GWNC Land Use Committee Supports The Heights at Manhattan Place and Olympic Blvd

View of the corner of The Heights at Manhattan Place and Olympic Blvd., which won support on Tuesday from the GWNC Land Use Committee

After months of presentations to the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee and meetings with community members – including a group organized by CD 4 and CD10 staff – the two-building project now called The Heights, at 3323 W. Olympic Blvd./ 975-987 S. Manhattan Pl. and 3323 W. Olympic Blvd./970-996 S. Manhattan Place, won the support of the GWNC LUC.  Members voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend that the GWNC Board support the project at its next board meeting.

Bastion Development Corporation representative Kevin Reed presented the changes the project has undergone since it was first presented in May.  The project is now seven stories tall instead of eight and the number of units has been reduced.  There are nowe 114 units proposed in one building and 94 units proposed in the other, with 8 affordable housing units.  The developer also reduced the overall floor square footage, and, according to Reed, changed the project’s name to “The Heights” in deference to the nearby neighborhood, Country Club Heights.

Emma Howard, Senior Planning Deputy for CD4, said she was really pleased with the design changes that resulted from the numerous meetings her office organized with CD10 staff to discuss the project. Howard said the developer agreed to make the building less shiny, since it would already be so prominent in the neighborhood. She said the the developers also agreed to add a loading area inside the building to reduce congestion, and – in response to community requests – agreed to add large, leafy trees to the site, to create a tree canopy on both sides of the street.  And, finally, they agreed to remove outdoor seating that had been proposed at the corner of the lot,  and replace it with a large tree.

Senior Planning Deputy Emma Howard at the GWNC LUC meeting this week

Two residents from nearby Country Club Park, Judy Reidel and Judith Wyle,  said at the meeting that they were pleased with changes, and appreciated the efforts of the developer. However, both also said they had still hoped for something better, citing several Art Deco-style buildings in the neighborhood that could have served as inspiration. Reidel suggested the developer design something similar to the Wiltern Theater, at Western and Wilshire, and use the other lot as a park. Judith Wyle, an architect, said she appreciated the efforts of CD4 and CD10 staff to create a collaborative process…and that, while there will still be objections to the size and mass of the building, residents are resigned to the fact that they could do nothing to prevent such a large project from being built in their neighborhood, because of the city’s current mandate to increase housing.

“There’s a freight train of development that’s going to go roaring down Olympic,” said Wyle, adding that “we were at least hoping to get something that is a little more sensitive to the historic community, because this building serves as somewhat of a gateway to the historic residential neighborhood that follows.”

Wyle noted the developer was responsive by changing the color palette, reducing the amount of glass on the building, and reducing the potential glare. However, she said,  they were not so successful in eliminating the protruding balconies, which neighbors say often become eyesores if they are used for exterior storage, and which can accumulate dirt from the air.  She also urged the developer to plant large trees like Sycamores, because the boughs could span the street between the two buildings in a nice, leafy canopy.

In other business, the Land Use Committee voted to recommend supporting a request to grant a Conditional Use Permit for a commercial parking lot with full time valet parking attendants during business hours at the Olympic Spa at 847 S. Norton. The application also requested a permit for the existing maximum height 6 ft. fence in the front yard, with zero (0) set backs. (ZA2018-5491-ZAA-F, ENV-2017-4918-CE). The committee had supported the requests at an earlier meeting,  but the applicants, at the suggestion of the Zoning Administrator, have now also agreed to remove a large pole sign in exchange for the installation of a smaller sign at the at the parking lot entrance, to better help customers know where to park.

The committee also voted to support an application for a Child Day Care Center for 21 – 40 children at a new 18-unit apartment building now under construction at 850 S. Gramercy Place. (ZA-2018-4722-ZAD, ENV-2018-4723-CE)

Cafe Gratitude, at 639 N. Larchmont Blvd., won support for the reinstatement of its Conditional Use Permit to allow the sale and dispensing of beer and wine at the restaurant, from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm daily. (ZA-2018-4762-CUB, ENV-2018-4763-CE) According to the restaurant’s representative, the application for renewal was late due to a misunderstanding in the expiration date. Members of the committee said there are some concerns about adequate parking at the restaurant, and making sure the underground garage is open for use, which was an original conditionof the committee’s support when the restaurant opened in 2011. Representatives of Cafe Gratitude said they have 35 parking spaces and access to the underground parking is always open. In the end, the committee voted for the reinstatement of the CUB, with special instructions to maintain the 35 parking spaces that were part of the original conditions.

In other business, no vote was taken on a request for a variance to allow a commercial use in a residential zone at 545 S. Gramercy Place.  Howard said CD 4 Field Deputy Rob Fisher is still working on this case, and trying to reduce the number of parking spaces in front of the building.  Currently there are spaces for 9 cars on the lot, and Howard said the owner does appear to be negotiating in good faith. A resident who lives next door to the property, however, spoke in opposition to the application, saying they oppose the change of use and the property has long been a nuisance to the neighborhood. Clayton Przekop, speaking for the applicant, said he would continue to work with the community and council office and return to a future Land Use Committee meeting.

Finally, because the GWNC LUC committee has a policy of voting to oppose projects that are not presented to the community when representatives are invited to do so, or projects that fail to secure (or have not yet sought) community support, committee members voted on Tuesday to recommend that the GWNC Board oppose a proposal to demolish a vacant school and construct a 6-story, 25-unit apartment building 845 S. St Andrews Place. (TOC DIR-2018-3524-TOC, ENV-2018-3525-EAF) The applicants were advised to consider the architecture in the neighborhood when designing the building,  meet with local residents to gain support for their project, and then return to the LUC for further consideration.

The committee also voted to oppose an application at 3477 W. Olympic Blvd at Wilton and Olympic CUB a request to obtain a Conditional Use Beverage permit to allow the off sale of beer and wine in conjunction with an existing 2739 SF convenience store operating 24 hours daily in a C2-1 zone. ZA-2018-5753-CUB, ENV-2018-5754-CE.

Douglas Cho, a member of the Wilshire Park homeowners and owner of a liquor store at Wilton and Olympic that closes at midnight, spoke in opposition of the application. He said the applicant was not complying with their original conditions and has allowed homeless people to move into the small park in front of their store. He told the committee the convenience store should be required to comply with the original conditions before granting any other permits. GWNC Board member Frances McFall also spoke against the application. The committee ran out of time for a rebuttal by the applicant but they were invited to come back and present the request for further discussion.

The next meeting of the GWNC Land Use Committee is Tuesday, November 27 at 6:30 pm at Marlborough School, Check the GWNC website for the agenda.

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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