Local land use applications seem to be in a bit of a winter lull at the moment, but that made it a bit easier for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee to focus on the one new project presented at its monthly meeting last night. The application would replace an empty lot at 544-550 S. Wilton Pl. with a new 7-story, 29-unit condominium building, built under the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines.
According to land use consultant Gary Benjamin, who represented the owners and developers at last night’s meeting, the building would contain one four-bedroom unit, five three-bedroom units, and 22 two-bedroom units, with three units (likely one two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units) reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants. (Whether those units would also be sold or just retained for rental to low income tenants has not yet been decided). There would also be a total of 47 parking spaces, with 25 of those below ground and 22 at surface level.
Regarding project incentives (the specific number and types of zoning exceptions allowed to TOC developers if they include certain percentages of low-income units in projects near major transit lines), Benjamin said the developers are requesting nine feet of additional height, as well as reductions in side yard setbacks and a reduction in open space, as their three allowed incentives under the TOC guidelines.
Committee member discussion of the project was almost all favorable, with most committee members saying they were generally impressed by the design, which they found much more attractive than many other box-shaped projects they’ve seen recently. (Committee member Rory Cunningham also praised the architects for including actual contextual elements – such as the existing adjacent buildings – in the project renderings, noting that many architects simply show their proposed buildings alone, with no contextual details, which makes it harder to evaluate their fit with neighborhood surroundings.)
In response to a question about whether or not the developers have reached out to nearby neighbors to see if they have any concerns about the project, Benjamin responded that since TOC projects don’t require community approval (the TOC program is specifically designed to fast-track projects in transit-adjacent areas, as long as they meet specific thresholds for affordable units), he doesn’t usually contact neighbors when working on these kinds of projects.
Committee member Jane Usher asked how the developers had managed to clear the lot before their project was approved (generally the city requires an approved project before it will issue demolition permits), but Benjamin explained that the current owners bought the property after it was already cleared, so he doesn’t know how that was accomplished.
After a few other clarifying questions about driveway placement (there will be two entrances – one for the subterranean parking and one for the surface parking area – on Wilton Pl.), and potential street widening (not likely), the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support the project. The recommendation will be on the board’s agenda for a final vote at its February meeting.
In the only other project vote at last night’s meeting, the committee – following its policy in such situations – voted unanimously to to recommend that the GWNC board oppose an application for a permit to sell a full line of alcoholic beverages at an existing restaurant at 5750-5756 W. Melrose Ave. and 657 N. Lucerne Blvd. (most recently operated as FIN Asian Tapas, and – before that – The Larchmont) because the applicants have not responded to the GWNC’s invitations to present the application at a Land Use Committee meeting.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, and the next GWNC board meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, both at 6:30 p.m. and both via Zoom.