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As it turns out, even places of worship are shown no mercy by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon, a Maronite Catholic church at 333 S. San Vicente Blvd., anticipated that construction would begin on a 19-floor apartment complex on church property in 2021. The Beverly Grove church now expects construction to begin no earlier than 2023, which would be “very optimistic,” according to the Rev. Albert Constantine, chancellor of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.
The project is currently awaiting approval of its draft environmental impact report, which is in a public comment period until June 28. Until then, the public may send comments and concerns about the project to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. According to the draft EIR, construction of the project “would result in significant and unavoidable impacts related to noise and vibration.”
If no major issues arise during the EIR process, the church plans to submit the plans for building permits in hopes of beginning construction within the next three years.
Funding is yet to be secured for the project, but the church is exploring many avenues to find ways to fund construction.
Constantine said that despite delays as a result of the pandemic, the building plans remain unchanged. Designed by Nadel Architects, the complex will contain 153 apartments, with 17 units designated for “very low-income” residents.
“[The low-income units are] something we are committed to,” Constantine said. “Obviously we are a church, we have a moral obligation to take care of those less fortunate than we are, and we will do whatever it takes to make sure that we provide low-income housing.”
Harald Hahn, president of Burton Way Foundation, has strong opinions about the 17 low-income units.
“It’s [BS],” he said. “The kind of low-income they’re talking about is already middle class … Remember this is an area that has no supermarkets anywhere near … It’s meaningless.”
Housing will be open to the public, regardless of faith or religion, Constantine said. The apartment buildings will be owned by the church but operated by an outside management company yet to be named.
The apartment complex proposal includes plans for an outdoor pool and recreation deck on the fourth floor. The proposal also includes plans to construct a five-level subterranean parking structure on church property, providing 252 residential parking spaces and 145 spaces reserved for the church, according to the draft EIR.
As for the church building itself, the draft EIR describes plans for “the deconstruction, off-site storage, reassembly, rehabilitation and limited alteration of the existing cathedral of Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon.” Constantine said the cathedral will be updated and modernized, but with no major changes.
“We love our church,” he said. “This is our home, our spiritual home for 55-plus years now. We want to be here for the next 100 years …. We are going to extraordinary lengths to preserve it and to make sure it retains its heritage and retains its character.”
Constantine said the aisles will be widened to be more “user friendly” and will be updated to bring the building up to code. Hahn has concerns about the update of the 84-year-old cathedral.
“They’re proposing to tear down a historic building and rebuilding the historic building larger and with improvements,” he said. “And [they’ll] still try to call it historic.”
While the cathedral is potentially under construction, Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon would temporarily relocate its services to somewhere near its current Beverly Grove location. Constantine said the search for a new location is active.
Alison Simard, spokeswoman for Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, who is also a 2022 candidate for city controller, said Koretz wants to “assess community feedback” before giving thoughts on the project.
“Councilmember Koretz is always supportive of affordable housing, so he will take a very serious look at it,” she said, while adding that the height of the 19-floor building is an aspect that may need to be further examined.
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