At its most recent monthly meeting on July 26, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support a new 8-story, 242-unit residential and retail development planned for the NW corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Highland Ave. (currently the site of a two-story strip mall and adjacent parking lots). The project would also have a large open green space on the north side of the building, extending a similar green belt that already runs behind several other buildings to the west along Wilshire.
The developers have met several times over the last year and a half with the Hancock Park Homeowners Association and the La Brea Hancock Homeowners Association, which represent the two adjacent neighborhoods, to negotiate certain aspects of the project plans. And both groups finally reached agreements with the developers and issued letters of support in the days just before the Land Use Committee meeting.
The July 26 meeting marked the project’s second appearance before the Committee. The first was in June of this year, but the committee delayed a vote at that time, asking the developers to come back after all four nearby neighborhood associations (Hancock Park, La Brea Hancock, the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, and the Brookside Homeowners Association) had officially weighed in. At the July 10 GWNC board meeting, however, Sycamore Square representative Conrad Starr reported that the developers met with that group about a year ago, and answered many questions, but the group chose not to vote on the project because it does not lie within its neighborhood boundaries. And Brookside representative Owen Smith reported that the developers met with the Brookside Homeowners Association as well, and that group also had no ongoing concerns with the project.
So that left just the two associations immediately adjacent to the development site, and they both voted, in the days just prior to the Land Use Committee meeting, to support the project contingent on a list of very specific conditions, all of which were agreed to by the developers. The conditions included (in general terms and with only slight differences between the two groups):
- The applicants will close S. Citrus Ave., just north of Wilshire, with powder-coated collapsible steel bollards, and signs indicating – in both directions north and south of the closure – that Citrus is not a through street.
- The new green belt area behind the development will be privately owned and maintained, but publicly accessible (like the other sections of the existing green belt to the west). A landscape plan will be provided by a licensed landscape architect, in consultation with the neighborhood associations.
- Roof deck hours for the building be limited to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with volume limits for speakers on the deck, and deck lighting directed toward the building. Individual apartment balconies on the north side of the building will be “Juliet”-style, or a maximum of 50 square feet, and fully recessed into the building’s facade.
- Tenants will be ineligible to apply for parking permits in the existing Preferential Parking districts adjacent to the development.
- Construction sound walls will be 10′ high along the north, east, and west sides of the project site, and capable of sound attenuation of at least 30 dBA. Construction equipment will also be fitted with noise shielding devices and mufflers, and the developers will present a construction mitigation plan to the HPHOA and LBHHOA before construction permits are issued.
- Construction dust mitigation will adhere to AQMD standards, and unpaved areas will be watered twice daily to reduce dust.
- Construction worker parking and material deliveries will take place on the project site, and parking will not be allowed on neighborhood streets. Vehicle entrances and exits will be on the Wilshire side of the property; any Highland Ave. access must be specifically negotiated with the HPHOA.
- Construction hours will be limited to 7 am. to 5 p.m. M-F, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
- Building management will meet with neighbors twice a year to maintain a relationship with the community and address any issues that arise, and 24-hour contact information will be provided to residential neighbors to help report any issues.
- Any changes in the project plans be communicated directly to the LBHHOA and the HPHOA.
- Electrical transformers in the building plans will be removed from the green space and relocated to a more pedestrian-friendly location inside the building or garage.
- The number of affordable units in the development be increased from 25 to 30 units.
During discussion at the LUC meeting, committee member Jane Usher asked project representative Eric Shabsis very directly if the developers are willing to accept all of these conditions, and he replied, “They are.”
The committee then voted by a margin of 10 votes in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstentions to recommend that the GWNC board support the project.
A few days after the vote, HPHOA president Cindy Chvatal told the Buzz she was satisfied with both the outcome of the lengthy negotiations with the developers, and the Land Use Committee’s vote. “We were pleased to be supported by the GWNC,” Chvatal said. She also said she was particularly happy with the addition of five more affordable units than the developers had originally proposed, as well as the removal of the electrical transformers from the green space, the balcony configurations, and maintaining private ownership of the green space. She said the city may still require a few additional adjustments as part of the project’s environmental review process, but because the the building is being developed under Transit Oriented Communities guidelines, the developers were not required to do a lot of give and take with neighbors, but they did, and “we won a lot of points.”
LBHHOA president Cathy Roberts also expressed satisfaction with the outcome to the Buzz, and said she, too, feels like the developers were responsive to neighbors’ requests during the year and a half of negotiations.
In other business last week, the Land Use Committee recommended support for a liquor permit application, and opposition to a motion filed by City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield that would make a significant change to city building codes.
4001 W. 6th Street
Owners of the Daedo Sikdang restaurant, a Korean steakhouse, have applied for a permit to upgrade from their current beer and wine license to a permit that would allow sales of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption. The application also includes approval of three additional rooms, adjacent to the main restaurant space, for private parties, and the use of a portable karaoke machine that could be placed in those spaces (though there is no karaoke or live music in the main restaurant area). The restaurant’s representatives most recently presented the application to the Land Use Committee in May, but the committee voted at that time to oppose the project until more outreach could be done to nearby residential neighbors.
At this meeting, restaurant representative Ariel Gutierrez described his efforts to contact residents in all of the adjacent apartment and loft buildings. He noted, however, that because security systems often prevented his access to the buildings’ interiors, he was unable to reach many tenants. He said those he did speak to, however, had no complaints about the restaurant or its current request. Gutierrez also reported that no complaints about the restaurant have been reported to LAPD, and said it doesn’t make sense for the business, which competes with other late-night Korean barbecue restaurants in the area, all of which sell a full line of alcoholic beverages, to have only a beer and wine permit.
In the end, committee members moved that the GWNC board support the application, with 9 votes in favor, none opposed, and no abstentions.
City Building Code Fire District 1 Expansion
This matter concerned a motion made by City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield in 2019, which would adjust building codes in a large swath of the city to require more fire-proof construction methods. If passed, a new ordinance resulting from the motion could require concrete and steel construction, instead of wood-framing, in residential building throughout much of the city, instead of only in areas most at risk for severe fires, as currently required.
The GWNC Land Use Committee first discussed the issue at its May meeting, but did not vote on the issue at that time. Before doing so, committee members asked that someone from Blumenfield’s office be invited to present more details about the proposal, and also that the committee check with our two local City Council representatives to find out what their positions are on the proposal.
At this meeting, Land Use Committee secretary Tommy Atlee reported that Blumenfield’s office has not responded to the committee’s request to provide more information, or a presenter for a future meeting…and several other committee members said they’re now ready to oppose the proposal, based on what they know about local zoning (and how it’s unusual to try to legislate new requirements into city building codes), as well as the fact that one of the measure’s key supporters is the concrete industry, while affordable housing advocates argue that it would only make already-too-expensive housing construction even more expensive, especially in parts of the city that do not have high fire risks. The measure has also now been opposed by a number of other Neighborhood Councils, which have all objected to the effects it would have on housing costs.
In the end, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board oppose Blumenfield’s motion for the expansion of Fire District 1.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, August 23, and the next GWNC board meeting, where the LUC’s July 26 recommendations will be voted on, will be held on Wednesday, August 10. Both meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m., via Zoom.
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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