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GWNC Land Use Committee Tackles La Brea and Melrose Projects

GWNC Land Use Committee considers Firestone Tire project at left and 52-unit mixed use building at 647 N Beachwood/5570 Melrose Avenue
GWNC Land Use Committee considers Firestone Tire project (left) and 52-unit mixed use building at 647 N Beachwood/5570 Melrose Avenue (right)

Several projects presented to the Land Use Committee of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC) last week mirror the challenges neighborhoods all over the city are facing…as developers seek to increase density and provide much needed housing, or seek to convert retail space to restaurants with full alcohol sales and extended operating hours. Our neighborhoods are changing and residents are struggling to adapt, with some supporting the projects and others having serious concerns about parking and late operating hours.

A mixed-use project at 674 N. Beachwood Drive/ 5570 Melrose Avenue was the first item reviewed by the committee at its Tuesday, February 8, meeting. The project calls for new construction of a 52-unit mixed use building with 5,500 sq. ft. of commercial space. The developer is proposing to build a four and five story residential building of predominately one-bedroom apartments and studios, with retail space on the ground floor, with parking parking on one subterranean level. They are proposing 69 parking spaces that would be shared between the residents and the retail space. The building would be 56 feet tall. Paramount Studios is proposing a 60-foot tall office building to be constructed across the street. (DIR-2016-4316-DB)

The developer’s team appeared before the GWNC LUC to ask for neighborhood support for the project. Several neighbors spoke against the project saying the renderings depicting wide streets were misleading and that developers shouldn’t be given bonus units just because “they do the right thing” and agree to include affordable units in the project. Mary Ann Biewener, a Larchmont Village resident, said she opposes the project because the parking is insufficient in an already-congested neighborhood that is likely to get more congested when Paramount implements its new Master Plan.

However, Larchmont Village Association President Charles D’Atri commended the developer for working with the community to address its concerns, citing their efforts to locate most of the mass of the building on the Melrose Avenue side in deference to the single family homes in adjacent Larchmont Village.  D’Atri said his neighborhood would appreciate any additional efforts to move more massing toward Melrose, but he understands that would require a change in the entitlements and would need support from the community.  He noted that this stretch of Melrose Avenue has been underdeveloped for many years, with automotive repair shops and surface parking lots and said the neighborhood has simply become used to it. D’Atri acknowledged this part of the neighborhood is zoned for larger buildings and density is bound to come. Overall, he said, the association was happy with the direction the building design is taking.

Dana Sayles, representing the developer, said Melrose Avenue is classified as a secondary highway. This is not a regular residential street, but a legitimate thoroughfare, which is why Sayles said they have tried to place the bulk of the building on the Melrose Avenue side.  According to Sayles, the developer has respected all the residential setbacks and there is also a 15-foot front yard set back on Beachwood Ave., to be consistent with tsingle family homes there.

The building was not designed to accommodate large families and there are only two two-bedroom units planned, explained a member of the developer’s team.  The others are all studios and one-bedroom units, approximately 600 square feet, and were designed for single working people with market rate rents priced between $2200-2400 monthly. At this point, 15% of the building will be designated low income, which is beyond the city’s requirement for such units. Sayles acknowledged the distortion in the renderings, and said it would be addressed. This was the second time the developer appeared before the committee. They returned with a revised design incorporating comments from the committee.

“Our objective is to make the everyone proud of the building,” said Sayles. “We are genuinely interested in the feedback because we want to make an exemplary building.”

After further discussion the LUC voted to recommend the Board of the GWNC support the project with 7 yes votes and one no vote.

4737 Elmwood Avenue,  a 5-unit Small Lot Subdivision, with units of 1800 sq. ft. each, requested a reduction in the required front yard setback from 30 feet to 15 feet. Developer Scott Yang explained he wanted to bring the buildings further forward to match the apartment building adjacent, saying the character of the street is changing and the 30 foot setback should no longer apply.

LUC member Barbara Savage made a motion to oppose to project as presented, saying it is out of context with the neighborhood. She requested that the applicant show all the elevations of the building in the context of the neighborhood. The motion passed unanimously. (EXPEDITED PROCESSING ZA-2016-4260-ZAA, ZA-2016-4260-BL, VTT-74646-SL. Hearing date 3-1-2017.)

