At its monthly meeting last week, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee discussed eight local land use applications, voting to recommend that the GWNC board support one of the projects, and requesting that the rest of the presenters return to future meetings with further information.
606 N. Manhattan Pl.
This application is for the demolition of an existing single family home and the construction of a 14-unit apartment or condominium complex, governed by Transit Oriented Communities guidelines in a “Tier 3″ area close to major transportation lines. Under the TOC program, the developer would receive a 70% density bonus, and is requesting an increase in allowable height to 54′ 9,” and reductions in the two required side yard setbacks. The project would also include two units reserved for Very Low Income tenants or owners (depending on whether it’s built as apartments or condos).
In addition to expressing discomfort with the indecision on the apartment/condo question, which project representative Brandon Finch said hasn’t been decided yet, Land Use Committee Chair Philip Farha said he is concerned that while the project does seem to meet the city’s basic requirements for TOC projects in the area, it also doesn’t offer any more than those basics to the surrounding neighborhood. Finch responded that the purpose of the TOC program is specifically to bring low income housing to the areas it serves, and the project will create two affordable units where only one stands now. But Farha responded that while the city’s threshholds may be satisfied, the goal of the Neighborhood Council is to encourage developers to bring even more to the neighborhood – whether it’s more than the minimum number of affordable units, additional green space, or more parking relief for crowded streets.
In public comment on the project, neighborhood resident James Pendorf noted that there are currently five new developments planned and/or under construction in the area and no others are five stories tall, which could set an unwelcome precedent for even larger buildings in an area originally developed with one and two-story properties. Pendorf also said the developers have not reached out for feedback from local residents, and that he, too, is uncomfortable with the lack of specificity in whether the building will eventually be apartments or condos. “It’s clear this person doesn’t know what he’s trying to sell you,” Pendorf said.
In the end, Farha noted that the committee is already on record recommending that the GWNC board oppose the project (a vote taken after a previous presentation by the developers to the committee), so no new votes were taken at this meeting. But he also advised Finch that if the project’s owners do want the NC’s support, they will need to bring more to the table. “There’s just not enough meat on the bone yet for me,” Farha said. Finally, committee member Dick Herman commented that reducing the proposed five stories to four, and making the design more architecturally compatible with the historic neighborhood might help win the committee’s favor.
706 N. Citrus Ave.
This application, for a permit to allow the sale and dispensing of a full line of alcoholic beverages at a new “creative office club” on the rooftop of the building at the NE corner of Melrose and Citrus Aves., has also been presented at previous GWNC Land Use Committee meetings. At those meetings, committee members expressed at least moderate support for the application, but no final votes were taken because there were still questions about how noise from the outdoor deck might travel to nearby neighbors, and whether the business would indeed be devoted to things like the speaker series it has proposed and will not become a full-fledged “nightclub.”
At this meeting, committee chair Farha said he and committee member Jen De Vore recently visited the site and confirmed that the facility’s size is small enough that it wouldn’t be appropriate for nightclub-size activity, and that there do seem to be adequate walls and barriers to protect the neighbors from noise. In general, Farha said, the applicants have “put a lot of time and thought into the building” and “it’s really well done.”
Farha moved that the committee recommend that the GWNC board support the application, and the motion passed unanimously.
3323 W. Olympic Blvd and 970-996 S. Manhattan Pl.
This project, too, has been presented to the committee several times previously (and the GWNC board voted to support it in late 2018), but the site recently changed hands and the new owners have significantly reimagined the proposal.
Originally, the project would have created a new 114-unit apartment building at the above address, and another 94 units in a second building across the street at 975-987 S. Manhattan Pl. But the new owners/developers have now abandoned the second, smaller project, and last week presented a new, completely re-designed building for the larger parcel at 3323 W. Olympic/970-996 S. Manhattan Pl.
The new design (on the right in the photo above) would include 118 apartments (of several different sizes), with 12 units reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants. There would also be one level of parking at grade level, along with retail space and the apartment lobby, and two levels of subterranean parking. There would be 194 total parking spaces on the three levels, which project representative Josh Kreger said is twice the number required under Transit Oriented Communities guidelines.
