Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

GWNC Focuses on Land Use Issues

With new laws now allowing Neighborhood Councils to resume holding online meetings, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council held its February meeting virtually last week.

Now that both state and city governments have restored Neighborhood Councils’ option to hold at least some of their meetings virtually, the GWNC last Wednesday held an online board meeting for the first time since last March…and quicky realized one advantage:  no one shuts down your borrowed bricks and mortar venue at 9 p.m.  The disadvantage to that, of course, is that meetings may run longer than recent in-person sessions, but the upside was that it gave the board an opportunity to delve more deeply than it might otherwise have into several prominent land use issues.

507 N. Larchmont Blvd.

A seven-story 50 unit apartment building of 100% affordable housing is being proposed at 507 N. Larchmont under Mayor Bass’ ED1 directive.

The project proposed for this site would replace a 1920s bungalow with a 7-story, 52-unit mixed use building with 100% affordable housing units.  The project has been applied for under the Mayor Karen Bass’ Executive Directive 1, which grants quick administrative approval and a wide variety of bonuses to developers creating 100% affordable buildings. In this case, the bonuses would include additional height and no parking spaces.

The proposal was reviewed at the GWNC’s Land Use Committee meeting in January, where a standing-room-only crowd of neighbors spoke mostly in vehement opposition to the project, and only four people spoke in favor. Neighbors’ primary objections were to the building’s height (and whether or not ED1 would allow 7 stories or just 6 in this location), whether or not several large “recreation” spaces in the building plans could later be converted to as many as 13 market-rate dwelling units, and whether or not that kind of later conversion should be allowed for ED1 projects.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Land Use Committee secretary Mark Alpers, who along with several other LUC members and neighbors met recently with Planning Department staff to discuss the project, said the city staff acknowledged during that session that the later conversion of additional spaces to non-affordable dwelling units occurs with almost all ED1 projects. But Sam Uretsky, who heads the Lucerne Arden Neighbors United Group and was also in the meeting with Planning staff, called the practice “disingenuous.”  GWNC board member Cindy Chvatal said, though, that the best way to fight the “bait and switch” practice would be for neighbors to get involved in the city’s current effort to turn ED1 into a permanent ordinance.  That will help ensure, she said, that the city will always require market rate units in “100% affordable” buildings be kept to a bare minimum moving forward, including perhaps a manager’s unit and/or no more than 5% of the total number of units in the building.

After a bit more discussion about how the GWNC could better help to develop more affordable housing to address the current housing crisis, a motion to oppose the 507 N. Larchmont project passed with 15 votes in favor, two opposed, and two abstentions.

800 S. Lorraine Blvd.

A new rendering of the building proposed for 800 S. Lorraine Blvd., presented at last week’s GWNC board meeting, shows the addition of rooftop planters that would add some greenery to the top of the otherwise unlandscaped structure.

Another ED1 project, this proposal would fill a currently vacant lot, zoned for multi-family construction in the Windsor Village Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, with a 6-story, 70-unit, 100% affordable building (55 low income units, 14 moderate income units, and one manager’s unit) with 0 parking spaces.  The Land Use Committee also reviewed this project at its January meeting, and based on questions about the location in an HPOZ, application inconsistencies identified by the city, and neighbors’ concerns about height, setbacks, lack of landscaping, and no clear plans for trash pickups on the very narrow street, recommended that the board oppose the project.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, project applicant Gary Benjamin, who did not attend the LUC meeting in January, gave a brief presentation on both ED1 (which he called “the best policy that’s come along” to create affordable housing without using taxpayer dollars), and the building proposal, stressing that – unlike the 507 N. Larchmont proposal – it does not contain spaces that could/would later be converted to additional market-rate units.

Several board members and neighbors said their reservations about the building’s height and neighborhood-incompatible style persist, however, as do their concerns about the lack of trees and other landscaping (despite Benjamin’s presentation of a new drawing – see above – showing the addition of rooftop planters that would allow greenery to cascade over the building’s upper parapet).  Board members also pointed out the lack of details provided for weekly trash pickups on the unusually narrow street at that location.

A few other board members, however, expressed discomfort with the idea of rejecting a second fully-affordable project in the GWNC area, this time using the word “disingenuous” to describe a GWNC board that repeatedly states its support for building affordable housing while voting against currently proposed projects. They also noted that this particular proposal would create many more affordable units that the vacant lot it would replace. And Benjamin agreed, saying “we’re talking tradeoffs.”

In the end, however, more board members agreed that this particular project is simply too out of sync with its lower-profile, more historic, and better landscaped neighbors, and voted by a margin of nine in favor, four opposed and five abstentions to oppose the project as presented.  They also, however, invited Benjamin to return to the Land Use Committee for further discussions.

