With a fairly small agenda just two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee took votes on just three items at its November monthly meeting this week.
5100 Wilshire Blvd.
The only item with a new pesentation this month, this application requests a zone variance that would allow The Mansfield mixed-use complex to allow rentals of its ground-floor commercial space to fitness studios, gyms or medical clinics, three uses not curently allowed under the existing RAS4 zoning for the parcel. In addition, the application asks permission to install an internally-lit sign for businesses on the property, something also not currently allowed in the conditions initially approved for the development.
According to project representative Aimee Luan, the complex has struggled since its opening in 2019 to find tenants for the commercial spaces in the building. And while the space at the western end of the building is now occupied by a AAA service facility, the eastern half of the building’s commercial space has never been rented. Luan said restaurants and retailers have generally not been interested in the space, because there are few other similar businesses in the immediate area to help build foot traffic. On the other hand, said Luan, the building has had some interest from businesses like yoga studios and walk-in medical clinics, which would draw customers from the local neighborhood and are not as dependent on surrounding businesses for customers. But Luan explained that those kinds of businesses are not allowed under the current RAS4 zoning, even though their presence in the building could spark rentals from other businesses such as juice bars and coffee shops, which would serve the same customer base as the gym/fitness/yoga/medical clientele and help support the general retail health of the area.
In committee discussion of the matter, committee chair Philip Farha noted that the parcel’s zoning was changed, at the developer’s request, from an exclusivesly commercial desgnation to RAS4 before the development’s construction, to allow residential units in the new building. And in addition to allowing residential use, the RAS4 designation provided the developers with other kinds of construction bonuses, such as increased floor area ratios. Farha contended that to now request that the developers be granted relief from some of the RAS4 zone’s rules to gain more commercial rental options – after receiving the residential bonuses before construction – could set a dangerous precedent for “back door zone changes.”
At the same time, however, Vero Matos, a Sycamore Square neighborhood resident representing the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association at the meeting, said that long-term building vacancies don’t benefit the neighborhood either, and that the SSNA, after meeting with the development’s representatives, did vote to support the zone change application, as long as several conditions for vehicle loading, parking, rideshare drop-offs and pickups, and mezzanine use are followed.
Luan confirmed that the building owners have agreed to the conditions requested by the SSNA, and in the end the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC board support the application for the zone variance.
In other business on Tuesday, the committee voted by a margin of 6-2 to recommend that the GWNC board oppose a request for a Demolition Pre-Inspection at 834 N. June St. (no presentation was made or other project information provided).
The committee also voted (unanimously) to recommend that the GWNC board file a Community Impact Statement in support of a recent motion by City Council Member David Ryu to increase the percentage of affordable units in buildings constructed under the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines “in high and mid-market areas.” (The TOC program grants various construction bonuses to developers in exchange for designating a minimum number of units be reserved for tenants at specific low and moderate income levels.) Currently under TOC rules, the number of affordable units that must be set aside in each project is about 11% of the total number of units in each development. Ryu’s motion suggests that the number of low and moderate income units in each TOC project be increased to the levels currently recommended in the city’s Linkage Fee Ordinance.
The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, December 22, at 6:30 p.m., via Zoom.
The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, December 9, at 7 p.m., also via Zoom.