GWNC Land Use Committee Hears Wide Range of Cases

Land Use Committee members and others looking at design renderings for a hotel project at 5212 Melrose Ave.

For those who follow local land use cases, it sometimes seems that the items that flow through the monthly agendas of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee often merge into trends or themes – one month’s slate will be dominated by liquor license applications, another will focus largely on development applications using Transit Oriented Communities guidelines, and another will be full of small lot subdivision cases.  The LUC’s agenda this month, however, included an unusually broad range of cases and discussions.  In its 3-hour meeting last night at Marlborough School, the committee considered one application for a zoning variance, four demolition permit applications, two properties which might be violating laws or agreements, one liquor permit application, one new area zoning plan, one historic designation, and two TOC developments.  The specific items were:

545 S. Gramercy Pl. (ZA-2016-4911-ZV-1A)

Google Maps photo.

The applicant is requesting a zoning variance that would allow a mixed use (office space on the first floor and a residential unit above) in a duplex zoned for residential use.  The GWNC had previously voted to oppose the variance, and the variance was initially denied by the city zoning administrator.  The applicant appealed that decision, and the GWNC also voted, in January, to oppose the appeal.  Since then, however, representatives for the applicant have reported that they have some new “findings,” and the ZA has given them until March 5 to submit their new evidence before ruling on the appeal case.  Because the GWNC LUC has not yet seen the new materials, committee members agreed last night that their previous votes of opposition will stand, unless and until they have a chance to review any new materials that might be submitted.

845 S. St. Andrews Pl. (TOC DIR-2018-3524-TOC, ENV-2018-3525-EAF)

Google Maps photo.

The GWNC is currently on the record opposing this application to demolish a vacant school and construct a six-story, 25-unit apartment building.  Leaving the door open for further discussion, the Land Use Committee has requested that the applicants solicit input on the project from nearby neighbors, and also return with further architectural and landscaping details.  The applicants did not return to the committee this month, however, so the previous vote continues to stand.

300 N. Plymouth Blvd. (No active case numbers)

Google Maps photo.

The GWNC board voted earlier this month, at the Land Use Committee’s recommendation, to oppose the current use of this residential property as a dormitory-style rental business, being marketed for online booking through a company called Mansion Mates.  Since the business began operation, however, neighbors have complained about parking issues on the residential block, caused by increased traffic at the property.  Mansion Mates representatives came to a Land Use Committee meeting in November, but said they would have to consult with their legal advisors before providing further details about the business.  While one neighbor did attend last night’s meeting to complain again about the parking problems, the Mansion Mates representatives did not attend, so there were no new votes, and the previous vote of opposition still stands.

176 S. La Brea Ave. (ZA-2018-5968-CUB)

Photo from Bluestone Lane.

The Bluestone Lane coffee shop has applied for a permit to sell beer and wine at this address (it occupies what used to be part of the old Sonora Cafe space near La Brea and 2nd St.).  The restaurant has 44 indoor and 21 outdoor seats, and is open from 7 a.m to 11 pm daily.  Because of a scheduling snafu, the applicant’s representative, Alex Kagianaris, did not attend last month’s LUC or GWNC board meetings, so the board voted last month to oppose the application until further details could be presented.  Kagianaris did attend last night’s LUC meeting, but the committee members had just received the application materials yesterday, said they had not yet had enough time to review them, and declined to vote on the application (a motion to approve the application was made, but not seconded, so there was no vote).  The committee members asked Kagianaris to request that the zoning administrator scheduled to hear the case on March 5 could keep the case open for comments for a couple weeks beyond the hearing date, which would allow the GWNC board time to review the details and take a vote at its next meeting on March 13.

Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan

The Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, which would create a new zoning overlay for areas within a half mile of the new Purple Line subway extension along Wilshire Blvd., has been the subject of much (and often heated) discussion since it was first proposed in 2016.  In response to neighbors’ complaints that city’s community outreach efforts so far have been inadequate, two new community meetings  were scheduled this month (one took place this past Saturday and the other is scheduled for tonight – Wednesday, February 27, from 5-8 p.m. at Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., 90035). (An online survey has also been created to collect community input.) At last night’s meeting, committee members informally discussed the TNP proposal, including concerns about creating such a specific new zoning plan before the area’s larger Community Plans are updated (something that is scheduled to happen before 2024, but after the TNP’s proposed completion date).   The discussion at last night’s meeting ended with a vote to propose working with the Land Use Committees of several other local Neighborhood Councils to schedule a joint meeting of the groups to discuss the TNP and the local councils’ concerns.

117 N. Manhattan Pl. (No active case numbers)

Google Maps photo.

A 5-unit small-lot subdivision project was recently constructed at this address, but neighbors noticed after construction was complete that the project was built using plans that had originally been opposed by the GWNC, while modifications that had been mutually agreed on by the GWNC and the developers had not been followed.  At last month’s LUC meeting, committee Chair Caroline Labiner Moser reported that City Council District 4 Planning Deputy Emma Howard was looking into the matter…and at last night’s meeting, Moser reported that she is still waiting to hear back from Howard.  No further actions were taken.

Mae West Square

Google Maps photo.

