At its monthly board meeting on Thursday, April 12, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council addressed 10 separate agendized land use issues, reflecting the increasing pace of development in our area. Before those votes, however, there were several other introductions and items of business.
First, new field deputies from City Council Districts 4 and 5 introduced themselves. Catherine Landers replaces Nikki Ezhari as the main constituent contact for City Council Member David Ryu’s office…while Robert Oliver is the new field deputy for City Council Member Paul Koretz. Oliver replaces longtime CD5 deputy John Darnell, who has taken a new position with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the group that oversees the Neighborhood Council system for the city.
LAPD Senior Lead Officer Dave Cordova gave a brief local crime report, noting that violent crimes are down 3.8% in our area this year…but property crimes are up 4.5%, with a notable number of residential burglaries in the areas west of La Brea Ave. La Brea-Hancock resident Frank Rosato also introduced himself as the new chair of the LAPD Wilshire Division’s newly reconstituted Community Police Advisory Board, which meets at the Wilshire Division station on Venice Blvd. on the third Thursday of each month. Rosato encouraged all local stakeholders to attend CPAB meetings to learn more about crime and LAPD work in the area.
In other introductory and non-voting items on Thursday, the GWNC board heard a complaint from a Larchmont Village resident upset about the frequency of filming activity at a specific neighborhood residence, which he said violates the city’s general rules allowing only “infrequent” residential filming with “a minimum of interference” to the neighborhood. 34th District Congressional candidate Robert Ahn also introduced himself to attendees.
Among several housekeeping items, the GWNC Board had been asked by DONE to choose one of two scheduling options for its next election cycle, to help it conform to city election schedules. The option chosen by the board would add a year to current officers’ terms, and then revert to the usual two-year terms for subsequent election cycles.
Finally, the following projects were addressed in the very crowded land use section. Six of the projects were liquor applications, three were new density bonus apartment projects, and one a variance that involved both business and residential use of an existing duplex.
Land Use – Liquor Permit Applications
First, among the liquor applications, the Burgerian restaurant at 5820 Melrose Ave., had applied for a conditional use permit to allow the dispensing and sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption, and hours of 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The GWNC’s Land Use committee on March 28 recommended that the board oppose the application unless it was modified to include only beer and wine sales, and that the hours of operation be limited to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. as currently allowed by the property’s C2 zoning. The project representative, after speaking with neighbors in the Hancock Park neighborhood, who also requested the more limited sales and hours, said he would agree to those modifications, and the Board voted to support the application with the new conditions.
The board also voted to support the application for a new microbrewery and retail project at the landmarked Firestone property, 800 S. La Brea, which would include the on-site sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages in conjunction with the operation of multiple restaurant spaces, a market hall and a microbrewery. The support was contingent on the inclusion of a long list of conditions negotiated by the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, which were also supported by the developer.
A recommendation to support another microbrewery project at 600 S. La Brea did not go through quite as easily. The application originally presented by the developer requested a midnight closing time from Sunday through Wednesday, and 1 a.m. from Thursday-Saturday and holidays. But members of the La Brea-Hancock Homeowners Association, speaking at the meeting, presented a letter from the association requesting reduced hours of 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and Sunday hours of 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (with the patio seating area closing one hour earlier on each day). After extensive discussion of the proposed changes, and a request from the project representative to maintain the originally-proposed hours, the support motion was amended to include the neighbors’ revised hours, and it passed by a vote of 10 in favor, one opposed and five abstentions.
Approval for a new BevMo! store to sell a full line of alcoholic beverages for off-site consumption and occasional on-site tastings at 5200 Wilshire Blvd. (in the Essex Wilshire-La Brea complex) was supported by the Board by a vote of 15 in favor, 0 opposed and 2 abstentions. The development as a whole already has a liquor license and CUB for the space, so only a plan approval for the specific tenant’s use was required. (Note: the GWNC Land Use Committee had also voted to recommend support for the application at its March meeting, with the caveat that the board’s support should be contingent on a long list of conditions negotiated by the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association. Those conditions, however, did not make it into the Board’s final support recommendation, and the application was approved as originally presented.)
An application to sell beer and wine for on-site consumption at the exisiting Kokio Chicken restaurant at 3977 W. 6th St. was also supported by the board, by a vote of 13 in favor, one opposed and two abstentions.
Finally among the liquor applications, a request for a CUB to allow the sale and dispensing of beer and wine for both on and off site consumption at a restaurant at 141 N. Western Ave. was opposed unanimously by the board, because the applicant had not responded to invitations to present and discuss the project.
Land Use – Residential Applications
Three residential projects reviewed by the board at Wednesday’s meeting all involved density bonus applications.
First, an application for the demolition of a small retail center at 850 S. La Brea, and the construction of a new five story, 40-unit apartment complex with a density bonus, was opposed by the board after the board members learned that the Planning Department had approved the application on April 4. A representative of the applicant had appeared at the GWNC’s Land Use Committee meeting on March 28, but had given the impression at that meeting that a city decision on the project was not imminent, and that there would be further opportunity for the committee and full board to discuss the project with neighbors, make recommendations for adjustments, and generally consider the project further before taking a position. When the April 4 decision was made known at Wednesday’s meeting, the group voted unanimously to oppose the application, based on the misleading timeline impressions given by the applicant at the LUC meeting. (Note: the board had also voted to oppose the project at its March 8 meeting, based on the fact that, at that point, the applicant had not yet responded to invitations from the Land Use Committee to present the project.)
Two other density bonus application, one for a six story, 21-unit apartment complex at 743 S. Gramercy, and one for a 25-unit apartment building at 4907 Rosewood Ave., were also unanimously opposed by the board, because the applicants had not responded to invitations from the Land Use Committee to present the projects.
Finally, after much discussion, an application for a zone variance to convert the second floor of a building to residential space at 545 S. Gramercy Ave. was sent back to the GWNC’s Land Use Committee for further consideration. The property, in an R4 multi-family residential zone, was originally constructed as a residential duplex. Back in the 1990s, however, it received a variance converting it to office use to house a non-profit business. Now, however, the owners are asking for another variance to allow mixed use of the property, so the current owner can live in the upstairs unit, and run her accounting business downstairs. The GWNC’s Land Use Committee recommended at its March 28 meeting that the board support the new application…but next door neighbor Terry Sorenson appeared at Wednesday’s board meeting to argue that the business in the building is disruptive to neighbors and that the applicants may have misrepresented their intentions for both the upstairs and downstairs spaces. The LUC’s recommended motion to support the mixed-use variance application failed and the board recommended that the committee further examine the details of the case before another vote is taken.
The next GWNC board meeting will be held on May 10. The Land Use Committee meets on April 25.