At Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee, several local building projects and entitlement applications sparked lengthy discussions of both specific and wider issues, but only two items resulted in votes to make formal recommendations to the full GWNC board.
Boutique Bungalow Court Hotel at 5212 Melrose Ave.
The first of the two items voted on at the meeting was a new boutique hotel development planned for what is now a 7-unit 1920s bungalow court at 5212 Melrose Ave. The project has been in the works since 2017, and initially faced some significant community opposition, based on the historic nature of the property and current tenants’ complaints of neglect and poor treatment by the building’s owners. After a contentious couple of years, however, a new team of representatives took over earlier this year, and after several rounds of community discussions, the project now appears to be moving forward.
At February’s LUC meeting, committee members requested that the representatives return with a new report on the bungalows’ remaining tenants, information about current conditions at the building, a context drawing showing how the rear side of the project would appear to its neighbors to the south, and reports from a planned meeting with the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association.
This month, the representatives did bring the requested context drawings, showing from various sides how the size and shape of the building will fit in with its nearest neighbors. They also presented a few new design changes, and reported on two recent meetings they’ve had with the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association, which has now voted to support the project.
A representative of the Los Angeles Tenants Union also attended the LUC meeting on Tuesday, and requested that the committee decline to vote on the item until there are further discussions with the Tenants’ Union about the bungalows’ current tenants. (Three households remain in the complex at the moment.)
In the end, however, and because the project has a May 14 hearing date with a zoning administrator, committee members expressed concern about the removal of seven relatively affordable units from the local rental market, but voted by a margin of 7 in favor and 2 abstensions to recommend that the GWNC board support the hotel project.
CUB for Beer and Wine Sales at Sweetgreen Restaurant, 180 S. La Brea
The second project resulting in a vote at Tuesday’s meeting was an application for a Conditional Use Permit to sell beer and wine for on-site consumption at the Sweetgreen restaurant at 180 S. La Brea.
Representatives from the restaurant presented petitions with signatures collected from more than 400 customers in favor of the application (many of them local residents). Committee members urged the applicants to widen their outreach by contacting the Citrus Square neighborhood representative on the GWNC, and going door to door to reach residents on Sycamore Ave., who live just behind the restaurant…but in the end (and even though no hearing date has been set yet) they voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support the application, on the condition that the representatives can provide proof, if board members request it, that the additional neighborhood outreach has been done.
Meanwhile, a number of other items on the Tuesday’s agenda received fairly extensive discussions, but did not result in votes, which means they will likely return to the committee for further discussion and action before they’re forwarded to the full GWNC board. These include:
New Height Limits for the West Side of the 300 and 400 blocks of S. Wilton Ave.
Jay Lender and Matt Artukovich, who live on Van Ness Ave. in Windsor Square, spoke during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting to request the GWNC’s support for a proposal to institute new base height limits for buildings on the 300 and 400 blocks of S. Wilton Place, behind their homes. The Wilton side of the block is currently zoned for R3 multi-family development, and there is currently a lot of new construction, much of which is taking advantage of new density bonuses, resulting in larger, taller buildings.
Lender and Artukovich say they support the new and denser development on Wilton, but that additional height increases allowed with new Density Bonus rules and Transit-Oriented Communities guidelines are resulting in “outsized” buildings that will loom over and change the character of the homes on Van Ness, which are located in the Windsor Square HPOZ. Artukovich said that limiting the base height of the R3 area on Wilton will, in effect, also limit the height of new construction on those blocks, even with the density and transit bonuses, and would help to preserve the adjacent area while still allowing denser new construction on Wilton.
Because the item was not agendized for formal discussion and action at the meeting, however, no vote was taken, and the item will be placed on a future agenda for further discussion.
Construction of New Apartment Buildings at 607 and 611 N. Manhattan Pl.