In what was probably the most entertaining item of last night’s meeting, Tamela D’Amico, owner of Larchmont Blvd.-based La Strega Entertainment, presented a proposal to designate the stretch of Rossmore Ave. between Beverly Blvd. and Melrose Ave. as “Mae West Square,” in honor of the legendary film actress, who lived for nearly 50 years at the Ravenswood Apartments on Rossmore. (D’Amico also lives in the building.)  D’Amico, who was accompanied by West’s former assistant, Tim Malachosky, said she is just beginning community outreach for the designation, and requested the committee’s support.  Discussion was lively and generally positive, with one committee member suggesting that because that section of Rossmore is neither straight nor square-shaped, the designation might be more appropriately changed to “Mae West Curve,” which was met with both laughter and informal agreement.  In the end, a motion of support for a designation (under whatever name is finally selected) passed with eight votes in favor, none opposed, and one abstention.  The abstention vote was from committee member Patricia Carroll, who was concerned that some other local landmarks (such as the El Royale apartments, where West also stayed briefly after first landing in Hollywood) should be consulted before moving ahead.  Committee members also offered to help D’Amico connect with the Hancock Park Homeowners’ Association and the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society to seek their support for the designation effort.

6535 Melrose Ave. (DZR-2019-647-TOC, ENV-2018-648-EAF)

Architect rendering.

This is a new application for a three-to-four story mixed use building, with variable heights, 33 residential units (8% set aside for Extremely Low Income tenants), and 4,895 square feet of commercial space over one story of at-grade and one story of subterranean parking.  There is currently a smaller, previously-permitted project under construction at the site, so the new application, if approved, would result in an up-sizing and re-design of the project.  The project representatives did not attend last night’s meeting…but no city hearing date has been scheduled yet, so committee members agreed to look further into the project details, and to re-invite the representatives to a future meeting.  No votes were taken.

5212 Melrose Blvd.  (ZA-2017-3165-CU-ZV-ZAA, ENV-2017-3166-EAF)

Architect rendering.

This project, which has been discussed at several previous GWNC Board and Land Use Committee meetings, would transform an historic bungalow court building at this address into a boutique hotel by retaining five of the current bungalow units, transforming another into the hotel lobby, and replacing the rear-most unit with a four-story building containing additional hotel rooms (there would be 18 rooms in all).  At last night’s meeting, new project representative Dana Sayles introduced herself and other new team members, while architect Tony Stark, from Corsini Stark Architects, reviewed the project’s details (which have not changed despite the recent change in the project’s representation).  The committee had previously voted (in September, 2017) to oppose the project, largely because of concerns about the bungalow court’s current tenants and complaints about current inhabitable conditions at the building.  No further votes were taken at last night’s meeting, since no new project details were presented, but the committee requested that the representatives return with a new report on the remaining tenants, information about current conditions at the building, a context drawing showing how the rear side of the project would appear to its neighbors to the south, and reports from a planned meeting about the project with the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association.  No new votes were taken.

838 N. McCadden Pl. (18019-10000)

Google Maps photo (pre-demolition).

This was a demolition pre-inspection application notice the GWNC received a few weeks ago…but before the meeting, the committee also learned the application has already been approved by the city, and the building has been demolished…so there was no review, discussion or action.

930 S. Mansfield Ave. (DZR-2018-7019-TOC, ENV-2018-7020-EAF)

Google Maps photo (pre-demolition).

The Land Use  Committee and GWNC board had previously voted to oppose an application for a 6-story, 19-unit apartment building (to be built under Transit Oriented Communities guidelines) at this address, because the project representatives have not responded to invitations to present details of the project to the LUC.  At last night’s meeting, Conrad Starr, president of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, which represents the neighborhood in which the site is located, reported that the project has now been placed on hold by the city because the applicants did not complete a required pre-demolition review for buildings more than 40 years old, which have  also have been identified as potential historic resources by SurveyLA.  Starr said the case is now being treated as an “improper demolition” by the city, and the owners will be required to rectify the situation in some way.  No further actions were taken by the committee.

445 N. Plymouth Blvd. (18019 20000)

Google Maps photo.

Another demolition pre-inspection application, for a long-vacant home at the SW corner of Rosewood and Plymouth.  The current owners, who bought the house after it had been sitting vacant for a long time, plan to demolish the original single-story home (which has suffered from neglect, squatters and other nuisances in the years since it was last occupied) and build a new, larger house on the lot.  Architect David Lopez presented some details of the planned new house, a by-right project that is currently going through the Plan-Check process…and committee members provided some feedback on details, cautions about adhering to the new R1 variation zone that applies to the property, and notes about other current codes and requirements.  In the end, however, because the matter was agendized as a discussion of the demolition permit and not the new construction plans (which were provided for context only), the committee voted to recommend that the GWNC board support the demolition permit, with six votes in favor, one opposed and one abstention.

726 S. Wilton Place (18019-10000-06366)

Google Maps photo.

The night’s final agenda item (though it was actually discussed at the top of the meeting, for the convenience of the project representative, who had to leave early) was another demolition pre-inspection application, for a single family home.  The applicants are planning to build a new 25-unit apartment on this and an adjoining lot, which is already vacant.  As with the Plymouth project, above, the project representatives said they would like to clear the vacant building as soon as possible because it has attracted “bad actors” and has become a nuisance to the community.  As this was the first such project presented during the meeting, however, and no formal plans were presented for the new construction (the architect said they are still in development), the timeline was not clear and the committee said they would discuss later in the meeting whether or not to vote on the demo permit.  Because the meeting ran late, however,  that further discussion and vote did not take place.

The next GWNC Board meeting, where the above recommendations will be considered, will be held on Wednesday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.  

The next GWNC Land Use Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 26, 6:30 p.m., in the Collins Room at Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave. 

 

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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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