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GWNC Land Use Committee Continues Opposition to ED1 Apartment Project Proposed for 507 N. Larchmont Blvd.

Architect renderings of the 7-story, 52-unit, 100% affordable apartment building planned for 507 N. Larchmont Blvd., which was the major topic of discussion at last night’s meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee.

At its monthly meeting last night, the Land Use Committee of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council took yet another look at – and voted once again to recommend continued opposition to – the 7-story, 52-unit, 100% affordable apartment project being proposed at 507 N. Larchmont Blvd. under the provisions of the Mayor’s Executive Directive 1.

The building would replace a single-family residence at the location…and discussions about it have taken center stage at several recent GWNC board and committee meetings.

The Land Use committee first discussed the project at its January meeting, where a standing-room-only crowd of area residents urged the group to oppose the project based on its height, potential to later turn 12 “recreation” areas into market-rate dwelling units, and its lack of parking based on what the neighbors contend is a flawed calculation of proximity to a major transit stop.

The GWNC board also voted to oppose the project at its February meeting, and at its April meeting also voted to ask the city to pause the project’s approval process for 120 days or until the owner fully secures the currently vacant house on the site, which was for several months home to a squatter who “terrorized” nearby neighbors.

This month, property owner Sean Tabibian visited the Land Use Committee’s virtual meeting to give a brief overview of the project details and address questions from committee members and area residents, 87 of whom showed up to vehemently oppose the project. (Total attendance peaked at 97 during the session, including committee members, staff, and representatives of the local press.)

According to Tabibian, the major details of the project – 7 stories, 52 units (40 low income, 10 moderate income, 1 very low income, and one manager’s unit), a rooftop deck, ground floor bike parking, and no vehicle parking – have not changed since previous meetings where the project was discussed. Tababian did, however, provide some new information about the size and pricing of the building’s units, which will be approximately 350 square feet (“micro units”), and rent for about $1,700/mo., which is less than the $2,600-$3,000 other apartments are currently renting for in the neighborhood. “We hope this will add a bit of affordability to the neighborhood,” he said.

But with no changes to the project as previously described, committee members also had the same questions about the project last night as they did at previous meetings, including:

  • Whether or not 12 “recreation” spaces currently specified in the proposal would later be turned into market-rate dwelling units (and whether or not that would violate the “100% affordable” designation that entitles the developers to a long list of design and construction benefits).
  • Whether or not current zoning of the parcel allows only six and not seven stories.
  • And why the building is being allowed to have no vehicle parking, when – as far as neighbors can tell – it’s not within half a mile of a major transit stop (where there are intersecting bus lines with 15-minute headways), which the city requires for such parking elimination.

Tabibian responded that the height and parking calculations are up to the city, and that he’s willing to do whatever the Planning Department determines is the “best use of the property.” But when pressed on the question about his future plans for the “recreation” areas, he said only that the size of the building wouldn’t change even if the designation of the spaces does. Also, he said the current proposal is just a “concept” subject to change, and that the city’s rules for ED1 projects are still evolving rapidly, so his proposal will likely evolve, too.

Finally, Tabibian also said that even if the recreation spaces were converted to market rate units, he couldn’t get much more than $1,700 for them on the open market because they’re so small. And then he bristled at the committee’s continued probing, saying he now almost wishes he’d planned to build a “mental health homeless shelter” at the site instead of affordable housing.

When questions were opened to other attendees, 15 individual neighbors spoke up, all in strong opposition. They asked:

  • Whether adding parking would really make it too expensive to build the project…or if the developers’ profit margin would simply be narrower.
  • Where the building’s residents will park, given that adjacent residential streets all have permit parking that wouldn’t be available to people who live in the building.
  • Why Tabibian can’t play the “long game” and create something of real value to the neighborhood, including a better designed building for the people who will live in it.
  • Whether the rooftop deck and rear patios will create a noise and privacy problem for adjacent neighbors.

Other comments included:

  • “Just because you can build something doesn’t mean you should.”
  • Tabibian has a unique opportunity to not repeat mistakes of the past, and all residents, at all income levels, deserve a well designed building.
  • The idea that parking won’t be a problem is “ridiculous” and “based on a delusion, a farce.”
  • Neighbors are hearing two different things from Tabibian: one is that he’s willing to work with the city and the community…and the other is that if he can’t do whatever he wants, he’ll do something more distasteful.
  • Larchmont is a unique collector street because 80-90% of it abuts and was purpose-built to serve low-density residential areas. It was never meant to be a place for large-scale development.
  • There is tremendous wealth transfer going on with this project because nearby neighbors’ property will lose value while the developers’ property value increases.
  • “This building is incomprehensibly a threat to the neighborhood.”
  • “The idea that 30% of the building doesn’t have a [firm] plan is laughable” and “childish,” and the threat of building a homeless shelter instead sounds punitive.
  • Neighbors are open to affordable housing, but they want to work with developers to create something that will benefit everyone…as they experienced with a proposal for a building including affordable units at 531 N. Larchmont Blvd.
  • This is not a pretty building, and the developers would make more money in the long run if they make it beautiful. “No one wants to live in a box.”

