This month’s Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee meeting was notable both for both what the committee did – heard and discussed three new projects, all of which are located on Melrose Ave. – and for what it didn’t do: no votes were taken on any of the items, because one was an informational presentation from the city, and the other two were preliminary presentations for projects that will return to the committee for further consideration in the months to come.
Melrose Water Main Replacement
The first item heard at last night’s meeting was a presentation from the LA Department of Water and Power about a big new water main replacement project that will be taking place along Melrose Ave. between Fairfax and La Brea Avenues. According to DWP presenter Edgar Mercado, the water supply pipes in this area are 99 years old, made of cast iron, and there have been 15 leaks reported along this section in the past 21 years.
Mercado said the pipe replacement will be done in four phases, starting this September and finishing in November, 2022.
During the project, Mercado said, there will be some traffic disruptions, with lane closures and restricted left turns. Adjacent residential streets will also be closed between Melrose and the alleys to the north and south. But at least one traffic lane in each direction along Melrose will remain open at all times. Neighbors in the area will be notified both a couple of weeks before construction begins, and again a couple of days before the work starts, said Mercado.
Mercado said the project is part of a much larger water main replacement effort by LADWP across the city, which is being fast-tracked to be completed before the 2028 Olympics, to make sure residents have reliable water service, and that there are no traffic disruptions on local streets due to water main breaks.
During questions after the main presentation, several committee members asked about potential stresses on local water infrastructure from large new developments, and Mercado explained that every development application is reviewed by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which looks at both the number of fire hydrants in an area and whether there is adequate flow and pressure to feed those hydrants. He said that if LAFD finds that water service in the area is inadequate for its needs, the developer of the new building is required to pay for upgraded pipes and fire hydrants in the area. But he also said such findings are rare, and could think of only one current development – on Wilshire Blvd. in west LA – which is big enough to require such upgrades.
For more information about the Melrose water main replacement project, contact the project hotline at (213) 367-1225, or e-mail [email protected].
6101-6117 W. Melrose Ave. & 713-735 N. Seward St.
This application is for a 5-story, 74-foot tall creative office building, with ground-floor commercial space, which will replace a small strip of 1920s storefronts on the north side of Melrose, just east of Seward St. The project representatives have visited the Land Use Committee twice before, earlier this year, and while feedback from committee members was mostly favorable at both meetings, there were some concerns from neighbors about the building’s height and compatibility with the neighborhood architectural context (especially the John C. Fremont library, which lies just to the west on Melrose). The committee asked the representatives at those previous meetings to do some outreach to local neighborhood associations, and to individual neighbors, especially along the block of June St. that will back up to the project.
At this meeting, project representative Veronica Soto reported that the development team attempted to contact the Hancock Park Homeowners’ Association, the South Hollywood Neighborhood Association, and the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association, but got no response from any of them. She said team members also knocked on doors along June St., but very few people answered. She did report, however, that outreach to several local businesses resulted in favorable comments increased foot traffic and property values, and she reported that the Hollywood Media District Business Improvement District also wrote an enthusiastic letter about the project.
Committee members and stakeholders in attendance who lead or belong to the three neighborhood associations, however, said they never heard from the developers, and would have welcomed presentations…and at least one adjacent neighbor also said she had never heard from the team, even though a new rendering the developers provided at this meeting shows a view of the project from a location that seems to be right outside that particular neighbor’s house.
In the end, as before, there were several very positive and supportive comments from members of the committee, but they also urged the developers to try again to reach the local neighbors and neighborhood associations for more feedback, and did not take a vote on the project at this meeting.
7000 W. Melrose Ave.
This proposal is for a new 4-6 story, 63 unit mixed-use (apartment and commercial space) building at the SW corner of Melrose and Sycamore Ave. It would be built under the provisions of the state’s Density Bonus law (not the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines as most such developments in the area are these days), and would reserve 6 units for Very Low Income tenants. The project would also include 101 vehicle parking spaces (97 spaces for residents and 4 for commercial use), and 59 bike parking spaces (55 residential and 4 commercial).
The site is currently vacant, and most recently used as a parking lot, and several committee members, including committee chair Philip Farha, who lives nearby and said he has witnessed a shooting and much other illicit behavior at the site over the last couple of years, said they enthusiastically welcome a project at the location. Committee member Rory Cunningham also said that “this is exactly the kind of building that needs to be built in that spot.”
Other committee members, however, suggested that the design of the building itself is currently fairly “ordinary,” and that – especially given its location on very creative Melrose Ave. – it has great opportunities for the developer to add a bit more creative flair to the design.
Farha agreed with those sentiments, saying that while he’s eager to see a project built there, the developers should also try to provide something that really enhances the pedestrian experience in the area.
Because the project is still in a very preliminary stage, the committee did not take a vote on it at this meeting, but urged the developers to work on design enhancements, and to reach out to the nearby residential neighbors on Sycamore Ave. for further feedback.
An application for a demolition of the building at 507 N. Larchmont Blvd. (a 1920s house now used as an architecture office, which would be replaced by a new 3-story commercial office building) was also on last night’s agenda, but the item was postponed until next month at the project representatives’ request.
Finally last night, the committee also reviewed chair Philip Farha’s draft of a letter to the city in opposition to its proposed new Processes and Procedures ordinance, but although a few minor edits were suggested, no votes were taken as the writing of the letter was approved at a previous meeting.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, August 24, at 6:30 p.m. The next meeting of the GWNC board will be held on Wednesday, August 11, also at 6:30 p.m. (note the new, earlier start time for this meeting). Both meetings will be held 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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