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GWNC Land Use Committee Re-Convenes Online

On Tuesday, May 26, after taking two months off due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee reconvened with its first virtual public meeting, to consider several local development projects.

606 N. Manhattan Place

Existing home at 606 N. Manhattan Pl., and the building proposed to replace it.

This project would involve the demolition of an existing single family home and replacing it with a 14-unit apartment/condo complex in a Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Tier 3 area (which designates close proximity to major transit lines).  TOC development rules, which resulted from the passage of Measure JJJ a few years ago, would allow a 70% density bonus for the parcel, and three other developer incentives, including a height increase from 45 to just over 59 feet, and two reduced side yard setbacks.

The initial discussion of the project at Tuesday’s meeting stalled a bit, with committee members saying they would like to see more specific design elements before commenting further, while developer representative Brandon Finch asked the committee members, several times, for advice on what kinds of specific elements they would like to see worked into the design.

After a few exchanges back and forth, however, both sides realized that preliminary drawings submitted earlier hadn’t made it to the committee members before the meeting, so they hadn’t been able to see or comment on even the preliminary sketches.  This was quickly rectified, and the developer’s plans were shared electronically…but because the submitted drawings were still fairly minimal, committee members said they would still like to see more details before providing specific critiques.

The committee members also noted that while they do appreciate attempts to bring more housing units to the transit-adjacent neighborhood, they would also like to see a project that doesn’t overly crowd the area, exacerbating existing traffic and parking woes, and which otherwise enhances instead of reducing quality of life for neighborhood residents.  Committee members suggested that the development team study the existing neighborhood – which is currently undergoing a major development boom and change in overall character – and try to make the design and scale of the project as compatible as possible existing neighborhood patterns. Finch said he would take this advice back to his team, and come back to a future Land Use Committee meeting with more detailed drawings for further discussion.

706 N. Citrus Ave.

Rooftop deck at the proposed The Citrus membership club at 706 N. Citrus Ave.

This is an application to allow the sale and on-site consumption of a full line of alcoholic beverages at what is described as a new “creative office club” (The Citrus), with a rooftop deck, upstairs from the Umeda restaurant in an existing building at the NE corner of Citrus and Melrose Ave.  The Land Use Committee originally reviewed the application in January, and asked the applicants at that time to do more neighborhood outreach, to find out more about concerns of local neighbors.  At this week’s meeting, project representative Christina Rivera presented a letter from the adjacent neighbor, expressing his support for the application, but she said further outreach has been difficult because of the current COVID-19 restrictions.

Committee chair Philip Farha, who represents the Melrose neighborhood on the GWNC board, said he did some of his own neighborhood research on the project since the applicants’ last visit, and found neighbors mostly supportive.  He noted, however, that the word “club” does have “a certain resonance in the neighborhood,” and asked if the project is going to be a combination nightclub and workspace, or something else.  Rivera said it will not be a nightclub, and that the word “club” was included in the description on the application documents to help city officials understand the membership aspect of the business, which will provide speaker series, coaching, and workshops…for groups likely no larger than 40 people at a time.

During the discussion, other committee members expressed concerns about parking and potential noise from the roof deck.  Rivera said the business has four on-site parking spaces, and has contracted valet parking at two nearby parking lots.  And she said the applicants would be willing to add specific conditions to their application to guarantee acceptable noise levels.  Farha noted, however, that such conditions are often not enforced by the city, and said he’d rather just ensure that whatever permit is granted would be for the current owner only, and then require a re-negotiation if the business changes hands. Rivera said that would be fine with the applicants.

In the end, the committee did not take a vote on the application at this meeting, but encouraged Rivera to continue outreach to other nearby neighbors, and to return to a future meeting with more community input.

525 N. Western Ave.

This application is for the construction of a new 64-unit, 100% affordable, permanent supportive housing apartment building on the west side of Western Ave.  The site (like all of this section of Western Ave.) falls within the Wilshire Center – Koreatown Neighborhood Council boundaries…but because properties just behind the site, on St. Andrews Place, are within Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council boundaries, the GWNC Land Use Committee members said they felt it worth their time to weigh in on the project…even though it is already quite far along in the city approval process.

First and foremost during Tuesday’s discussion, committee members expressed the importance of going on the record to support a project that contains 100% affordable units, which are all too rare in local construction these days.

After a lengthy discussion of specific wording, they passed a motion to recommend that the GWNC board both formally support the project and applaud the affordability element…but also cite concerns with certain aspects of the project, including:

  • Lack of adequate parking (the project has only one parking space for every four units, and none specifically for staff)
  • Lack of adequate open space for residents
  • Minimal rear setbacks (which may negatively affect neighbors to the west behind the new building)
  • The building’s overall “uninspired” design
  • And what committee member Susan O’Connell called the “confusing” design of the building’s ground floor, which lacks almost any defining detail in the architects’ current renderings (see photo above).

3323 W. Olympic Blvd., 970-996 S. Manhattan Pl., and 975-987 S. Manhattan Pl.

The Heights view from Olympic Blvd. (2018 rendering)

This project involves the construction of three buildings on the north side of the intersection of Olympic Blvd. and S. Manhattan Pl., totalling 138 new apartments.  Farha explained that, after several previous reviews, both the Land Use Committee and full GWNC board are on record opposing the project, which has also been discussed at length in numerous neighborhood meetings and meetings with staff at City Council District 4.  The news this month, said Farha, is that the property recently changed hands…and the new owners do not seem interested so far in further negotiating with the various community groups before moving ahead with the plans.  After only a brief discussion, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC reiterate its opposition to the project as currently outlined.

Proposed Amendment to the City’s Home Sharing Ordinance

In December 2018, the City passed a new ordinance to help regulate home-sharing (a.k.a. short-term rental) activity – like AirBnB units – in the City of Los Angeles.  The ordinance went into effect last July, and full enforcement begain this past November.  One provision of the ordinance, as passed, was that no home-sharing/short-term rental activity is allowed in any rent controlled housing unit (those built before 1978, which are subject to the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance).

Because of protests from some landlords who both own and live in their RSO units, however, the city is now proposing to allow short-term rental activity in a very limited number of RSO units that are both owned and currently occupied by the owners as their primary residence.  The number of units where this activity is allowed would also be limited to just 4,000 units within the city limits, and the units would be subject to all the same registration and enforcement provisions as any other short-term rental unit in the city, as spelled out in the current ordinance.

Although the Land Use Committee was scheduled to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed amendment at Tuesday’s meeting, however, committee members said they didn’t have enough information yet to hold the discussion, and postponed it to a future meeting.

Next Meetings

The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held – also likely online – on Tuesday, June 23 (fourth Tuesday) at 6:30 p.m.

The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held – likely online – on Wednesday, June 10 (second Tuesday) at 7:00 p.m.

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Elizabeth Fuller
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 has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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