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Neighbors Turn Out to Debate Cat & Fiddle Permit (and Review Other Projects) at GWNC Land Use Committee

Project representative Dana Sayles presents details of the hotel and apartment complex proposed for 639 S. La Brea to the GWNC Land Use Committee and attendees.

This month’s meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee featured several key discussions, including one that attracted a large group of impassioned neighbors.

742 N. Highland Ave. – CUB Renewal with Extended Hours at Cat & Fiddle Restaurant and Pub

The evening’s longest discussion belonged to the popular Cat and Fiddle pub and restaurant, which has applied for a renewal of its Conditional Use Permit for alcohol sales, along with an extension of its operating hours to allow for more special events (specifically, morning viewings of international soccer matches).

The discussion drew the night’s largest contingent of public speakers, as well as a number of  letters submitted before the meeting.  Among the letters,  according to Land Use Committee Chair Philip Farha, 13 were in favor of both the permit renewal and the extended hours, while eight supported the basic permit renewal, but said they would support the extension of hours only with a list of conditions (also submitted via letter) suggested by the South Hollywood (SoHo) neighborhood association.

SoHo’s list of suggested conditions included:

  • A requirement that all valet parking and other ingress/egress activity be conducted on Highland Ave. instead of from the alley behind the restaurant
  • That patrons be discouraged from smoking and making noise on the alley side of the building
  • That the restaurant post signs inside and outside, asking patrons to be courteous and not disturb nearby residents
  • That noise levels inside and out be held to a maximum of 40 decibels…and if noise exceeds that threshold, it stop by 8:30 p.m.
  • That there be no events before 10 a.m.
  • That the permit renewal be for one year only, with annual reviews.

During the in-person discussion on Tuesday, four people (some of whom do not live in the immediate neighborhood) spoke in favor of the permit renewal and hours extension, noting the family-friendly character of the business, and the long-term responsibility and good charcter of the owners.  Five neighbors, however, most of whom live just behind the business on the west side of McCadden Ave., spoke in opposition to the extended hours request, saying more special events at the venue would add to noise issues in the area, and that live music at the venue is alread “really loud” and “really a problem – we’re not Sunset Strip. We’re not.”

One of the neighbors, Vina Chin, said she opposes both morning soccer viewing and amplified music at the pub, because of the loud sound levels at nearby residences.  “Proximity matters,” Chin said.  Another neighbor, who said he gets up at 4 a.m. for work, said he has called the pub to complain about noise there, but no one answers the phone because it’s too loud inside to hear it. 

A third neighbor, however, who said she lives about 200 feet away on Las Palmas Ave., and not directly behind the restaurant, said that while she hears noise from “party houses” on the street, she never hears noise from Cat and Fiddle…so there must be a way to mitigate the effects for the closer neighbors.

Ashlee Gardner, one of the Cat and Fiddle’s owners (her parents founded the business in Laurel Canyon in 1982),  noted that the pub currently runs only one night of amplified live music per month, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and two nights of acoustic music, from 9:30 to  11:30 p.m., and that no changes are planned in those schedules.  Gardner also said she was only just now hearing about SoHo’s proposed conditions, since there had been a miscommunication about the meeting where the conditions were discussed, and she did not attend or hear what had happened there. 

Finally, in response to the noise comments, Gardner noted that she has also received a letter from the ambulance company located next to the restaurant, saying that even though the company’s employees sleep at their facility at night, they have never been disturbed by noise from the Cat & Fiddle.

In the end, Land Use Committee chair Philip Farha pointed out that at least some of SoHo’s proposed conditions – such as the noise threshold and renewal schedules (for which the city already has established thresholds and timelines) would not be supported by the city.  He also noted that an annual CUP renewal schedule would be unrealistically expensive for the applicant…and the 40 decibel threshold also isn’t realistic because, according to the city rules, that’s the noise level allowed for libraries and similarly quiet venues…and even just the traffic on Highland Ave. is already louder than that. 

Farha also expressed disappointment, however, that Gardner had not attended the SoHo meeting where the conditions were discussed. 

Because no hearing date has been set yet for the permit renewal, the Land Use Committee did not take a vote on the matter on Tuesday, and Farha urged the parties on both sides to get together and try to work out a solution acceptable to everyone before the committee considers the matter further.

6535 W. Melrose Ave. – 33-Unit Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Apartment Building

This project was last discussed in detail at the Land Use Committee’s June meeting. At that gathering, committee members expressed disappointment in the building’s “lackluster” design, especially in light of its location at a key neighborhood intersection.  At the time, project representative Daniel Ahadian said he agreed with many of the committee’s comments, and he and the design team returned this month with some design changes they said were intended to address some of the committee’s previous concerns.

