At its monthly meeting this week, the Land Use Committee of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council recommended that the GWNC board support applications for four new housing projects. Three other applications received preliminary votes of opposition (with invitations for the project representatives to return after they complete more community outreach)…and news of research being undertaken for an eventual revision of the Wilshire Community Plan also sparked some lively discussion.
Applications Recommended for Support
The four projects the committee voted to recommend that the full GWNC board support were:
371-377 N. St. Andrews Place
This 4-story, 15-unit Transit Oriented Communities project, with 18 parking spaces, would provide 12 market-rate apartments, two Very Low Income units, and one Low Income unit, in exchange for increases in allowable height and Floor Area Ratio, and setback reductions in the two side yards. The project was previously reviewed at the Committee’s November meeting, at which Committee members voted to oppose the project as then presented, asking that the developers consider design revisions to make the building’s design more compatible with the neighborhood’s architectural context, more pedestrian friendly, and to create a more welcoming sidewalk-level front entrance. The committee also requested, at the November meeting, that the developers try to get feedback on the project and its design from existing neighborhood residents.
At this month’s meeting, the project representatives provided a revised design, which committee members agreed is a bit more compatible with neighborhood styles, and more pedestrian friendly. After a brief discussion, the vote was 5-1 in favor of recommending that the GWNC board support the project as revised.
643-645 N. Rossmore Ave.
This project, located on the west side of Rossmore Ave., two lots south of Melrose, would replace an existing duplex with a 6-story, 10-unit condominium building with 22 automobile parking spaces and 11 bicycle parking spaces. The only entitlement requested, aside from the tract map required for condominiums, is a 20% reduction in side yard setbacks. Project representative Daniel Ahadian noted that the building’s design would be at least “somewhat traditional,” to reflect the historic character of Rossmore, which he agreed is “something of a special street.” He also noted that a rooftop deck will be oriented toward the front side of the building, to help preserve the privacy of single family homes behind the building on Lillian Way.
Neighbors present at the meeting requested that the developers agree to mitigate the spread of pests and dust during the demolition phase of the project, and Committee Member John Gresham also requested that the developers preserve the existing street trees in front of the site, if possible…both of which Ahadian agreed to. Providing additional commentary, a letter from the Zoning and Land Use Committee of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association was presented, asking that the project be limited to five stories instead of six (to better match neighboring buildings), and to provide a formal point of contact for neighbors should any issues arise after construction and occupancy. There seemed to be some confusion, however, among the neighbors present, about whether the letter correctly addressed this project, or another one planned for the same block, as it referred to an original plan for 11 stories, and this project has always been proposed at 6 stories. Also, Ahadian noted that since this is a condominium project instead of an apartment project, there will be no on-site “manager” for community contact…though there will be a formal HOA, which neighbors will be able to interact with.
In the end, the Committee voted 5-1 to recommend that the GWNC Board support the application with the agreed-upon mitigations.
933 S. Gramercy Place
This 6-story, 17-unit Transit Oriented Communities apartment project will demolish an existing single-family residence and provide 15 market-rate units and 2 Extremely Low Income units in exchange for a 70% density increase, an increase in height and Floor Area Ratio, and reductions in side yards and open space. There will also be 16 automobile parking spaces and 20 bike spaces. Committee members said that even though the project meets the city’s basic requirements, they would like to see a greater number of affordable units included (even if just at the Low or Moderate Income levels), as well as hear what local neighbors think about it, since none attended Tuesday’s meeting.
After the discussion, the Committee voted 4 -2 to recommend that the GWNC Board support the project application and request the addition of at least two more affordable units (for a total of four altogether).
334 S. Orange Drive
This was an application for a pre-demolition inspection, which precedes the granting of a demolition permit. Homeowner Lena Wang explained that her family plans to tear down the existing garage at the rear of the property, and replace it with a new two-story building that will contain a first-floor garage and a two-story Accessory Dwelling Unit for extended family members. There will be no changes to the 1,600 square foot main house at the front of the property. After a brief discussion to clarify the project details, the committee voted unanimously to support the garage demolition application.
