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GWNC Land Use Committee Reviews Three New Development Proposals

Members of the GWNC Land Use Committee reviewing details of one of the two projects presented at last night’s meeting.

Although there was no quorum at last night’s meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee, so no official recommendations of support or opposition could be made, two developers did present details of their new projects to the committee, and to members of the community who came to learn more about the developments.

6535 W. Melrose Ave.

Rendering of the new version of the project proposed for 6535 W. Melrose Ave. (NE corner of Melrose and Highland)

The first project presented was a development at 6535 W. Melrose Ave. (the NE corner of Melrose and Highland).  This project was actually approved and permitted back in 2017 as a four-story, mixed use building with 19 apartments and ground-floor commercial/restaurant space.  Construction began after that approval…but then paused again after the city’s new Transit Oriented Communities guidelines, which allow greater density near major transit lines in exchange for the inclusion of a small number of affordable units, took effect.  With new bonuses available through the TOC program, the project’s developers re-thought the building’s design and, in February of this year, submitted a new application for a TOC-defined project, this time with 33 apartment units (including three reserved for extremely low income tenants) and 4,895 square feet of retail space in three storefronts.

In discussions of the new renderings, committee members had few comments on the technical details of the project…but did express disappointment that the building, at a major, high-traffic intersection, is fairly generic in style and without much architectural distinction.  Committee member Rory Cunningham was the first to articulate this dissatisfaction, saying, “You’ve done nothing to say, ‘This is a really great corner.'”  Cunningham went on to contend that the design contains no unique architectural statement, no reference to the building’s other surroundings, and is something that could be found anywhere, instead of only in this unique spot.  Committee Chair Philip Farha quickly agreed, referring to the previous building on the lot and saying, “To say it’s better than a gas station is not really enough…It’s on the right-ish track, but it could be on a right-er track.”

Interestingly, instead of defending the current design, project representative Daniel Ahadian agreed that it would be nice if the new building could reference or address the other corner-facing building at the intersection, where the Mozza restaurant is located.  He said he would take the suggestion back to the project’s design team, hoping the result could be a “better” project.

521 (or 517-575 1/2) N. Gramercy Pl.

Rendering of the new building proposed for 521 N. Gramercy Pl.

The second project presented last night is a fully new building that will replace three small single-family bungalows (one of which burned down in 2018) on the 500 block of N. Gramercy Pl.   The new project will be a 4-story, 32-unit apartment building with three units reserved for extremely low income tenants and two units for moderate income tenants.  It will also have 32 parking spaces, 33 bicycle parking spaces, electric car chargers, and solar panels on the roof.   (Both the number of designated affordable units and the number of parking spaces are more than the minimum numbers required.)

As with the Melrose development, committee members had few comments on the technical details of the project, but they did strongly urge the developers to seek input from the surrounding community, which has not yet been done.  Neighborhood resident Joanne Pendorf also pushed for community outreach, noting that the developers of a new 51-unit building, adjacent to this project site, bypassed the community involvement process entirely, angering neighbors.  (That building is now nearly complete, but not yet occupied.)

For both this project and the Melrose building, the Committee asked the developers to return to a future LUC meeting with further updates.

5750-5756 W. Melrose Ave. and 657 Lucerne Blvd.

Patio space at FIN Asian Tapas. (Photo from FIN website.)

The final application presented last night was from the owners of the FIN Asian Tapas restaurant, which has applied to legalize a previously-unpermitted patio on the north side of the building (the patio, like the rest of the building, sits well above the grade of the sidewalk adjacent to it).  Committee members generally agreed with the applicants that the patio space is integral to the overall restaurant space, and offered no objections to the application.

Other Business

In other business last night, Aditi Shakkarwar, field representative for California State Assembly Member Richard Bloom, presented fact sheets on three housing bills – AB 1743, AB 1399 and AB 881 – which would, respectively, exempt affordable housing units from a tax that currently makes them more more expensive to build, reform the Ellis Act (which allows owners to evict tenants if they wish to take the units off the rental market), and clarify some ambiguities in the existing Accessory Dwelling Unit law.

Also, Josh Kurpies, District Director for Bloom’s office, provided updates on SB 50, SB 592 and other housing bills now making their way through the legislature.

Finally, the committee also heard briefly about the new Playground Pilot Project proposed for the southern edge of the surface-level city parking lot on the west side of Larchmont Blvd.  In response to committee members’ questions, project proponent John Welborne explained that the word “pilot” is being used because there might be a chance someday to expand the green space at the location, if a way can be found to move some or all of the current parking spaces to an extension of the underground parking garage across the street.

The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, July 23, 6:30 p.m. at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.  The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, July 10, 7:00 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.

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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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