Tuesday evening, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board oppose a five-unit small lot subdivision proposed to be built at 250 N. Wilton Place. After a brief introduction by the developer, Fred Maidenberg, and his team, which repeated many of the points they made at a neighborhood town hall meeting last week, the committee heard from numerous residents who urged the committee to oppose the project for reasons they had expressed last week as well.
One resident, Greg Wittmann (who’s also a member of the GWNC board) presented a letter to the committee asserting that the demolition of the historic home on the site was done improperly, and no permit should have been issued without the approval of the City’s Office of Historic Resources. Wittmann further asserted that the proposed small lot subdivision violates several municipal codes in the design of its driveways and location, and that the developers provided false information to the City’s Department of Building and Safety, as well as demolished a historic structure without the required California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Review. The developer did not respond to Mr. Wittmann’s comments.
Ridgewood-Wilton neighborhood resident Susan O’Connell, an architect, and her husband, Jim Auld, also an architect, urged the committee to oppose the project because it doesn’t fit into the historic neighborhood and fails to conform to small lot subdivision design guidelines adopted earlier this year by the City. The guidelines were revised to “equip the City with the tools necessary to review and revise proposed small lot subdivisions with the overarching goal to improve a project’s compatibility with existing by-right zoning and neighborhood contexts.”
Auld said the site would be better suited for a three-unit project, with larger and potentially more valuable units. O’Connell said the developers have made no effort to fit the project into the neighborhood’s existing context. She said that, at 45 feet high, the five-story buildings will tower over the older two and three-story buildings in the neighborhood. She also brought in examples of successful small lot subdivision projects, and noted they are mostly two or three stories tall. O’Connell also named architectural characteristics that are commonly used in local residential buildings, including sloped roofs, windows, hand rails and covered front porches…all of which could have been included in the proposed project’s design to make it more compatible with the neighborhood.
Members of the LUC seemed persuaded by the arguments. Committee Chair Caroline Moser told the developers she was disappointed to see how little they had done to address the concerns expressed by the committee at the first presentation of the project in January. Committee member Philip Farha said he was very concerned about allegations of an improper demolition of a historic building, and said he wanted to make sure the committee supports projects that follow the rules. After much discussion, during which each committee member expressed concerns or reservations about the project, the committee voted unanimously to craft a motion for the GWNC board to oppose the project, and which outlines all the committee members’ specific objections.
In other business on Tuesday, a 51-unit apartment building proposed for 985-991 3rd Avenue also drew opposition from a large number of neighbors from the Wilshire Park neighborhood. The 6-story building will be located next to a one-story home in the Wilshire Park HPOZ. Owner and developer Laszlo Faerstain told the committee that his project is entitled to be so large because he is including 11 low income units in the building. Most neighbors present said they opposed the project because it would tower over their homes and reduce their property values. The LUC had already voted, at a previous meeting, to recommend opposing the project and they let that position stand on Tuesday.
Next, the committee urged Adan Madrid, project manager and representative of 7-Eleven Convenience Stores to meet with the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, est. 1948, and the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association, about their plans to open a 24-hour convenience store at 5784 Melrose Avenue, in the former location of a Radio Shack. No alcohol would be sold at this location.
Also, Reverend Jung Oh Kim, Senior Pastor of the Eastern Presbyterian Church, told the committee that he wants to reach out to the community and work with the committee to resolve the currently illegal parking lot at 644 S. Irving Blvd./4155 Wilshire Blvd. (The lot was paved in 2015 without a permit, and has been in violation of the Park Mile Specific Plan ever since.) The committee voted unanimously to recommend that GWNC board oppose the use of the land as parking lot and that it be restored to its original condition, removing curb cuts and driveways…and that the church explore developing the land in accordance with the city’s building and zoning codes.
Later, the committee also voted to oppose project at 845 S. St Andrews Place, where the applicant seeks to demolish a vacant school and construct a 6-story, 25-unit apartment building. This is a Transit Oriented Commities (TOC) project, which allows additional density near major transit lines, and the applicant did not appear before the committee to discuss the plans.
The LUC also voted to oppose a request from a developer to convert a duplex currently under construction at 5123 W. Clinton Street to a two-condominium project. The committee asked the developer’s representative to meet with neighbors to gain support for the request, and then to return to the committee for further discussion.
Finally, Jeffrey Carpenter, a GWNC board member and representative from Citrus Square, reported that several large trees have been illegally removed from the parkways in his neighborhood to accommodate driveways for new homes under construction. He requested that the committee move that the GWNC board ask the City Attorney’s Office and the City Administrative Officer to establish fines and other penalties for illegally removing trees, and create a reporting mechanism that would allow citizens to report an endangered tree, in the hopes of preventing its destruction. Because the item was not agendized for a vote at this meeting, however, the committee agreed to take up the matter at its next meeting, when they could also invite someone from the City’s Office of Building and Safety to address enforcement of current laws regarding tree removal.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, September 25. The next GWNC board meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 12, 7 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.