At its July meeting last night, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee reviewed three development proposals, two demolition permit requests, and a neighbor request for support in fighting a disruptive party house in the Larchmont area.
First, the development proposals:
3323 W. Olympic Blvd. (a.k.a. 988 S. Manhattan Pl.)
This application, for the construction of a 7-story, 118-unit multi-use building at the NE corner of Olympic Blvd. and S. Manhattan Pl., has been presented to the committee several times over the last few years, originally as part of a two-building project that included a second structure at the NW corner of Olympic and Manhattan. Recently, however, the two parcels were separated and this property was sold to new developers, who have come up with new plans for the site (which will now, according to the developers, be known as 988 S. Manhattan Pl.).
The newly-imagined project was first presented to the LUC at its June meeting, where committee members asked the developers to return for further discussion after considering design suggestions to make the building more compatible with the historic neighborhoods surrounding it, and to do some outreach to local neighbors to find out how they feel about the project.
This month, project representative Jim Ries explained how the architects used traditional Korean paintings to influence color choices in the new design. He also said they have now met with representatives of City Council District 4, who explained conditions previously negotiated for the prior version of the project, and requested that those conditions remain for the new version. Ries confirmed that the negotiated height (which is actually a bit lower in the latest iteration), as well as tree retention and planting agreements, would be maintained. Also, Ries said, the developers have now done more community outreach, too.
In public comment on the project, Judy Reidel, who lives in the Country Club Park neighborhood just south of the project site, said she finds the current design “unacceptable” because it is taller than anything else nearby, and the because the design is very generic and “cookie cutter,” with no elements that relate to the more historic buildings nearby.
In another comment, however, another neighbor, Charles Johnson, said he thinks opposition to the project is “counterintuitive,” and that it willl bring new life to the currently derelict corner. Johnson also downplayed design concerns, saying the owners have invested their money in the property, so they should be able to design the project as they see fit.
During committee discussion, several committee members said they would be happier with the project if it were at least one story shorter, and if it offered more affordable units than the minimum of 12 Extremely Low Income units required under the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines (based on the project’s other specs). In response to a suggestion that the developers reserve an additional 12 units for Moderate Income tenants, Ries said that would be a “hard sell” to his clients. But he also invited the committee to add the request as a condition for a motion of support, and said he would see what he could do before the matter comes to the full GWNC board for a final vote next month.
In the end, the committee voted 6-1 to recommend that the GWNC board support the project if it contains the 12 Moderate Income units (in addition to the currently-planned 12 Extremely Low Income units), and as long as it preserves an existing street tree and adds several more (as also requested by the City Council office).
851 S. Manhattan Place
This proposal is for a 6-story multi-family residential building with 33 units (21 studios and 12 one-bedrooms), four of which will be reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants. The site currently holds the last single-family home on the block, which has been almost entirely developed with medium-density apartment buildings over the last couple of decades.
In general, committee member comments about the project were very favorable, with a number of people offering strong praise for the building’s creatively articulated facade design and the architects’ use of color in the front-facing stairwell. Comittee members also said, however, that they would like to see the building offer more than just the minium number of affordable units required under TOC guidelines, as well as more green space and landscaping (which is currently limited to a roof deck and two small corner spaces at ground level). Committee member Rory Cunningham also suggested using colored tiles in the stairwell instead of paint, as currently planned, to make sure the color stays vivid longer.
Because this was the committee’s first discussion of the project, and committee members wanted to encourage the developers to return for further discussions before making a formal recommendation to the GWNC board, they voted unanimously to oppose the project as currently presented, while also offering praise for the work done so far, and inviting the developers to return soon for further consideration.
975-987 S. Manhattan Pl.
This project, on the second of the two sites originally tied in a two-building proposal at Olympic and Manhattan, is still owned by the original developer. But as committe Chair Philip Farha explained (when project representative Kevin Read had technical difficulties and was unable to join the online meeting), the project is now being re-submitted to the city as a Density Bonus project (governed by rules set by SB 1818) rather than a Transit Oriented Communities project, as it was originally outlined. Because Read was not able to explain further details last night, however, the committee voted unanimously to oppose the project (at least temporarily) until the representatives can return to the committee with a full presentation.
In addition to the three development applications last night, the Committee also reviewed two Demolition Pre-Inspection Notices:
330 N. Lucerne Blvd.
Project representative Jaehee Ghanati explained that the owners of the single family home at this address are planning to tear down an old one-story garage on the property and replace it with a single-family Accessory Dwelling Unit that can serve as a pool house. Off-street parking will be maintained in the driveway next to the main house, which will not be altered. Because the project can apparently proceed by right under the city’s ADU rules, as well the neighborhood’s current design overlay rules, committee members debated whether or not they should vote on the application. Eventually a motion was offered to support the project. The final vote was 3 in favor and 4 abstentions.
733 Seward St.
No project representative attended the meeting for this application, but Farha explained that the property contains a vintage commercial building currently occupied by Netflix, which intends to keep the historic structure. The demolition permit is specifically for an old garage at the rear of the property, which was actually taken down five years ago. Netflix is planning to build some new offices where the garage used to be, and obtaining the demolition permit is part of that by-right building process. No further discussion was held and no votes were taken.
Finally, in other matters at last night’s meeting:
310 N. Lucerne Blvd.
Several neighbors who live near this property have reported to city agencies (and the Larchmont Buzz) over the last few weeks that it is being used frequently as an unpermitted short-term rental, party house, and site of large gatherings…all of which are illegal, according to various current city ordinances and mandates, and all of which have created various disruptions and nuisances in the neighborhood.
After hearing from several neighbors about the current problems caused by the property on an ongoing basis, the Committee voted unanimously to send a letter to various city agencies – including City Council District 4, the Planning Department, the Department of Building and Safety, LAPD’s Wilshire Division and Vice Squad, and the City Attorney’s Office – to urge them to enforce the city’s rules against unregistered short-term rentals, illegal party houses, and large gatherings that violate current COVID-19 mandates.
Review of Pending Local, State and Federal Housing Bills
While a discussion of several key housing bills now making their way through the state legislature (SB 902, SB 995, SB 1085, SB 1120, and SB 1385 – collectively known as the Housing Production Package) – was agendized for last night’s meeting, discussion on the other items ran long, so the committee did not fully address the issue.
One member of the public was present to speak on SB 902, however, so he was invited to comment.
Thomas Atlee, who said he is a recent college graduate now returned to Los Angeles and living with his parents in Hancock Park, spoke of his frustration that both young people and senior citizens have now been effectively priced out of purchasing housing in our area. He said he is strongly in favor of SB 902, which would allow construction of up to four units on most residential lots, and up to 10 units on residential lots close to major transportation lines. Atlee said allowing the construction of more and smaller units than single-family lots now contain would once again help people at both ends of the age spectrum find and purchase homes in the neighborhood.
Committee members praised Atlee for his involvement with the issue, and invited him to explore further opportunities to become involved with the Neighborhood Council.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, August 25, at 6:30 p.m. The next regular meeting of the GWNC Board is scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, at 7 p.m. Both meetings will take place online, via Zoom.