800 South La Brea – Conroy Commercial, the developer of the historic Firestone building, is requesting a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow the on-site sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages, in conjunction with the operation of a multiple restaurant venue market hall and microbrewery. The proposed hours of operation are from 7am-12am on Sunday-Wednesday, and 7am-2am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The 12,724, sq. ft. space will include approximately 3,493 sq. ft. of restaurant and microbrewery operations, 1,680 sq. ft. of retail, and 1,057 sq. ft. of support areas including trash, restrooms, and electrical and 6,494 sq. ft. of common seating area. There are 182 seats proposed in the common seating areas, 154 of which are either interior or among the 84 covered patio seats and 28 of which are sidewalk patio dining.

Land use consultant Margaret Taylor told the committee that developer Brad Conroy is proposing to restore the historic building, formerly Firestone Tire, and make it an active a site again.  The developer has teamed up with restauranteur Eric Needleman, of 213 Hospitality, to offer three different restaurant concepts and a microbrewery.

Taylor said the applicant is requesting a type 75 ABC license that requires a full menu restaurant operation, for consumption on site only. The plan is to create a place for families and people to hang out. She said the applicants have secured some demand parking agreements, at a nearby Presbyterian church and the AT&T parking lot, after residents of the Sycamore Square neighborhood expressed concern about parking. Taylor also said they would post signs asking patrons to respect the neighborhood and not park in the neighborhood. In addition, they will have a valet zone on 8th street, and a drop-off and pick-up zone for ride sharing services. Taylor concluded her presentation by saying the developers feel they have opened great lines of communication with the neighborhood association and the neighbors.

Charla Gardner, a Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association board member, said the neighborhood association applauded the idea when it was presented at the group’s February meeting, but decided to oppose the project as currently presented because they still have concerns about parking, seating, noise and security, and felt it best to address those issues before stating their support. In addition, the neighborhood had questions and concerns about the proposed patio on 8th street (would it create too much congestion on the sidewalk and should they be serving alcohol until 2am on the patio?).  In closing her remarks, Gardner asked the LUC to support the neighborhood and not take a vote on the project until the issues raised by the neighborhood are fully addressed.

Sue Horowitz, vice president of the Sycamore Square board, said she loves the concept proposed by the developer, but that “it’s a matter of scaling.” Horowitz said there is currently a challenge when large trucks make deliveries to the Essex building, just across 9th Street from Firestone, and the traffic and loading space is inadequate…which will become even more problematic when Bevmo moves into Exxex’s Wilshire Blvd. retail space in October.  Horwitz also said she would would like to learn more about the brewery operation, and whether it will generate any pollution, noise, etc., before she can fully support the project.

Conrad Starr, president of the Sycamore Square Association board, repeated some of the same concerns residents had expressed about the project in their meeting with Mr. Conroy in early February. He said the association proposed 21 questions about parking, security, deliveries, noise, etc. He, too, asked the LUC not to support the application until the association receives the answers to its questions.

Starr also reported that CD 4 recently asked the city to increase parking enforcement in the area and that more than 500 parking citations were issued from January through August of last year confirming that people in the area are not parking where it’s legal. Starr said residents want the development be appropriate to the neighborhood and would like conversations with the developer to continue before the LUC votes to support the project.

The LUC decided to table the matter since the hearing on the CUB application is not until April 19, which would allow the applicant to continue to meet with the community and report back to the LUC before the hearing. Committee  member Caroline Moser urged Taylor to present any agreements in writing to the committee. (Expedited Case ZA-2017-30-CUB)

600 S. La Brea Avenue.  (ZA-2017-0113-ZVCUB.) Artisanal Brewers Collective (ABC Pubs), operators of Mohawk Bend in Echo Park and Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank, have leased the long-empty retail space on the southeast corner of La Brea and 6th Street. They are seeking a first floor change of use from retail to restaurant with on-site sale of alcohol and a microbrewery as part of tenant improvements for a new restaurant with outdoor patio dining area. They are also requesting a CUB for the on-site sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages, and on-site beer manufacturing for the microbrewery. The proposed hours of operation are 1 pm-2am Monday through Friday; and 7 am-2am Saturday and Sunday.

Paige Reilly, Artisanal Brewers Collective (ABC Pubs), told the Buzz the space is owned by the owner of Deco Homes, located across the street, and it was originally built as a retail furniture space. Reilly said ABC Pubs was very excited about the large space and the opportunity to develop a menu personalized to the neighborhood. Reilly explained that brewing on-site in small batches is the best way to enjoy craft beer.