Tabibian, who was asked to hold most of his comments and answers until after the neighbors spoke, provided the following responses:

  • In orer to be financially feasible, he said, the project has to include the maximum number of allowable units. Also, the city has decided to eliminate parking requirements to make construction more affordable for developers, which will, in turn, help “tackle the homeless apocapalypse” we’re currently facing.
  • Adding parking for all 52 units would be “absolutely impossible,” because he’d have to construct seven levels of subterranean parking…or build fewer units, which also wouldn’t make sense economically.
  • His company is not a non-profit, so the goal is to make money and to earn a return on its investment.
  • “This may not be the best idea,” he said, “but at the end of the day, any developer is going to ask what’s the best use of the property.”
  • Tabibian said construction costs do go down if there are fewer stories, so he will look into that…and he implied that if he’s not allowed to turn the “recreation” spaces into market rate units, it might indeed make sense to build a smaller, 4-5-story building, which would be cheaper to construct.

Because the GWNC previously voted (in February) to oppose the project, no new motions were offered after this discussion. But at the end of the meeting, committee members circled back to the topic, and after a brief discussion voted unanimously to pass a “memorandum” for the record. The statement reiterated the committee’s opposition to the project, thanked Tabibian for attending and clarifying that the proposal is still “merely a concept,” and expressed the committee’s appreciation of the scores of community members who attended the session to voice their opposition to the project.

Other Business

Architect rendering of the proposed Pawn Shop LA sports bar, at 5901 W. Melrose Ave.

In other business at last night’s meeting, committee secretary Mark Alpers reported that members of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association recently had a “lulu of a meeting” with CD 13 representatives and the applicant seeking to build a new sports bar, The Pawn Shop, at 5901 W. Melrose Ave. Since the project was first proposed last year, neighbors have been concerned about proposed early morning and late night hours for the business, lack of a concrete parking plan, and more. And Alpers said no compromises were reached at this most recent session.

The next step, Alpers said, will be the HPHOA submitting a letter to the city asking that the business’ hours be limited to 11 am to 11 pm daily, that there be no noise audible from the street, and that the business be required to meet annually with neighbors to discuss its operations. Alpers said that so far, CD 13 has remained neutral on the application (though it was very helpful in setting up the recent meeting), and CD 5 has been a bit more supportive of “limiting hours,” though it hasn’t weighed in specifically on what the hours should be. CD 5 also did not send a representative to the neighbors’ meeting.

All Season Brewing Company at 800 S. La Brea Ave.

Finally, in the only other issue discussed at last night’s meeting, two neighbors spoke about ways in which the All Season Brewing Company (located in the old Firestone building at 800 S. La Brea Ave.) may be in violation of Conditional Use permit conditions negotiated with the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association (and officially supported by the GWNC) in 2017. According to the GWNC’s Sycamore Square representative (and GWNC President) Conrad Starr, the business seems to be violating conditions that say music and other noise should not be audible beyond its property line, that there should be no signs on the building’s experior promoting or indicating the availability of alcoholic beverages, and that private parties are not allowed at the facility. Also, Starr said, the businesses’ outdoor areas seem to be illegally encroaching past the property line into the public right of way.

Dr. Ash Khodabakhsh, who owns property just behind the business, said the problems have been so bad for so long that he had to move last year after having a new baby, and that he is now planning to sell the home. Khodabakhsh said he has complained to All Season’s management many times over the last few years, and the owners and managers have either been non-responsive, “blew me off,” or made promises for improvements that were never kept.

Land Use Committee chair Brian Curran reported that All Season’s Director of Operations was invited to attend last night’s meeting but did not respond…and other committee members suggested that Khodabakhsh and others put together a timeline of problems and complaints, which would help the GWNC escalate the issues to other city officials.

At the end of the discussion, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC send letters about the neighbors’ complaints and possible CUB violations to All Season Brewing Company, and to request that the business come into compliance with its CUB conditions and send representatives to an upcoming Land Use Committee meeting to further discuss the problems.

[Full disclosure: the author of this story owns a home in the Sycamore Square neighborhood and also spoke up at the meeting to corroborate the other neighbors’ complaints about noise at the location.]

Next Meetings

The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, May 28, in the Board Room at Marlborough School (250 S. Rossmore Ave.), at 6:30 p.m.

The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, May 8, also at 6:30 p.m., via Zoom.

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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. Thanks for continuing to provide good coverage of the land use issues. Your coverage helps our advocacy efforts by informing neighbors and keeping up the momentum.


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