Commmittee members’ comments on the new building’s design were mostly positive. Several did express concerns that there wouldn’t be more green space or landscaping at ground level, but Kreger noted that because the building is designed to meet pedestrian traffic at the edge of the sidewalk, there just isn’t much room for landscaping beyond the few street trees shown in the project rendering.
In the end, the committee voted to oppose the project as presented, until the developers do more outreach to nearby neighbors to solicit their feedback. (The committee often takes such votes on early versions of a project, to encourage developers to act on recommendations and return with revisions or further information.)
5102-5216 Wilshire Blvd, 704-724 S. Orange Drive and 793-717 S. Mansfield Ave.
This application, from the owners of The Mansfield apartment complex, on the south side of Wilshire Blvd. between S. Mansfield Ave. and S. Orange Dr., requests a zone variance to allow use some of the building’s ground-floor retail space to be used as a fitness studio, gymnasium and/or medical clinic, three uses currently prohibited by the current zoning of the property but which representatives say would be helpful in renting some of the building’s long-vacant storefronts.
Project representatives Aimee Luan and Tim Bower said the current zoning does allow for restaurant use of the building’s spaces, but they’ve found that most potential restaurant tenants would prefer to be west of La Brea Ave., where foot traffic and population density are greater. They said they have had more positive discussions with other kinds of potential tenants, however, including an urgent care medical clinic, and exercise and fitness studios, which could also encourage other businesses such as juice bars to locate in the building. The problem is, however, that those kinds of businesses are currently not allowed.
Committee members seemed generally favorable to the request, but also noted that they have received a letter from the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, which represents the neighborhood where the building is located, asking the committee to postpone any formal recommendation until the SSNA has had more time to review the request. Stating their support for the SSNA request, committee members voted to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project as currently presented, pending more input from the SSNA.
857-863 S. Gramercy Pl.
This project would involve the construction of a new 33-unit apartment building with 33 parking spaces and four affordable units, built under Transit Oriented Communities guidelines with density and Floor Area Ratio increases, reduced parking requirements, an increase in allowable height, a reduction in required open space, and setback reductions.
Project representatives Steven Scheibe and Khal Khaireddin noted that the number of included parking spaces is greater than the 27 required, that four Extremely Low Income units will also be included, and that the occupants of the four units now on the property will be given priority for units in the new building.
Committee members, however, expressed disappointment in the plainness of the building’s design and lack of texture as rendered above, and voted to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project as currently presented, while encouraging the developers to return with ideas for improving the building’s facade.
507 N. Sycamore Ave.
This request was for the removal of a street tree at the address. Farha reported that the application is already being processed by city officials, but he requested that they postpone a final decision until the GWNC could weigh in. No representative for the application attended the Land Use meeting, however, so the committee voted to recommend that the GWNC Board oppose the request.
606 N. Lucerne Blvd.
This item was a Demolition Pre-Inspection Notice at the address above, but no representative of the project attended the meeting to discuss the details of the project. The committee voted to recommend that the GWNC Board oppose the demolition until further information is presented.
682 S. Sycamore Ave.
Metro is requesting the construction of a new 62-foot-tall radio antenna at the SE corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Sycamore Ave., just above what will be the underground radio room serving the new Purple Line Extension subway station at Wilshire and La Brea. Metro representative Ned Racine said the antenna will allow subway staff to communicate more efficiently with emergency first responder networks, which have antennas on Mt. Wilson. Racine also said the antenna base will be wider than the 12-inch-diameter pole, but it will still leave ample room for pedestrian traffic to pass safely on the adjacent sidewalk.
Land Use Committee members asked whether the design of the pole’s base could be changed to emulate that of historic streetlights in the area, and Racine said he would look into that and return to a future meeting with more information. No vote on the proposal was taken at this meeting.
The next meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Board of Directors will take place via the Zoom platform on Wednesday, July 8 at 7:00 p.m. The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held, also via Zoom, on Tuesday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. Agendas and links to both online meetings will be posted at GreaterWilshire.org 72 hours before each meeting.
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 Reviews Three New Apartment Projects – and More – at June Meeting”
The giant box planned for Olympic Manhattan pl corner will destroy views of hills from historic county club park neighborhood across street. Design should be max 4 stories and have architecture that has historic context. Plans for big boxes with balconies do not break up mass. The approach needs to change. Thanks.