night were firmly in support of the project, and five others said they were largely in favor but have some serious concerns about parking and traffic issues, especially how adjacent residential neighborhoods would be affected. Only one caller expressed firm opposition to the plan, however, saying Melrose is already gridlocked with traffic during rush hour, so trying to reduce traffic flow would be disastrous. She also said she fears the additional sidewalk space will attract more homeless camps, which are already a problem in the area.
In committee discussion following the public comments, committee members expressed some specific concerns about enforcement of bike safety rules in the new spaces, and the need for alley improvements (which would not be part of the current project) if Melrose businesses need to rely solely on alleys for commercial deliveries and other services. But in the end, the committee members agreed on the overall merit of the proposal, and voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support Uplift Melrose and the grant application to fund it.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there will be another online public meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. – this one hosted by the Bureau of Street Services – to provide more information and further opportunity to comment on Uplift Melrose. Everyone is welcome to attend and comment.
851 S. Manhattan Pl.
This project, first presented to the Land Use Committee last month, would remove the last single family home on this block, and replace it with a new 6-story, 33-unit apartment building, with 33 units (21 studios and 12 one-bedrooms), four of which would be reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants.
At last month’s meeting, committee members reacted mostly favorably to the building’s design (especially the bright colors in the recessed stairwell at the front of the building), but requested that an additional two units be reserved for Moderate Income tenants, that some additional landscaping be added, that the wall at the foot of the stairwell be raised a bit to improve security, and that materials other than paint be considered for the stairwell walls, to help maintain the color longer.
This month, project representative Jay Park said the owners have agree to include one Moderate Income unit, and they have also incorporated the higher wall at the bottom of the stairwell. On the other hand, however, he said they would be able to provide a bit of additional landscaping around an electrical transformer at the base of the building, as well as a new street tree, but that the site doesn’t provide any more room than that for additional planting. He also said colored tiles or other similar materials on the stairwell walls would be too expensive for the project’s budget.
In general, committee members expressed approval and gratitude for the offer of the additional moderately-priced unit (which committee chair Philip Farha acknowedged is a rare concession from developers these days), and agreed – as they had in last month’s discussion – that even with the few design quibbles, they still find the building more appealing than most they see these days. A motion to recommend that the GWNC board support the project passed unanimously.
925 S. Manhattan Pl.
This project, just a block south from the one previously discussed, and with the same owner and development team, is almost a mirror-image twin to the other building, with 6 stories and 33 units (with four reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants) , and the same colored stairwell at the front of the building. Project representative Park explained that the similarities are deliberate, and the owner would is embarking on an effort to find the last underdeveloped lots on blocks in the area (this one currently holds a duplex), and filling them in with these distinctive apartments as a “branding strategy.”
But in this case, what seemed good for the goose didn’t necessarily strike Land Use Committee members as being equally good for the gander, and even though Park offered the inclusion of an additional unit for Moderate Income tenants in this project, too, committee members noted that this site is a different than the other one, and may require a more specific solution. For example, unlike the other building, this one faces a residential instead of a commercial property. And committee member Dick Herman, in particular, argued that each individual development should be built to fit its specific site and context, rather than simply being a copy of another building.
After some discussion, in which committee member Susan O’Connell suggested design revisions to make the building more of a “cousin” than an identical “twin” to the other one, and in which several committee members asked the project representatives to do some neighborhood outreach beyond just the adjacent neighbors (which is the minimum required for projects developed under Transit Oriented Communities guidelines), the committee voted 7-1 to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project as currently presented, pending further discussions of those issues.
105 S. St. Andrews Pl.
This project is a five-story, 18-unit building with two units reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants, and also developed under Transit Oriented Communities guidelines. Project representative Veronica Bacerra noted that the corner lot provides some unique opportunities for the building, which features only four units per floor, and in which the studio and one-bedroom units will be larger than many other TOC units being built today.
Committee chair Philip Farha expressed disappointment that the developers’ drawings of the building showed no adjoining buildings or neighborhood context. Committee member Rory Cunninham also pointed out that, in fact, the neighborhood holds a mixture of historic housing types, including notable single-family Craftsman homes, and that the site for this project currently holds what he called the best of several old fourplex buildings on the block, which was built in 1916 and features distinctive bas reliefs and other historic elements that he requested the developers try to preserve and sell to an architectural salvage company, if possible. Committee member Patricia Carroll also mentioned that the site is near the historic Wilshire Branch Library and requested that the developers try to incorporate some acknowledgement of the neighborhood’s historic context into the new building’s design.
After the discussion, the committee members voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project as currently presented, and suggested the developers consult with the St. Andrews Square Neighborhood Association, do greater outreach to local neighbors, and then consider design revisions to acknowledge and fit in better with the neighborhood context.
4670 Beverly Blvd.
This project would replace an automotive repair business (Hans Beverly Auto) on the south side of Beverly Blvd. (at St. Andrews Pl.), directly across the street from the Dover Apartments and Antico Pizzeria, with a five-story, 30-unit apartment building with three units reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants. The project would include 23 parking spaces, and include a roof deck with potted trees and other greenery.
As with the previous project, Farha scolded the developers for providing no context in their architectural rendering, as well as for concentrating their landscaping efforts on the roof deck, which benefits only the building’s tenants and provides no benefit to the larger community. Other committee members also objected to the very generic design of the building. Cunningham, who lives in the neighborhood, noted that although this will be the tallest structure on the block, it provides only blank facades to most of its neighbbors. And O’Connell objected to the glaring lack of “personalization” in the design, saying the overall impression is so generic, it looks “like the solution to a math problem.”
Discussion closed fairly quickly, with committee members voting unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project as presented, and urging the developers to make design improvements and do more outreach to the neighborhood.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held via Zoom, on Tuesday, September 22, at 6:30 p.m.
The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held, also via Zoom, on Wednesday, September 9, at 7:00 p.m.
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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One thought on “GWNC Land Use Committee Recommends Support for Uplift Melrose”
Thanks for covering all of this! I’d like to reiterate what you pointed out about the Melrose Uplift proposed project: that it covers Melrose to the west of highland and east of Fairfax. Plus that it’s a proposal only. Can’t go forward unless Los Angeles receive the funding from Caltrans.