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GWNC Land Use Committee Reiterates Opposition to Project Planned for 800 S. Lorraine Blvd.

In its first virtual meeting since last spring, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee took another look at an affordable housing project it previously voted to oppose…heard a brief update on neighbors’ efforts to oppose a new sports bar planned on Melrose Ave…listened to neighbors’ complaints about a single-family home being leased to a large number of individual tenants…and learned about a new bill created by a Park La Brea resident to help address parking issues and encourage more affordable developments in transit-adjacent locations.

800 S. Lorraine Blvd.

This 70-unit, 100% affordable development, proposed under the Mayor’s ED1 directive for the SE corner of the intersection of 8th and Lorraine in the Windsor Village Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, was discussed by the Land Use Committee last month, and also at this month’s full board meeting, where board members voted in concert with the Land Use Committee’s recommendation to oppose the project. Many neighbors turned out for both of those meetings to protest the building’s 7-story height, its lack of setbacks and landscaping, and unclear plans for trash removal in a location where the street is exceptionally narrow.

Because applicant representative Gary Benjamin did not attend last month’s LUC meeting, however, board members encouraged him at their meeting to attend this month’s LUC meeting to discuss the neighbors’ concerns.

At last night’s meeting, Benjamin mostly repeated his presentation from the board meeting, clarifying that the number of the units in the building has been reduced by five since the initial application, to help it step back from city power lines. He also repeated an update given at the board meeting about the possibility of creating a wider landscaped parkway area on the 8th Street side of the building.

The rest of the discussion focused on questions from committee members and more than 20 neighbors, who asked about:

  • Plans, paths, and schedules for trash removal
  • The number of washing machines and dryers that would serve the building’s 100+ residents
  • Whether bicycle parking could be added outside the south side of the building
  • The nature of the current “Q” conditions attached to the existing zoning for the property and whether or not they will be followed
  • Accessibility and accessible parking for handicapped residents
  • And whether or not the developers have spoken to the nearest neighbors, who will be most affected by the project, to get their input.

Benjamin replied that he does not yet have specific information about the trash removal process (such as container types and sizes, the route they’d travel out of the building, and how often this would happen) or the laundry facilities (beyond its planned 16.5′ x 10′ size), but said he would check with the architects to find out more.

Regarding bike parking, Benjamin said there is no requirement to include bike parking in the project, and if it were included, it would have to be indoors and take the place of a residential unit to qualify for a developer bonus.  Also, when asked if the lack of bike parking might discourage lower income tenants who depend on bicycle transportation, he said most people in buildings without bike parking simply store their bikes in their apartments.

On the question of the zoning “Q” conditions, Benjamin said relief from those kinds of specific regulations is part of the waiver package granted under the ED1 directive.

Finally, he noted that a number of handicap-accessible units will definitely be required under federal law…though he’s not sure how many, and he did not address the question about whether and where there might be any handicap-accessible parking nearby.

Meanwhile, every neighbor who spoke at the meeting did so in strong opposition to the project, based on the various concerns above. And when committee member Daniela Prowizor-Lacayo asked if the developers have spoken with any of the nearest neighbors prior to this, Benjamin sidestepped the question, replying that he believes ED1 is the “best policy ever” for facilitating affordable housing construction without having to go through that kind of discretionary review process…a response that neighbor Jennifer Wolfe later called “represensible,” “disheartening” and “frustrating.”

In the end, the committee voted unanimously to reiterate its earlier recommendation that the GWNC board oppose the project.

5901 Melrose Ave.

This proposal for a new sports bar called the “Pawn Shop” was also discussed in detail at a Land Use Committee meeting in December, 2023, where the committee voted to recommend that the GWNC board oppose the project (a position the GWNC board supported later that month).

At last night’s meeting, committee members heard updates on neighbors’ efforts to coordinate opposition to the project, including a letter-writing campaign that committee member Mark Alpers said has now resulted in more than 100 letters of opposition.  Committee member Jane Usher said most of the the letters mention the same concerns that committee members cited in their last discussion, including parking plans, security, ingress and egress, historic preservation concerns, alcohol service hours and whether there would be late-night hours when food would not be available, the number of private rooms in the facility, and its close proximity to a preschool.

