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GWNC Land Use Committee Discusses Three Local Land Use Applications and Two City Council Motions

Members of the GWNC Land Use Committee at last night’s meeting.


At its monthly meeting on Tuesday night, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee reached quick decisions to recommend support for two local land use applications, recommended at least temporary opposition to another…and had longer discussions about a couple of City Council motions for citywide policies.


6810 Melrose Ave. (at Mansfield) – Domaine LA Wine Store – ZA-2015-676-CUB-PA1


Photo from DomaineLA Instagram feed


The first of the applications considered on Tuesday was the renewal of a Conditional Use Permit to allow the sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages for both off-site sales and on-site tasting at the Domaine LA wine store at Melrose and Mansfield.  The store has been open since 2009, and the current permit has been in place since 2015.  No changes in hours or operations are being requested this time around, and there have also been no complaints about the store from local residents.  The current permit, however, requires a renewed plan approval, with public review, before the CUP can be renewed, which is why the matter is coming to the GWNC now.

But there were no voices of dissent last night, and several committee members specifically praised the store’s glowing reputation in the community…so the committee voted quickly and unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support the CUP renewal.


859 N. Highland Ave. (at Willoughby) – Starbucks Coffee – ZA-2014-1565-CU-PA1


Drawings showing the current single traffic lane (left) at the drive-through Starbucks store at 859 N. Highland, and the proposed new two-lane plan (right).


The second neighborhood-specific application discussed on Tuesday was a request from the Starbucks drive-through store at Highland and Willoughby, located in an historic 1935 gas station building.  Starbucks representative Elizabeth Valerio said there have been some problems with traffic backing up from the store’s drive-through line onto Willoughby Ave., especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when more people were using drive-through pickups like this one.

To alleviate that problem, Valerio said, and keep it from recurring, Starbucks is seeking permission to build a second drive-through lane on the property (see right-hand photo above), and to renovate the building’s interior to help improve employees’ workflow and increase service speed.  No changes to the historically-protected exterior of the building are being sought.  The renovations would increase the site’s capacity from 11 cars to 18, and would also reduce wait times for the cars in line.

Committee members asked a few questions about the reduced concrete and landscaping that would result from the project, but there were no objections to the larger request, and the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support the application.


652 S. Orange Dr.



Back in 2017, owners of this property (shown above in a 2016 Google Maps photo) demolished an existing single-family residence and began construction on a new, larger home on the lot.  The building has not been completed, however, and the owners are now applying for a zoning variance that would legalize the 28-foot structure already built, because the current zoning allows only 20 feet (a 40% difference).

Committee chair Brian Curran reported that the applicants have now asked to meet with the Land Use Committee next month instead of this month, as originally scheduled, so a full discussion of the matter did not take place at this meeting.  But because of the large deviation being request, along with reports from neighbors in the La Brea Hancock neighborhood, where the property is located, that the current owners have not been good stewards of the property during the five-year construction delay, committee members voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the current application, at least until the applicants do make a presentation to the Land Use Committee, and the project can be discussed further.


Council File 22-0158 – By-Right Location of Homeless Shelters in Additional Zones


In February of this year, City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Nithya Raman, and Marqueece Harris-Dawson made a motion to ask the City Planning Department to study and report back on possible modifications to a 2017 city ordinance allowing temporary homeless shelters to be created by right in a variety of land use zones during a shelter crisis.  With the city currently in such a crisis, the current ordinance allows shelters and other kinds of interim housing to be automatically allowed in R3, RAS3, R4, RAS4, RS, C2, C4, CS, CM, MI, M2, and M3 residential, commercial, and manufacturing zones.  But the new City Council motion asks the city to also consider adminisitrative approval of shelters “outside” the already-approved zones…which Land Use Committee member Jane Usher explained at last night’s meeting would more specifically allow shelters in R1 and R2 single-family and low density residential neighborhoods, which are about the only zones left out of the original list.

While committee members were quick to say they support the creation of additional housing, several also characterized the city council motion as “a very large over-reach,” and suggested that if shelters are considered for R1 and R2 neighborhoods, there should be some sort of feasibility study and/or neighborhood review process instead of automatic approvals.  Other committee members also suggested that shelters in R1 and R2 residential areas should not be easily allowed in these areas until locations in other zones have been exhausted, noting that even churches and schools need publicly-reviewed Conditional Use Permits to locate in residential zones.

GWNC President Conrad Starr also pointed out, however, that the motion only requests a feasibility study, and does not lay out terms for an actual ordinance, so he said it might be worth waiting to read the study’s findings before the GWNC takes a position on the matter.

After a lengthy discussion, however, the committee voted by a margin of eight votes in favor and one abstention to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the motion on the grounds that the city has not yet taken full advantage of shelter opportunities in zones other than low-density residential areas, that shelter sites in low-density residential areas should require case-by-case review and community input…and that the report on the issue requested by the City Council is not yet ready for review.  The motion also recommended that the GWNC weigh in more fully after the report is available.


Council File 22-0392 – Displaying Digital Signs/Advertising in Metro Structures


Finally on Tuesday, the Land Use Committee members discussed another city council motion that would allow digital signs to be displayed on Metro-owned structures such as bus shelters.

The measure met considerable resistance from most committee members, several of whom objected to the brightness of electronic ads, and their likelihood to distract drivers along city streets.  Usher also said the proposal is equivalent to letting the city “write itself a hall pass” for digital advertising, because it would allow digital signage in a wide variety of new spaces throughout the city, outside the special digital sign districts created a few years ago to limit their use.

At the same time, however, at least one committee member, Tommy Atlee, suggested that Metro might also be able to find some creative and helpful uses for the signs, such as wayfinding, and said it might be more productive to make suggestions for appropriate digital sign displays rather than opposing the motion in full.

After some discussion of whether this is an issue best suited to the GWNC’s Land Use Committee, Transportation Committee, or Quality of Life Committee (or all three), the committee voted by a margin of seven votes in favor and one opposed to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the city council’s motion to allow digital signage on Metro structures.


The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, September 27, at 6:30 p.m., via Zoom…and the next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, September 14, at 6:30 p.m., also 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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