Green space advocates are trying to secure a small victory in Koreatown before it’s too late. The parcel at 500 S. Oxford Ave. is slated for development…but nearby neighbors are asking the City Planning Commission to require the developer, Sang Hoon Chung, Fred & Jamison, LLC, to allocate land for green space instead of pay in-lieu fees.
“This is a unique opportunity for the City to add green space that could be gone for generations,” said St. Andrews Square resident Greg Wittman, who has filed a statement of support for the appeal, originally filed by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, and who is urging concerned residents to attend the Planning Commission hearing for the appeal on Thursday. “The fees do nothing if we never require land dedication, we will never have more green space.”
Wittman, a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, spoke to that group’s Land Use Committee at its meeting on Tuesday evening. Wittman said he could deliver comments from the Committe to the Planning Commission at Thursday’s hearing in Van Nuys. Interested residents can e-mail comments, not more than two pages, to Wittman at [email protected].
The proposed development is a seven-story, 89-foot high, residential building with 89 residential dwelling units and two levels of subterranean parking. The developer received an Approval of Vesting Tentative Tract Map No. 75032-CN to merge and join four (4) individual lots into one (1) single ground lot and a haul route for the export of up to 27,562 cubic yards of dirt. As part of the review process, in projects with more than 50 units, the developer is required to consult with the Departments of Recreation and Park and City Planning to discuss the viability of dedicating land, making park improvements, paying a park fee or providing a combination of land dedication or fee payment. Any land dedication for park and recreation purposes must be located within the subdivision or within a two-mile radius for a Neighborhood Park, a five- mile radius for a Community Park or a 10-mile radius for a Regional Park.
In August of this year, Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) recommended that the project dedicate land to the City. However, that recommendation was disregarded by the Planning Commission, which instead recommended payment of fees in lieu of the land dedication.
The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust filed an appeal of that determination, noting the very high need for parks in the Koreatown neighborhood, and the fact that there is no affordable housing in the proposed project – another reason to require land dedication to conform with the City’s General Plan and the Mayor’s Sustainable City Plan.
“Both the state Quimby law and the City’s implementing ordinance provide for large subdivisions to dedicate land for parks,” wrote Tamika Butler of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust in her appeal.
Butler argued the project is “located in the heart of Koreatown, the densest and one of the most park-poor neighborhoods of the city and the county. According to the LA Countywide Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment, Koreatown’s park service is 0.1 acre per 1,000 residents which amounts to an unconscionable four square feet of green space per person. The atrocious park service level in Koreatown is far below the citywide average of 4.2 acres per 1,000 residents.”
Failure to require land dedication is what got the City into such a park poor condition, asserted Butler. But now, she stated, with a chance to correct its course, the City is again opting for fees, which were also drastically reduced to allow for the affordable housing linkage fee, and which are now far below the $18,364/unit necessary just to preserve the City’s current level of park service.
Wittman, who shared his statement of support with the Buzz, agreed with the original appeal:
“The Appeal Report Summarily Dismisses the Severe Need for Neighborhood Parks in Koreatown and Fails to Rationally Evaluate Competing Policy Goals. The Appeal Report rejects the need for neighborhood-serving parks in Koreatown after presenting a list of 72 parks within a five-mile radius. The nearest such park, Seoul International Park, is described as 0.84 miles from the Project site. In fact, this park is 1.1 miles walking distance. Van Ness Park is approximately 1.2 miles walking distance. Burns Park is located 1.4 miles walking distance. Although intended to highlight the extensive park resources near the project site, the list of parks makes a compelling case for on-site dedication. Not a single park exists within one-mile walking distance from the project site. Furthermore, the project site is uniquely suited for on-site land dedication because it is approximately equidistant from neighborhood parks serving abutting neighborhoods.”
Wittman also rejected the logic of the Planning Agency, which had said the land dedication would make the building too tall (since buildings can be taller if they provide larger land dedications).
“Since when did the City care about the height of building in Koreatown?” Wittman told the GWNC Land Use Committee on Tuesday. “If they are concerned about height, they could suggest a smaller dedication of land.”
In his appeal, Wittman further wrote:
“The Advisory Agency Failed to Consider a Combination of Land Dedication and In-Lieu Park Fees. The Appeal Report analyzes land dedication as an all-or-nothing proposition and does not even consider a dedication of less than the maximum permitted (0.49 acres). The Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) explicitly presents three alternatives for the Advisory Agency to condition a subdivision map: to dedicate land, to pay and in-lieu park fee or “a combination of land dedication and park fee payment.” Any rationally-based decision must necessarily consider the feasibility of all three options. In this case, the Appeal Report discussed only two possibilities: the 0.49 dedication recommended by the Department of Recreation and Parks, and the payment of in-lieu park fees.
This omission is especially consequential because dedication of less than the recommended 0.49 acres is the most rational response to the issues identified in the Appeal Report. Whereas a 0.49-acre dedication would reduce the 0.82-acre property to 0.33 acres, a dedication of only 0.30 acres would leave 0.52 acres for development – expanding developable area nearly 50% compared to the full-dedication recommendation. A 0.30-acre park provide ample room for a playground, a pavilion for neighborhood events and passive recreation areas including benches and trees. After estimating yards, a 0.52-acre development site would accommodate a floor plate of approximately 0.33 acres or 14,400 square feet.2 The proposed 89 units and 107,000 square feet of Floor Area could be contained within eight residential stories, or ten stories if the floor plates were reduced to 11,000 square feet to accommodate open space at the podium level. In the face of a dire shortage of neighborhood parks in the project vicinity, the failure to seriously consider a combination of both land dedication and in-lieu park fees would be an abuse of discretion.”
The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday, and will consider this item on the agenda. The commission meets after 8:30 AM at the Van Nuys Council Chamber on the 2nd floor. The address is 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys, CA 91401