1009 Crenshaw Blvd. (SW Corner of Olympic & Crenshaw)

The Eco Fuel station currently located at 1009 Crenshaw Blvd.

This project, proposed for the current home of an Eco Fuel gas station at the SW corner of Olympic and Crenshaw, just across the street from the GWNC’s southern border, would create a new 3,600 square foot gas station and 7-Eleven store with 24-hour operation and 24-hour sales of a full line of alcoholic beverages.

Site plan for the proposed new 7-Eleven store at 1009 Crenshaw Blvd. (Click to see full-size image.)
Interior floorplan for proposed new 7-Eleven store. (Click to see full-size image.)

This project, too, was discussed at the January 27 Land Use Committee meeting, and received a recommendation for the board to oppose the project. Because that discussion came at the tail end of the crowded land use meeting agenda, however, discussion there was truncated, and GWNC president Conrad Starr suggested at Wednesday’s board meeting that it might be a good idea to send the issue back to the LUC for a fuller hearing.

Other board members disagreed, however, noting that neighbors have organized strongly against the project, based on the proposed 24-hour operations and liquor sales. Windsor Village resident Clyde Lieberman then read a letter the Windsor Village Neighborhood Association submitted to the city opposing the application, and also reported that LAPD Vice officers have expressed their opposition to the liquor sales and hours, while staff of City Councilmember Heather Hutt have confirmed her opposition. Finally, GWNC Board member John Gresham pointed out that the GWNC helped negotiate – also at the request of Wilshire Park and Country Club Heights neighbors – the operating agreement for the 7-Eleven at Wilton and Olympic, where no alcohol is sold at all.

Board members found those arguments compelling enough to vote by a margin of 14 in favor and four abstentions to support the neighbors and oppose the application.

Other Business

In other business on Wednesday, the GWNC board:

  • Voted to oppose the city’s adoption of updated construction noise and vibration thresholds, and the methods used to analyze their effects, especially near historic resources.
  • Voted to approve opening applications for the GWNC’s annual Neighborhood Purpose Grant program from now until March 22.
  • Voted to hold a Transit Day event during which GWNC stakeholders will ride Metro as a group. (Date and destination TBD by the GWNC’s Environment and Sustainability Committee.)
  • Voted to have a booth at a Climate Day event being organized by the Hang Out Do Good organization. (Date and location TBD.)
  • Discussed holding a possible Earth Day event. (Date, location, and details TBD.)
  • Discussed the need for volunteers for the GWNC’s booth at the Ciclavia: Melrose event on Sunday, February 25.  (The booth will be at the event’s hub at Melrose and Gower, where a number of booths from other city agencies and departments will also be located.)

Community Updates

There were also a number of noteworthy updates from city officials at Wednesday’s meeting, including:

  • CD 5 Field Deputy Michelle Flores noted that the speed hump on Norton Ave. between 8th and 9th Streets will be restored, and graffiti on La Brea will be cleared by the end of the month.
  • CD 13 Field Deputy Karla Martinez said she has been meeting with the Bureau of Street Services about the recent uptick in streetlight outages, which are mostly caused by either maintenance issues or copper wire theft.  To help prevent wire thefts, Martinez said BSS does reinforce access panels when they repair the lights…and it is also considering installing new solar lights to replace the old wired lights (and, yes, BSS will be mindful of historic light styles in our HPOZ areas).
  • New “no left turn” markings have been painted on Larchmont Blvd., and the city will be installing new 15-minute parking spaces in front of some businesses (not restaurants) on Larchmont.
  • LAPD Wilshire Division Senior Lead Officer Joshua Parker introduced himself as the acting replacement for Dave Cordova, who recently retired.  Parker said crime rates are currently low, two encampments were recently cleared at Sycamore/Carling Way and Wilshire/La Brea, with arrests made at both locations.  Also, he said is working on two locations on Melrose Ave., a restaurant and a recording studio, where neighbors have complained about loud noise and other nuisances. Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (213) 453-6836.
  • LAPD Olympic Division Senior Lead Officer Harry Cho said there has been an increase in apartment burglaries in his area, with burglars using ladders to reach second-story balconies and breaking in through the sliding doors.  He said there have also been a number of burglaries in the Wilshire Park area, but although the suspects are known to drive a black BMW, they use stolen license plates, making it harder to identify or track the vehicle.
  • Cho also reported that Kias and Hyundais continue to be among the most-stolen vehicles, but security updates are now available that will prevent USB connections in the steering column from starting the cars, which will make them harder to steal.
  • Cho said LAPD’s Retail Task Force recently made a big arrest in the Rampart area, where they found a store where thieves were selling lots of stolen merchandise.

Next Meetings

The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom.

The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, February 27, at 6:30 p.m., also via Zoom.

Check the GWNC website for other committee meeting dates, times, and locations.

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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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