Applications Not Supported as Currently Presented
The committee recommended that the following three projects be opposed as currently presented, but urged the applicants to consider those votes an invitation to return with greater neighborhood input, design revisions and/or other new information for further consideration.
506 N. Sycamore Ave.
This 5-unit Small Lot Subdivision project would replace a Spanish-style single family home in an RD 1.5 zone, on the east side of Sycamore, two lots north of Rosewood Ave. After the presentation of the project’s details, Land Use Committee members expressed disappointment in what they felt were the project’s lackluster design and “value”-level materials (including standard asphalt shingles, stucco and Hardie board), especially since, as committe chair Philip Farha suggested, the finished units most likely not be sold at “value”-level prices. Other committee members criticized the front-facing garage on the unit closest to the street, which doesn’t fit the historic neighborhood pattern of rear garages, and the presence of more hardscape than greenscape in the front yard. Farha summed up the comments by urging the developers to create something a bit more distinctive. “It’s your development money, but it’s my street,” he said. In the end, the committee agreed, voting unanimously to oppose the project as currently presented and urging the developers to seek neighbors’ input, make revisions based on those comments, and return to a future meeting for further consideration.
4653 1/2 W. Beverly Blvd.
This application was for the renewal of a Conditional Use Permit to sell beer and wine at the Gon Ji Am restaurant, which has been in business at the location for 17 years. The restaurant is also asking for an extension in its closing time, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., to better accommodate late-night customers and take out orders, which representative Steve Kim said have increased in recent years. Because neighbors in the area, particularly those who live in the Dover apartments next door to the minimall where the restaurant is located, have been fairly vocal in past discussions regarding permitting for businesses at the location, and because no neighbors commented at the meeting, either in person or via written communications, the committee voted unanimously to oppose the application until the representative does some neighborhood outreach, and returns to a future meeting with some sort of documented of neighborhood support, via in-person comments, written comments, or signatures on a petition.
4001 W. 6th St.
This was another application for a Conditional Use Permit to allow the on-site sale and consumption of beer and wine at a new 6,200 square foot Korean barbeque restaurant opening at the NW corner of 5th and Manhattan Pl. The hours will be 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and, according to representative Demetrius Ziegler, the establishment will be a traditional restaurant, with no live entertainment or karaoke. Ziegler also noted that the application is being supported by the City Council District 4 office. Once again, though, Committee Members said they would like to hear from residential neighbors before granting their support, and voted unanimously to oppose the application as currently presented, until the representative can provide documentation that neighbors also support it.
Wilshire Community Plan Research Discussion
The other issue on the LUC’s agenda this week was the introduction of Gabriel Kahan, a research fellow at the Berggruen Institute, a non-profit social-political think tank founded in 2008, who is working on a project to gather input for an eventual update of the Wilshire Community Plan, which the city has said could begin this year. Kahan, who has (according to the Berggruen website), “developed a collaborative learning method to help diverse groups of people from varied backgrounds and abilities identify, understand and express common yet complex situations,” is now looking for ways to “create an urban collective-intelligence resource to help people from all backgrounds and abilities, have a civic voice in their community, understand their city and their place within it…” He said he is now hoping to use this process, supported by the Berggruen Foundation, to help collect and synthesize community concerns – from all parts of the Wilshire Community Plan area, including Greater Wilshire – for the upcoming Plan update.
Kahan said he learned a few months ago that the Korean American Foundation LA and the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council had started gathering community input for the Plan update a few months ago, and offered his services. Emile Mack, executive vice president of the KAFLA, attended Tuesday’s meeting with Kahan and confirmed that his organization has agreed to partner with Kahan and Berggruen, and is now backing out of the research process to let Kahan guide the effort.
Several Land Use Committee members, who weren’t previously familiar with the Berggreun Institute, suggested that community plan discussions and research should be led by the city, when it launches an official process, and not by an outside agency…but others more familiar with Berggruen agreed that it and Kahan could indeed bring “special” tools and methods to the outreach process. As the discussion was mostly introductory at this point, and there were no formal proposals, no official votes or positions were taken.
The next meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, February 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave. The next meeting of the full board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council will be held on Wednesday, February 12, at 7:00 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd. Both meetings are public and open to all who are interested.