As often happens, the most substantive discussions at this month’s meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council came during the Land Use section of the meeting, where two of the four items up for consideration sparked heated conversations.
5001 Wilshire Blvd.
The first of the big discussions focused on the development proposed for 5001 Wilshire Blvd. (the NW corner of Wilshire and Highland), where a two-story strip mall would be replaced by a 8-story mixed use development containing 242 apartments (25 reserved for low income tenants, the minimum required under the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines), ground floor retail space, and a large public green space behind the building, between the development and neighboring single-family homes.
The developers made a detailed presentation to the GWNC’s Land Use Committee at the end of June, but because the neighborhood associations representing the four neighborhoods nearest the site (Hancock Park, La Brea Hancock, Sycamore Square, and Brookside) had not yet taken official votes on the project, the LUC voted to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project until those votes were taken and more official input was received from those communities.
At the time, project representatives expressed displeasure with the vote, saying they’ve made several changes to the project as a result of detailed discussions with the two most immediate neighborhoods, Hancock Park and La Brea Hancock (including moving some balconies and adding some noise mitigation elements to the proposed second-floor roof deck), but committee members were firm in their decision to wait for more detailed input from neighbors before recommending that the GWNC board support the project.
At this meeting, much of the discussion centered on whether or not the board should wait for input from all four of the neighborhoods closest to the project, or just Hancock Park and La Brea Hancock, which are the two whose borders actually adjoin the development site. (Sycamore Square lies to the south across Wilshire Blvd., and Brookside is separated from the site by both Wilshire Blvd. and Highland Ave.)
GWNC President Conrad Starr, who represents Sycamore Square on the GWNC board, said the developers made one presentation to that neighborhood about a year ago, but while neighbors at the meeting had lots of questions about the project, the group did not take a vote on it, because the site is not in their neighborhood. Also, Starr said, the group has not discussed it since, and currently has no plans to revisit the issue. Starr said that although community input is very important and he supports the Land Use Committee’s process, he doesn’t think the GWNC needs to wait for all four neighborhoods to weigh in, and just the two closest should be fine. Starr said that because all the neighborhoods are represented on the GWNC, and the project has gone through the very open GWNC discussion process, making the final decisions is the GWNC’s job, and it shouldn’t make the local neighborhood associations do the board’s work.
Meanwhile, Owen Smith, who represents Brookside on the GWNC board, reported that the 5001 Wilshire developers made two presentations to the Brookside Homeowners Association a year or so ago. He said that group’s members had no real negative comments about the project at the time, the developers successfully addressed members’ specific concerns, and the group voted to support the project. And he said Brookside, too, has not discussed it since then.
On the other hand, board member John Gresham said he was disappointed in the developer’s characterization of the Land Use Committee’s vote as unwelcome “pushback” after their lengthy negotiations with the Hancock Park and La Brea Hancock homeowner associations, and said he also took issue with the fact that the developers refused suggestions at the Land Use Committee meeting to include additional affordable units, beyond the minimum required, in the project.
But Melrose area representative Raphie Cantor disagreed, saying this is the right kind of project for this location, and the GWNC should definitely support it.
In the end, the board voted by a margin of 8 votes in favor, 3 opposed and 4 abstentions to oppose the project until the formal positions of the neighborhood associations are settled. The Hancock Park Homeowners Association is scheduled to vote on the matter at its monthly meeting tonight (Monday, July 18), and the La Brea Hancock Homeowners Association is scheduled to vote at its monthly meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 19). After those votes, the matter will likely be re-agendized at the next GWNC Land Use Committee meeting on July 26.
6101-6117 W. Melrose Ave & 731-735 N. Seward St.
This item, involving the proposed construction of a five-story entertainment-related office building at the NW corner of W. Melrose Ave. and N. Seward St., generated even more heat in board discussions than the previous item.
The GWNC Land Use Committee recommended at its June meeting that the board oppose the project, because while developers did make three presentations to the committee (in February, April and July, 2021), they did not return to the committee for further discussions after the committee requested they seek feedback from the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association, and South Hollywood Neighborhood Association, which represent nearby neighborhoods. Also, while the developers did eventually meet with all three neighborhood groups, all of them voted to oppose the project based on the building’s height, design incompatibility with historic fabric of the adjacent neighborhood (and especially the John C. Fremont library, next door to the development site), setting a precedent for more “overdevelopment” in the area, and potential shadow, reflection, and privacy issues for nearby residential neighbors. (The Hancock Park position is available here…and the SoHo letter of opposition is here.)
Before the GWNC Board meeting, however, the board also received a letter on behalf of the developers, complaining that the GWNC did not let the developers know that the item would be voted on at last week’s meeting, and contending that they have spent the last year in good-faith negotiations with the three neighborhood associations, which have refused to compromise and rejected their proposed modifications to the project. The letter also charged that almost all of the opposition to the project has come from just two people – HPHOA President Cindy Chvatal, and Mark Alpers, chair of the HPHOA’s Land Use committee, who have been leading the Association’s fight against the project and most specifically the developers’ requested height district change, which would allow them to build taller than the mostly 2-3 story buildings in the immediate area.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, neither the developers nor their representatives were in attendance, but Chvatal (who also represents local non-profit organizations on the GWNC board), said the HPHOA has never wavered in its position that it would like the developers to stay within the parameters of the existing zoning, and that it is the developers who have refused to budge from their request for a five-story building. She said opposing the height district change was a consensus position reached by all three neighborhood associations and their members, after joint discussions, and that any intimation that she has acted on her own during the process is “baloney.”
Chvatal moved that the GWNC board vote to oppose the project, as recommended by the Land Use Committee, and her motion was seconded by Larchmont Village representative Charles D’Atri, who also participated in the neighborhood discussions and negotiations, and said the developers’ letter “enflamed” him and bears only a “slippery relationship to the truth.”
“I have read few letters over the years that have so incensed me,” D’Atri said. “I cannot and will not stand for it.”
Also speaking in opposition to the project, board member John Gresham pointed out that the Land Use Committee, as is its policy in such situations, recommended that the board oppose the project only until the developers returned with input from the neighborhood associations, for further discussion. But he also said he doesn’t feel that concerns from nearby neighbors on June Street, regarding the project’s height, shadows, reflections and other details, have been adequately addressed yet.
In the end, the board voted by a margin of 12 in favor and 2 abstentions to oppose the project because the developers did not return to the Land Use committee for further discussions, as requested, and due to “the neighborhood associations’ disapproval of the height, parking provisions, construction mitigations and open space impact on the neighborhood.”
Other Land Use Votes
Finally, in other land use business last Wednesday, the GWNC board voted to oppose, as currently presented, a new residential development proposed for 3777 W. Olympic Blvd., pending neighborhood outreach and input…and to ratify striking the phrase “for a period of one year” from the board’s previous vote to support an application for a permit for the sale of beer and wine at the Ramen Melrose restaurant at 5784 W. Melrose Ave. Those votes were taken without discussion or comments.
The next meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 10, and the next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, Jully 26, also at 6:30 p.m. 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.
- More Posts