“Beer is completely natural, it won’t spoil, but the ingredients can become duller and more stale,” said Reilly. “It’s really delicious when it’s super fresh.  While it doesn’t go bad, fresher is always better.”

Reilly, who personally conducted the outreach to neighbors to seek support for the application, was thrilled to learn that many neighbors supported the idea of a casual place to dine and hang out. Knocking on doors, she said, confirmed what Reilly and her partner were hoping would be true.

“Initially, we were nervous because there is so much fine dining on La Brea, and that’s not us…so we thought we better make sure the neighborhood would get into our concept,” said Reilly. “We were thrilled that neighbors were excited to have a place to go that’s not very expensive, but not not fast food; not so dressed up just really good food in fun environment.”

Neighborhood support is important because ABC Pubs is requesting a variance allowing them to provide off-site parking through a lease. They have contracted with La Brea Bakery to use its parking lot after 5 pm when the bakery is closed, and they have some parking on site.  The total seating and floor area is almost 6,000 square feet with seating capacity for 225.

Regarding the night’s earlier presentation from the Firestone developers, Reilly said she welcomes another proposed brewery two blocks south. “The more, the merrier,” she said.

Their concept is to create a fun, family-friendly environment, and she thinks it would be cool to have more than one in the neighborhood.  According to Reilly, even though craft beer has been around for almost 20 years, Los Angeles is still really young when it comes to local brewing. ABC Pubs will brew small batches only for sale on the premise.

At first, the LUC asked ABC Pubs to come back with a formal letter of support from the La Brea Hancock Neighborhood Association, but when La Brea Hancock President and LUC committee member Barbara Savage said there was “100 percent support for the project from the community as well as the board,” the LUC voted to recommend support for the project.

5820 W. Melrose Ave – Burgerian Burger, a newly opened restaurant serving gourmet burgers, is seeking a conditional use permit to allow the sale and dispensing of a full-line of alcoholic beverages. The  3,946 square feet restaurant has seating for 60 indoor and 24 outdoor. The owners would like to operate from 10am to 2am, daily. (ZA-2016-4900-CUB, ENV-2016-4901-CE.)

According to the Steve Kim, who spoke on behalf of the applicant, The Burgerian Burger opened about three months ago in a space that was operated as a restaurant from 1993-2015 by the property owners. The former restaurant had a beer and wine license, but since the space was vacant for the past two years, the license lapsed.  Kim said the applicant would provide a security guard from 10 pm – 7 am nightly.

Susan Grossman, Vice President of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, est. 1948 and a board member of the Hancock Park HPOZ Board, who has also lived on Lillian Way for the past 30 years, expressed her opposition to the application for extended hours and a full line of alcohol sales.

Grossman said she was happy to see someone in the space, since it’s been empty for a while. She also said the former restaurant, Czardas Hungarian Restaurant had a license for beer and wine and she had no objection to beer and wine.

But “this part of Melrose has no restaurants that sell alcohol,” said Grossman. “This block is very quiet, its filled with families with small children and elderly people.”

Grossman added that she is very concerned about a restaurant staying open until 2 am every night, given that the menu is not sit-down dining but burgers, which she feels is more likely to attract lots of people drinking. In conclusion, she asked the LUC to require the restaurant to the operate within the current restrictions on the space, and oppose the application.

The LUC voted to oppose the application, citing a lack of support from the community. In addition, LUC member Caroline Moser advised Mr. Kim to consider securing additional parking as part of his effort to gain community support. The City hearing for this project is April 6.

In its last order of business on Tuesday, the committee approved in concept an addendum to the committee’s Applicants’ Guidelines/Instructions as proposed by committee chair Jim Wolf and committee member Joe Hoffman. The draft language would be added to the guidelines sent to applicants when they are invited to present their projects to the committee.  The new language would advise applicants that failure to appear before the committee would not prevent the committee from taking a position on a project, and that position would be filed with the City Planning Department.

The meeting adjourned shortly after 10pm. The recommendations of the Land Use Committee will be presented to the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Board at their next meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 7 pm at the Ebell of Los Angeles.

This story was updated to correct the time frame when tickets were issued in Sycamore Square.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Thanks for such a thorough report. Lots being developed in our neighborhood and we thank the LUC for taking a close look at all these projects to (hopefully ) make them fit in given neighbors’ concerns.


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