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After 2015 saw a growing debate over the city’s development policies and decisions, the Los Angeles City Council approved another project that will create a taller Hollywood.
The city council unanimously approved plans to construct a six-story mixed-use building that will be up to 71 feet tall and provide 224 residential units – at least 24 of which will be set aside for very low income families for 55 years – and 985 square feet of retail. The site is located at a existing parking lot and the project will span Las Palmas avenue to Cherokee avenue, north of Hollywood Boulevard.
“We love the location. We think it’s in great proximity to a ton of amenities,” said Bob Champion of Champion Real Estate. “We have designed an amazing rooftop amenity with a pool that’s every bit as luxurious as a five-star hotel.”
The project complies with the city’s General Plan, the Hollywood Community Plan and the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan, and although the project would appear noticeably taller and larger than neighboring structures, it incorporates design elements “so that the project would not tower over or otherwise overwhelm adjacent visual resources,” according to the city’s staff report.
Frances Offenhauser of Hollywood Heritage appealed the project because she does not believe it is allowed under the General Plan, and she has issues with aesthetics and height and is concerned that it will have 100 more apartments than should be allowed.
Offenhauser said city staff misinterpreted zoning laws that she helped write in 1988 during the development of the Hollywood Community Plan to allow a larger structure.
“Zoning code states specifically what has to be done to build something bigger, but they decided to jump over it and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to do that, we’re going to do what we think is right,’” she said.
Offenhauser said the problems with the project are consistent with irresponsible development she sees across the city. She calculated that if every single property in Hollywood followed the community plans they were subject to, there would be 26 million more square feet of commercial real estate than now currently available.
“Why is everyone throwing that away and criticizing anyone who thinks sticking with the law is the wrong thing to do?” she said. “It’s out of control.”
After the recession, Offenhauser believes city leaders thought they needed to further incentivize developers to come to Los Angeles even though there always was demand to build in the city.
Champion said they intially created five designs for the project three years ago. They also hired three architect consultants to participate in a design competition to find the best option for the neighborhood.
“We then spent a year working with Hollywood Heritage trying to mitigate as many of their concerns, and at the very end what became apparent was that there were fundamental issues with the approval of the project, and no matter what it was, they were going to disapprove,” Champion said.
He added that the disagreements about zoning determinations of density and the approval process are not aspects the developers control.
“I can’t change their beef with the city,” he said
Offenhauser said she will likely file a lawsuit to fight the development in court.
Much of the debate over development will play out with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the November ballot, which would place a two-year moratorium on projects that attempt to go around existing zoning laws.
Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, endorsed the initiative last week, according to AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
“If a person moved to the city now and heard Mayor Eric Garcetti talk, they’d assume he’s a member of the Tea Party,” Riordan said. “He isn’t doing anything for the poor, but helping the rich get richer through these zoning deals on land development.”
Sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve L.A. (CPLA), the initiative will prevent “spot zoning” by individual city council members in concert with developers on land zoned for less dense communities.
“The control of zoning by these single city council members should be illegal,” Riordan said. “That person is being lobbied by the developers and getting campaign money or campaign promises, and this just has to end.”
The former mayor noted that traffic and congestion around “elegant density” developments near L.A. bus, rail and subway lines has worsened considerably.
“You’re going to have more and more traffic around these over-developments,” Riordan said. “You cannot put in expensive condos and rental units and hope to attract people who will use public transportation. You will have two cars for each family.”
Riordan said that without the November moratorium to halt the land flipping and spot-rezoning, it will be impossible to stop the net loss of existing, older affordable housing units Los Angeles is not seeing.
“I challenge Garcetti to define what he means by affordable housing,” Riordan said. “It has zero to do with housing the homeless. It has to do with creating solidly middle and upper-middle class condos that are $4,000 a month, and Garcetti’s affordable housing will probably go for close to $3,000. So I want him to define it. Because the working poor in L.A., without question, can’t afford City Hall’s ‘affordable housing.’”
Last month, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th Ditstrict, said he opposed the coalition’s ballot initiative.
“The ballot measure is bad for L.A., it’s bad for the economy, and it’s bad for the future vitality of Los Angeles, especially in transit-oriented neighborhoods like Hollywood where there is already a robust public transportation infrastructure in place,” O’Farrell said. “This misguided initiative will cost thousands of good paying jobs right when we are beginning to climb out of the recession.”
Champion said they hope to start construction within the next six months.
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