In a session that was largely administrative in focus, last night’s Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council board meeting also included some interesting updates, comments and Land Use votes.
First, during a series of updates by city officials and agencies, City Council District Four field deputy Rob Fisher reported on the recent release of new homelessness statistics, which show that far more people slipped into homelessness last year than were housed by the city. Fisher called the numbers “staggering,” assured attendees that the problem “is not unnoticed” by his office, and noted that Council Member David Ryu has co-sponsored a new motion to tax landlords who keep housing units vacant too long.
In addition, Fisher presented an update on the new Playground Pilot Project proposed for the southern end of the surface-level public parking lot on the west side of Larchmont Blvd. The project was first proposed by the Windsor Square Association last year, and last night Fisher presented some new renderings, showing how design ideas have evolved since then.
Fisher said the designs are still not final, but do show the kinds of elements being considered for the space. John Welborne, vice president of the WSA’s Planning and Land Use Committee, corrected comments referring to the space as a “park” ( it’s “notaparknotaparknotapark…” he said), and explained that for now, it’s just a “playground”…though he also said that if the playground pilot effort is successful, there’s a chance that more of the parking lot space could be repurposed for additions like a dog run, at some point in the future.
Next, in an update for the LAPD, Wilshire Division Senior Lead Officer Hebel Rodriguez presented both “good news and bad news.” The good news, he said, is that property crimes are down 7.3% in his area over the same period last year…but the bad news is that car break-ins are up 47.9% from last year, and mail thefts are also increasing. Rodriguez also reminded people that fireworks of all kinds are illegal in Los Angeles, and distributed a flier with information about legal fireworks displays people can attend on July 4.
During the Public Comment period of the meeting, Michelle Richard, representing Alexandria House, which provides housing and other services for homeless women and children, many of whom are domestic abuse victims, invited people to attend a tea party and tour at the facility on July 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Next, John Welborne urged people to become more aware of the flood of zoning and housing bills now making their way through the state legislature. SB 50 is on hold, but not dead, said Welborne, and a number of other bills coming up for discussion and votes in the next week or so have similar provisions, and my have similar effects on our local zoning – including eliminating local historic preservation zones and things like design guidelines, even those already in place. The effect, said Welborne, would likely be construction of even more high-end developments, which would not “trickle down” to more affordable units that more people could afford.
Finally during public comments, area resident Allison Schallert said she is “horrified and embarrassed and ashamed” that the city (and the neighborhood council) is not doing more to address homelessness issues, noting that her neighborhood currently has 15 market-rate housing developments under construction, but none that include affordable units, and contending that the GWNC has done little to encourage developers to include more affordable units in their projects. Members of the GWNC’s Land Use Committee explained that they have little influence on developers’ inclusion of affordable units (which are mostly governed by the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines and the developers’ own cost projections), and GWNC Vice President Max Kirkham also reported that he and Emma Howard, Planning Deputy for City Council District 4, recently walked Schallert’s neighborhood to review both current construction and future development issues there.
Administrative Business and Committee Reports
Next, in the more adminstrative section of the meeting, the Board installed Matt Cheeseboro, who lives in Fremont Place, to that neighborhood’s Alternate board seat, ratified the current rosters for the GWNC’s Transportation, Sustainability, and Outreach Committees, approved current expenses, and began some inital planning discussions for the next fiscal year budgeting process, which will continue next month.
During Committee reports, the board also unanimously approved a motion by the Transportation Committee, recommending that Metro “remove consideration of an aerial or any at-grade rail configurations” for a possible La Brea route for the proposed northern extension of the Crenshaw Line light rail line. The position was based on the potential effects of an above-ground configuration on “the new upper story development for new housing and other uses” along La Brea, and the way an aerial structure “would over-shadow and obstruct the street, sidewalks and building frontages below, virtually assuring that La Brea Avenue would become a blighted and hostile place for pedestrians, residents and businesses, as well as sensitive land uses such as schools and religious institutions.”
Among items presented by the Land Use Committee, the board voted unanimously to support an application for a new 7-Eleven store at 5784 Melrose Ave. The project, after several months of discussion, has received either formal or informal support of Christ the King Catholic Church, the Hancock Park Neighborhood Association, the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association and LAPD Senior Lead Officer Dave Cordova.
The board also voted to oppose, as currently presented, the development of new apartment building projects at 607 and 611 N. Manhattan Place (the development sites are next door to each other and share a project representative, but are being built by two different developers). The building at 607 would include 10 units (including one designated affordable) and the one at 611 would include 14 units (with two affordable units.)
Both projects have been discussed at length over several months by the Land Use Committee, but committee members felt the plans for both do not yet fit adequately into the larger neighborhood context, and do not yet address other concerns expressed during the discussions by area neighbors.
In public comment on the two projects at last night’s meeting, resident Schallert took issue with the vote, however, saying, “It’s beyond me that you’re voting against affordable housing” and “this is an opportunity to step forward as human beings.”
Joy McManus, who also lives in the neighborhood (but who hadn’t attended previous discussions on the projects) also asked for background on the committee’s opposition. LUC Chair Caroline Labiner Moser explained that the committee’s vote to oppose the projects “as presented” was not a definitive vote against the affordable units (or even a definitive vote on the whole project), but simply a tool the committe uses to signal to the city and the developers that the committee does not yet feel the developers have done all they can to make the project as compatible as possible with the neighborhood or as responsive as possible to concerns currently expressed by the neighbors. The door is still open, said Moser, for further discussion and later reconsideration of the projects.
Finally, the board also followed the LUC’s recommendation to support an application for a remodel and small addition at an existing residence at 547 N. Cahuenga Blvd. This item had previously been approved by the Hancock Park HPOZ board, so GWNC approval was mostly a formality.
New and Other Business
Next, in New Business, the board voted to support two motions by Renters representative Hayden Connor Ashworth, to officially support City Council Files 14-0268 and 19-0002-S6. The first of those motions asks the city adopt a new Tenant Harrassment Ordinance to help protect tenants in interactions with their landlords, and the second supports a potential reform of the statewise Costa-Hawkins rental housing act, which limits rent control in newer buildings across California.
Finally, GWNC Homelessness Liaison Tammy Rosato also addressed the new homeless numbers, calling the statistics “heartbreaking” and “devastating.” She suggested that people who would like to get involved with the issue explore organizations such as Alexandria House…and board Vice President Max Kirkham suggested that the board form a new committe on Homelessness, a suggestion that could be agendized for a vote at next month’s board meeting.
That meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 10, 7 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.…and the next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, June 25, 6:30 p.m. at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.