These two projects, on adjacent lots, are owned and being developed independently, but share one representive, Matthew Hayden, who attended Tuesday’s meeting to provide updates on both. The two projects, which would include a 6-story, 10 unit building at 607 N. Manhattan Pl, and a 5-story, 15-unit building at 611 N. Manhattan Pl., were disucssed at a previous LUC meeting, but both committee members and neighbors had expressed concern at those meetings that the very modern designs of the proposed buildings does not fit well into the architectural context of the neighborhood, which is currently a mix of older, lower-density single-family homes and smaller mid-century apartment buildings.
At this month’s LUC meeting, Hayden said he had reported the committee’s concerns to the two projects’ architects, but they responded that the current collection of buildings on the street provides “no context” or valuable architectural cues for their projects, which are intended to be much more modern in style, and which they hope will create a brand new architectural context for further (and inevitable) redevelopment of the block.
Committee members commented that such conversations are easier to have when the architects themselves are present, but suggested that Hayden ask them to consider elements such as window styles and groupings, rooflines, types of pedestrian access, how buildings meet the street, and building materials…and not just on the one specific block, but throughout the older neighborhood within which they’ll be working.
Joanne Pendorf, who lives on the block in question, spoke in opposition to the new, very modern, buildings, saying that “if you set a precedent like this, it will destroy the whole community.”
In the end, no votes were taken, but committee chair Caroline Moser strongly urged Hayden to urge the architects to come to a future meeting, so they can speak more directly about the context issues, and said she would also like to hear from more community residents.
Application for a CUB Renewal and Extended Hours at the Cat and Fiddle Restaurant, 742 N. Highland Ave.
The Cat and Fiddle restaruant and bar, which relocated to this space in 2016, has applied for a renewal of the property’s Conditional Use Permit to sell a full line of alcoholic beverages, with extended hours to allow for special events (such as viewing of international soccer games) in the morning and late night. A letter from the South Hollywood Neighborhood Association was read, saying that group supports the CUB renewal, but not the request for extended hours. This sentiment was echoed by a neighbor, Vena Chin, who lives behind the restaurant, can hear everything that goes on at the property, and does not want the additional commotion during morning and late-night hours. Chin said she can live with such things when they are scheduled as occasional special events, but giving permission for them on an ongoing basis would be “the tail wagging the dog.”
Committee member Philip Farha, who represents the Melrose neighborhood on the GWNC board, noted that the restaurant is a favorite with local neighbors, and said he would like to hear from more neighbors before taking a vote on the application. No city hearings are scheduled yet, so no votes were taken and the item will be re-agendized for a future meeting.
Application for a New “Dry” 7-Eleven Store at 5786 1/2 Melrose Ave.
This item, too, has been much discussed at previous LUC meetings, where requests were made for further community outreach, and concern was expressed about the sincerity of the claims that the store will never sell alcohol (another “dry” 7-Eleven – at Olympic and Wilton – which originally won the GWNC’s support after similar promises, applied for a liquor permit last year).
At Tuesday’s meeting, project representative Adan Madrid reported that the project has now won votes of support from the nearby Christ the King Church, with the conditions that no alcohol will be sold at any time, now or in the future, and that the building have security cameras on the back side as well as in front of the store. Also, Madrid said, the Hancock Park Homeowners Association has voted to support the application, and the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association did as well, on the condition that the restroom be labeled for employees only, and that a wall sign facing Arden Ave. be removed from the plans. Madrid says all of those conditions have been agreed to, and that LAPD Senior Lead Officer Dave Cordova also said he had no objections, as long as the store will not be selling alcohol. Committee members did not have many follow-up questions for Madrid, but because the item was not specifically agendized for a vote on Tuesday, no votes were taken and it will be re-agendized for a future meeting.
Finally, in other business, the LUC voted to accept architect and Ridgewood-Wilton resident Susan O’Connell as a new member of the committee. Also, a planned discussion of the proposed SB 50 state housing bill did not take place because the scheduled speaker did not attend.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, May 28, 6:30 p.m. at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.
The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 7:00 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.