Alpers also noted that the city has told the applicant that no parking is required for the site, so the applicant has said he does not need to submit a parking plan with his liquor permit application…but Usher said that may not be true, and more answers are needed on that point as well.

The discussion was fairly brief, however, and no actions were taken.

658 Lillian Way

Hancock Park Homeowners Association representative Greg Pearson reported on a developer’s plans to build 5 small-lot-subdivision units at this address, which lies just outside the Hancock Park HPOZ boundary.  Pearson said the developer met with the HPHOA about a month ago, and expressed willingness to collaborate with neighbors to make the project as compatible as possible with the surrounding community (such as by pointing upper-story windows to the north, where they would look toward nearby Melrose Ave. and the Hollywood sign, rather than south toward lower-profile homes).

Pearson said two of the lots on which the project will be built have commercial zoning, which “is what it is,” and the overall number of units is small, so the project is “probably as good as it gets” for the proposed site.

Alpers noted, however, that the HPHOA has not yet taken a formal vote on the proposal, so he asked that the Land Use Committee not take any action until the the HPHOA formalizes its position, and committee members agreed.

713 N. Orange Dr.

Committee members last night also heard remarks from Melrose area neighbor Jesseca Harvey, who lives near a house on N. Orange Dr. that’s currently being used for co-living-style rentals (individual bedrooms are leased by the month, and residents share a kitchen and other common space). Among other issues, Harvey said neighbors have complained that trash piles up at the home and trash bins are not emptied and stored as they should be. Also, she said, there appear to be 10 or more residents at the home (which is zoned for single-family use), each of whom parks a car on the street, making parking difficult for others who live in the area.

Uretsky, who led neighbors’ efforts to fight a party house at 300 N. Plymouth Blvd. last year, which now seems to be in the same kind of rental business, said the neighbors learned from city officials during that effort that as long as the home’s leases are for more than 30 days, the rental activity is legal and does not fall under the city’s Short Term Rental ordinance. Also, he said, the multi-resident rental activity is legal even if the property is located in an R-1, single-family zone, because there’s no concrete legal definition of what “family” means in the term “single family” zoning.

Neither residents nor owners of the property were present at last night’s meeting, and no further actions were taken.

SB 834 – Draft Bill to Close Parking Loophole in AB 2097

The Mirabel development, proposed for 5411 Wilshire Blvd., is one new luxury development where residents could be prevented from obtaining local parking permits if SB 834 is approved.

Finally last night, Park La Brea resident Barbara Gallen, representing the Friends of Historic Miracle Mile, spoke to the Committee about draft legislation she has authored to help fix what she sees as a “loophole” in AB 2097, the state law that seeks to encourage larger numbers of affordable housing units near transit by eliminating parking minimums.

But Gallen said that despite the intention to encourage more affordable housing and to decrease car use near transit by eliminating parking requirements, AB 2097 has actually resulted in more proposals for large luxury buildings in these locations (including two 40+-story towers planned for the Miracle Mile area), while still encouraging car use by providing preferential parking privileges in adjacent neighborhoods.

“Our proposal,” she said, “is to close the loophole in the current laws with legislation that prohibits cities from issuing preferential parking permits to occupants of transit priority developments (those which were exempted from, or subject to reduced, parking requirements based on proximity to transit).”

Gallen said she presented her draft bill first to Rep. Laura Friedman, who wrote AB 2097 and who reportedly agreed with Gallen that encouraging more luxury buildings, and more traffic from the densification, was not her intention when creating that bill. But Gallen said Friedman waffled on sponsoring the new proposal. So Gallen met later with State Senator Anthony Portantino, who did agree to sponsor it by doing a “gut and amend” of another proposed bill, SB 834, and inserting Gallen’s bill into it.

Gallen said the new SB 834 doesn’t have a legislative hearing date yet, but Land Use Committee members voted unanimously to recommend that the GWNC Board formally support the bill.

The next GWNC Land Use Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m., via Zoom…and the next GWNC Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 13, also at 6:30 p.m., and also via Zoom.

Note:  this story was updated after its initial publication to clarify Gallen’s motivation in proposing the new bill.

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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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