GWNC Land Use Committee Supports TOC Development and Hears Jane Club is Moving

856-870 S. Gramercy Drive wins recommendation of support from GWNC Land Use Committee at Tuesday evening’s meeting

The Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee voted 8-2 to recommend the neighborhood council board approve a 6-story, 53-unit multi-family Transit Oriented Community (TOC) project at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 26.  The proposal calls for the demolition of  three single family residences and a small child care facility to construct the 67 foot tall building at the corner of Gramercy Drive and  9th Street. The building is a 12-minute walk to Wilshire and Western subway, allowing it to qualify as a Tier 3 TOC. That means the development can obtain the following entitlements: 1) a height increase of 22’ from 45’ to 67,’ with the 6th floor stepped back from street frontages;  2) two yard reductions of 30% (from the nine feet normally required to 6.3 feet) in the northerly and southerly side yards; and  3) to allow a rear yard reduction of 30% (from 15’ to 10.5′). DIR-2018-1626-TOC, ENV-2018-1627-CE.

856-870 S. Gramercy Drive is shown in the red box,  with a neighboring building, diagonally across from the project, shown in the blue box.

Daniel Ahadian, spokesman for the developer, who had appeared before the committee last month, said he was now able to present the project in more detail. Ahadian and architect Phillip Kudelka of PK Architecture impressed the committee with the design of the building.  Ahadian said it’s “far from a box,” with a two-story lobby entry and a second floor recreation room. He explained the building is consistent with the 15-foot building line on the street, even though they could have taken a reduction in the front yard setback, according to TOC guidelines.

“We decided to stay with the building line on the street,” said Ahadian. The building will be all multi-family rentals with 10% of the project designated for very low income residents. There will be  76 parking spaces, though fewer are required by the TOC. Ahadian said the most developers think they need more parking for families.

Committee chair Caroline Moser complimented the presenters on the architecture, which emphasizes the entry of the building and has a traditional base that fits well with historic buildings in the area. She also noted their efforts to provide a pedestrian-friendly experience along side of the building, with a 30-inch low planter instead of the more typical high retaining wall used in many other projects. Ahadian said they worked hard to find a way to conform to the City’s Low Impact Development requirement for storm water management, which he said often results in a solution that makes projects ugly for pedestrians. He and Kudelka explained they would be using gray water and storm water to irrigate the landscaping on the site.

The committee asked Ahadian and Kudelka to reach out to more residents to gain support for their project, not just adjacent owners, if possible, and present their efforts to the GWNC board at its next meeting.

(l-r) Windsor Square residents Jennifer and John Rissier and Jane Club CEO and CO-founder Jess Zaino addressing the GWNC Land Use Committee.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Jess Zaino, CEO and co-founder of the Jane Club, which has been a topic of local discussion since it leased space in a residential property at 236 S. Larchmont Blvd. in Windsor Square a few months ago, told the committee the club has signed a letter of intent to lease a new space. Though she wasn’t able to commit to a specific departure date, Zaino said it is her intention to leave the Larchmont Blvd. location within two months. The Jane Club opened in April as a women’s club offering workspace, events, personal services and childcare tailored to entertainment industry professionals.

Zaino appeared before the GWNC Land Use Committee on Tuesday evening to “provide information about the club. We are not seeking any approvals but are here to clear up any misconceptions,” she said.  The more than 20 complaints filed with the Department of Building and Safety have been dismissed, she explained, adding they are not doing anything that violates the residential zoning.

“We are creating a co-working and support space for working women in the entrainment industry,” said Zaino, who described herself Hearst TV executive with an active three-year old, “where working women and mothers making connections. We are not tied to any one place, we have events at other locations.”

She admitted they have had  small gatherings at the Larchmont property, but said they were not paid events. Zaino said the Club has used the space as “our office,” and that they would continue to use the house, “not as a business, but as a home office, not as a business.”   She said the Club is not charging dues to members at this time, adding that everything is free and by invitation only.  Finally, she invited the committee to schedule a tour to see the house.

“I understand that you have a tight knit community and we never intended to violate the rules,” she said. When she and her partners decided to start the business, she said, they consulted with land use attorney who told them it wold be “ok to pilot this idea,” as long as they conformed to the operations of a home business. Zaino said the early press resulted in far more attention than she expected. While she was pleased at the level of interest, she said she also felt she was under attack, but still understands the concerns of the community.

Neighbors Jeniffer Rissier and her son John Rissier, who live immediately behind the Club, said that some of the Club’s events are still happening at the location, and do seem to violate the rules of the residential zone.  Jeniffer Rissier showed the Committee some pages from the Club’s website, offering services – like daily meditation sessions – members can pay for and access at the site.  Rissier said that while she applauds the concept of supporting working moms, she also doesn’t want to see  businesses popping up in residential neighborhoods. She also asked how the Club could be running a “home business” if no one lives in the house.

After some additional discussion, the committee did not take any actions or votes on the issue, and members agreed that the issue could soon be moot if the Club relocates.

 

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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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