Dozens of residents crowded into a meeting room at Marlborough School Tuesday night for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee’s monthly meeting. On the agenda were two controversial projects: the conversion of 410 N. Rossmore into coliving units and the construction of a proposed girls school for 200 students at 100 S. La Brea, formerly the site of Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture.
410 N. Rossmore
Daniel Alexander and Richard Loring, representatives of the developer Domos Coliving, told the committee they had just taken control of the building five weeks ago.
“We typically renovate buildings that are in disrepair or blighted in some way or functionally obsolete, and bring them up to current standards and bring in density to bring down the price point to create affordability – small “a” affordability,” explained Daniel Alexander.
Regarding 410 N. Rossmore, Alexander said the developer’s first priority is upgrading the fire and life safety systems in the building. He said they have hired a management company and are in the process of selecting architects to develop the design for the building. When pressed by LUC Committee Chair Philip Farha for a schedule, Alexander said they are between six and eight months away from starting the first phase of construction, which could ultimately take up to three years to complete.
In response to questions from the committee for a definition of coliving, Alexander explained that “coliving is shared space, just like ride-sharing with Lyft and Uber. Coliving is professionalized roomating, basically,” adding they will offer leases and hope to around 200 people into the building, where 54 currently live now. Alexander said his company believes they are filling a need and offering an an option for people looking for affordable living situations.
“It’s not the solution; we are just an option,” said Alexander. “And we believe we are a future-proof option, because no matter what happens, we are just an option that’s going to be a reduction in the cost of a studio or one bedroom apartment always, so that is what we are trying to do.”
410 Rossmore Tenants Association co-head Debbie Chesebro “took exception” to Mr. Alexander’s comments about being concerned about the tenants and creating affordable housing.
“If they were concerned about the tenants, they would have reached out. They have not,” said Chesebro, “If they were concerned about life-safety, they would have fixed our heat by now. Multiple people in the building have not had heat since January.”
She told the committee she has a petition, signed by 42 of the 54 tenants in the building, saying they do not want coliving. She added that they have 104 signatures from neighbors, also opposing any kind of coliving design because “we don’t want to live in dorms.”
Chesebro said she doubted residents of the very upscale El Royale and Country Club Towers want to live next door to “transient housing.”
Chesebro also said the relocation company hired by Domos is giving tenants incorrect information. She told the committee about her conversation with the relocation company representative hired by Domos. Chesebro said she told the specialist, “the law as I understood it, when it comes to relocating tenants (in rent stabilized buildings or RSO buildings), is they (the building owner) have to relocate me five miles from my current address, they have to find me an apartment, they have to find me living spaces, and the specialist said, ‘oh, I know what you are talking about, but that doesn’t apply to you,’ so they are basically lying about the law,” said Chesebro.
“They are trying to trick people out of rent controlled leases by offering relocation packages and saying this building will be under construction in the next few months,” said Chesebro. “The idea that they are going to increase affordable living while they are kicking 54 people out of rent controlled leases, is absurd.”
Another tenant asked Alexander why he didn’t tell the committee about their plans to add three stories to the current five-story building and challenged him on lack of adequate life safety systems. Chesebro added that there isn’t enough parking for 200 people and there is already too much traffic on Rossmore Avenue.
Cinzia Zanetti, a 30-year resident of the building, read a statement opposing the construction and the scare tactics of the developer telling residents the building is unsafe. She said they have already lost 18 units in the building to AirBnB rentals and urged the city to help them keep their homes. (According to Chesebro, the previous owner had simply stopped long-term rentals units over the past year, in an apparent effort to get the building ready for sale.)
Sarita Singh, an architect and neighbor who lives directly behind the building on Arden Blvd. and opposes the project, said she is skeptical about Alexander’s claim not to have a plan for the building. Other neighbors on Arden spoke against the project, too, urging Alexander to be more forthcoming about the plans for the building.
In response, Alexander said he came to the meeting to educate the community about the project, which can be built by-right or without any special approvals from the city.
Emma Howard, Planning Deputy for CD4 Council Member David Ryu, said her office is working closely with the tenants to secure a fair and transparent process that would insure tenant protections. She passed out copies of a letter that her office sent to the developers, urging them to communicate with the tenants about their plans for the building and reiterating the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which requites the building owner to relocate the tenants with no change in the tenancy status, and their right to return to the same unit in the building.
After nearly an hour of discussion, the committee did not take a vote on the project. Farha urged Alexander to reach out to the tenants to begin a conversation that the committee would continue to follow to determine if they could support the project.
Cheder Girls School at 100 S. La Brea
In the other big item on Tuesday’s agenda, Stanley Treitel introduced his by-right project, proposed construction of an elementary school for girls at 100 S. La Brea, formerly the site of Nick Metropolis Collectable Furniture.
Members of the committee and several neighbors who live on Sycamore Avenue, behind the project site, expressed particular concerns about the proposed location of the carpool line in a narrow alley that – as shown in the drawing below – can only hold two cars.
Diane Bennett, a resident at 109 N. Sycamore, said this is not the right location for the school. She said while the new owners boarded up the former Nick Metropolis, which was becoming an eyesore, they have also allowed advertising to be put up and are not keeping the site clean. Other residents spoke in opposition to the proposed design and height of the project. The building is proposed to be four stories, with a school playground on the top floor, enclosed by glass. Another resident spoke about the lack of any landscaping on the La Brea facade of the building.
Debbie Dyner Harris, District Director for CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz, said the council member supports the project. Because it is a by-right project, Harris said there will be limited review of the plans, but the City’s Department of Transportation could look at the traffic issues. She said they could not require the school to do a traffic study, but her office agrees the carpooling area is tight, and suggested the school consider ways to mitigate that by staggering arrival times, encouraging carpools, and determining exactly how many people will walk to school. She concluded by saying the school does say it wants to be a good neighbor.
After nearly an hour of discussion about traffic and safety, as well as several suggestions by Land Use Committee members to add more space to the carpool area, the committee voted to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project, pending resolution of the safety issues regarding drop off and pick up.
In other business, the committee voted to recommend that the GWNC board support the following projects:
A request to tear down a garage at 726 N. Sycamore Ave. to build a new garage and Accessory Dwelling Unit.
The committee voted to recommend the GWNC board oppose the following projects:
A request for three additional incentives: a height increase to 59’ 9” and reduction in two side yard setbacks for a project at 606 N. Manhattan Place that calls for the construction of a 14-unit apartment/condo complex with a 70% density bonus from Transit Orientied Communities (TOC) Tier 3 Guidelines. VTTM-82880, PAR-2019-5365-TOC
An application for a CUB to allow the sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at 706 N. Citrus Ave., pending further outreach to the neighborhood. The application is for the operation of a “creative office club” – a social group focused on civic improvement is planned — on the rooftop of Umeda restaurant in the C4-1XL zone. ENV-2020-203-CE, ZA-2020-202-CU-CUB-ZV
A demolition pemit for a duplex at 816 N. Mansfield, which the owners plan to replace with a single home. Farha expressed frustration at what he calls “reverse mansionization,” in which developers build a very large single family home on an R-2 zoned lot.
Steve Luftman, resident of Miracle Mile, urged the committee to oppose the permit saying, “this is the exact opposite of the development that we need. This is halving our housing needs; they are tearing down a quality duplex to build a very large home.”
Luftman urged the committee to ask Council Members Ryu and Koretz to enact an ordinance to prevent this practice.
The next meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave, Collins Room, 200-D, Los Angeles, CA 90004