Among the changes presented on Tuesday were some new color elements (blue-ish tinted accents), and a new glass column at the main corner of the development, which Ahadian said is intended to open up the corner of the building and make the streetcorner “more pleasant.”

Despite the changes, however, Farha said he was still disappointed that the overall design doesn’t do more for “one of the most beautiful corners in the city, with the way the light comes in at sunset.”  Committee member Susan O’Connell also remarked on the building’s overall similarity to many others proposed for the area recently, asking only partly in jest, “Are you all hiring the same architect?”

Several neighbors at the meeting said they think that although the building does comply with the city’s TOC program size limits, it’s still out of scale with the mostly one- and two-story neighborhood east of Highland in that area.

And both neighbors and community members asked that more be done in the building’s design to reference the largely Spanish character of the historic neighborhoods that surround it.  In fact, said O’Connell, “If you want neighborhood support, look at the neighborhood vernacular.”

Finally, committee member Rory Cunningham also said of the new design, “It’s better, but it could be a design win” with more effort.  In the end, Farha noted that both the committee and the GWNC board are already on record as not supporting the project as currently presented, and there were no new motions to change that position.

639 S. La Brea – Hotel/Apartment TOC Project

Project representative Dana Sayles gave the committee an abbreviated version of a presentation she made recently to the Mid City West Community Council (MCWCC), which represents the area where the project will be located. (The GWNC’s district begins just across the street, on the east side of La Brea.)

Sayles noted that the project will occupy about 3/4 of the block on La Brea just north of the new Purple Line subway stop at Wilshire and La Brea, which is now under construction.  The new development will back up to multi-family apartment buildings that face Detroit St. on the other side of the block.  On the northerly end of the development, there will be a total of 121 1-3 BR apartments, with 107 of them at market rate. The southern end of the development will be home to a hotel with 125 rooms.  Overall, the development will be 8 stories tall, with a maximum height of 110 feet (the Clem Wilson building across the street – commonly known as the “Samsung” building – is 220 feet at its highest point).

Sayles noted that the building will have an “Art-Deco-inspired design,” and many environmentally-conscious features. Those include a free one-month Metro TAP card for all residents when they sign their leases, and electric cargo bikes available for residents’ use.

Sayles reported that the MCWCC “overwhelmingly supported” the project, by a vote of 28-1.  She also said that – to her surprise – MCWCC board members asked for even more height and density, and less parking.  “We thought we were in the Twilight Zone,” she quipped.  Sayles said she also took the project to the Miracle Mile Residential Association a couple of weeks ago, but that group voted to oppose the project based on parking issues.  Sayles said, though, that the MMRA meeting “opened a dialogue” about the parking, and discussions with that group will continue.

Finally, Sayles noted that the southern-most parcel owned by the developers, right next to the subway construction project, is currently involved in the construction job, so is not currently available for building.  Since the development is scheduled to open before the subway, she said, that parcel will not be part of the development as currently designed…but it will be improved or developed in some way after the subway is completed.

In the end, the GWNC Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support the project, on the condition that several more employee parking spaces are added, as had previously been discussed at the other community meetings.

743-749 S. Gramercy Dr. – Demolition of Home and Small Apartment to Build 47-unit TOC Apartment Project

The final projet discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was this new apartment project, which will include 47 units (all studio and 1 BR), with 41 parking stalls, and 11% affordable units.  According to the project representatives, the building takes design cues from nearby neighborhood buidlings, but with “cleaner details.”  The representatives also said they have simplified the building’s massing, which will save some money and leave room in the budget to spend a bit more on materials and finishes.  Because of the preliminary state of the design, and the fact that no neighborhood outreach as been done yet, the Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project as presented, leaving the door open for the developers to return after they’ve addressed the committee’s initial concerns with parking, materials and other stylistic issues.

There were several other items agendized for discussion at this month’s meeting, but because of the crowded agenda and number of speakers, other items were postponed to a future meeting.  The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m., at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave., and the next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, October 2, 7:00 p.m., at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.  (Note the date change from the usual second Wednesday of the month to the first Wednesday, for the October meeting only.)

[Note:  the account of the Cat & Fiddle issue in this story was edited after publication to add information about the letters received and numbers of speakers present on each side of the discusion.]

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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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  1. Thank you for your article Elizabeth ! I think it is important to note that the Cat and Fiddle is only asking for an extension on their liquor license to be able to accommodate requests from their neighbors to be able to watch early morning soccer games or for the restaurant to be able to open later for a private event. There is absolutely no intention of planning to open up early on a daily basis.


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