GWNC Hears Crime Updates, Discusses Land Use Projects

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Joe Pelayo provides an area crime update to the GWNC board at last night’s meeting.

At last night’s monthy meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, discussions included such diverse topics as neighborhood crime, potential new single-family zoning designations for the Brookside neighborhood, the proliferation of detox and “sober living” facilities in residential areas, new grants for community improvement projects, and several land use cases.

Crime Updates

The meeting began with an update on local crime by LAPD Senior Lead Officers Joe Pelayo and Hebel Rodriguez, and Olympic Division Sergeant Alex Ortiz.

SLO Pelayo reported that since the arrest last month of a burglary suspect (who drove a silver Mercedes) in the Larchmont Village area, break-ins in the neighborhood have dropped significantly…until an incident yesterday in the 200 block of S. Norton Ave.

Pelayo said yesterday’s burglary was very similar to other recent break-ins in the neighborhood — the suspect knocked briefly at the front door, then immediately went to the back of the house, entered, and was in and out with valuables in just a minute or two.  Pelayo said most of this kind of crime takes place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., when people are at work, and warned residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.  He also recommended that, if possible, home owners install security cameras positioned to watch their front door, driveway and back yard.

Sgt. Ortiz futher recommended that when people want to report suspicious activity, or actual crimes, or even just want accurate information about crimes in the neighborhood, they call the police directly and do not rely on or contribute to rumors and unconfirmed reports like those often posted in local social media.

SLO Rodriguez reported that burglaries in his basic car area in Wilshire Division were down from 12 to six this month, though four of those happened in Brookside, where he said police will now concentrate more of their efforts.  Rodriguez also noted that other kinds of thefts, including car break-ins, were up this month…and most of those happend when people left items out where they could be seen.

Later in the meeting, GWNC Board Member Julie Stromberg and Alternate Board Member Tammy Rosato, who hosted last month’s GWNC Town Hall meeting on crime, said the next step they’d like to see would be for each of the 15 neighborhoods within the GWNC area to find someone to head up neighborhood watch efforts in their individual neighborhoods, and for those 15 local leaders to form a cooperative group that would share information and support across the GWNC area.

Public Comments

During public comments on items not on the board’s current agenda, two topics were introduced that will likely find their way onto future meeting agendas.

First, representatives of the Brookside Homeowners Association read a letter from their board, opposing the city’s current suggestion that two different types of new single-family zoning be implemented in their neighborhood.

During the city’s recent two-year effort to re-vamp its Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, Brookside was one of several city neighborhoods granted an Interim Control Ordinance, with development guidelines stricter than the old BMO, to help protect the area temporarily from mansionization while the new BMO was being crafted.  Brookside’s ICO will now expire in July, and – like other neighborhoods granted similar temporary protections – the city has offered Brookside the choice of being covered by the new BMO, or by one of several new, slightly stricter, R1 single family zones.

Brookside residents, over several months of discussions, have generally favored a new R1 zone over the BMO…but residents have disagreed, to at least some degree, on which of several types of R1 zones (which specify different rules for building scale, massing and garage patterns) should be adopted.

A few months ago, the city proposed bisecting Brookside’s zoning, with half the neighborhood being covered by an R1 option that would require massing of new construction to be toward the rear of the structure, while the other half would be goverened by rules allowing variable massing patterns.

The Brookside board’s letter, read at last night’s meeting, stated its official opposition to the split zoning plan, and requested the GWNC’s support in urging the city to adopt the less restrictive variable massing pattern (R1-V3-RG) for the whole neighborhood.

Because the item had not been agendized for a vote at last night’s meeting, however, board members urged the Brooksiders to make their views known at the April 17 City Council PLUM Committee hearing on the matter, and referred it to the GWNC’s Land Use Committee for further discussion and recommendations at its April 24 meeting.

The second issue raised during Public Comments last night came from Wilshire Park resident Judy Han, who reported that a number of chemical dependency detox facilities and sober living homes have moved into houses in her single-family residential neighborhood.

Han said the businesses appear to be legal under current city laws, as well as the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, but while she is sympathetic to the needs the facilities address, they are being run as very lucrative businesses in the residential area, and are disruptive to the neighborhood. Carthay Circle resident Shirlee Fuqua agreed with Han, saying her neighborhood has experienced similar problems with such facilities (mostly run by absentee landlords), including one which now has 26 beds in a small single-family home, and charges $2,500 per month per bed.  After some initial discussion, this item, too, was referred to the GWNC’s Land Use Committee for further investigation and discussion at an upcoming meeting.

Neighborhood Purpose Grants

In other business, the GWNC board approved a committee recommendation to award three new Neighborhood Improvement Grants to support non-profit community projects. The first grant, of $750, will go to Van Ness Elementary School to support its edible garden program for the schools’ students.  Another, for $750, will go to the Anderson-Munger YMCA to fund day-camp opportunities for children in the GWNC area. And the third grant, for $500, will go to Hope Net to help purchase equipment for its food pantry site at Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Land Use Projects

Finally last night, the GWNC board took action on several land use projects including:

  • A vote to support an application to allow the continued use by a nearby business of two parking lots on R1-zoned residential parcels at 947 and 947 S. Norton Ave., as long as conditions specified by the Wilshire Park Neighbohood Association remain in place.
  • A vote to oppose an application for a 4-lot Small Lot Subdivision project at 4827 W. Oakwood Ave., because information requested from the developer by the GWNC Land Use Committee had not been received or approved.
  • A vote to support an application for the renewal of a permit to sell beer and wine for on-site consumption at the Genwa Restaurant, at 5115 W. Wilshire Blvd.
  • A vote to support an application to designate the bungalow court at 5212 W. Melrose Ave. as an Historic Cultural Monument.  According to tenant Susan Hunter, who filed the application, the complex, built in 1921-22, maintains many of its original features.  Two other tenants also spoke in favor of the application at last night’s meeting.  GWNC Land Use Committee chair Caroline Moser said the building’s owner has not yet weighed in on the landmark application, but he has filed a separate application with the city to turn the property into a boutique hotel.
  • A vote to support the St. Andrews Square Neighborhood Association in opposing an application by a restaurant at 149 N. Western Ave. to allow sales of a full line of alcoholic beverages, as well as karaoke and live band entertainment, and operating hours of 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Wednesday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 4400 Wilshire Blvd., and the next meeting of the GWNC’s Land Use Committee will be held on Tuesday, April 24, at Hope Lutheran Church, 6720 W. Melrose Ave.

About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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