In a setback for neighbors in Sycamore Square, the City Planning Commission last Thursday sided with the developer of 850 South La Brea, rejecting an appeal filed by nearby neighbors who contend the five-story building will overwhelm and be architecturally incompatible with the adjacent single family homes on Sycamore Ave., all of which were built in the mid-1920s.
The project calls for the demolition of an existing one-story commercial retail center and new construction of a mixed used building consisting of 40 residential units over approximately 4,000 sf of retail space on the ground floor. The project would include a total of 40 one- and two-bedroom units; 36 at market rate rents, and four set aside for very low income tenants under the Density Bonus requested by the developers. It would consist of four residential floors over one story of approximately 4,000 sf of ground floor commercial space, plus two levels of subterranean garage. Two on-menu incentives with the Density Bonus application requested an increase in Floor Area Ratio from 1.5:1 to 3:1 and a 20% open space reduction. DIR-2016-4543-DB, ENV-2016- 4544-CE.
As previously reported, there is no height restriction for the property, which is zoned C2-1, and Height District 1 would permit the maximum floor area to be developed either as a low- or mid-rise building. While the residential properties adjacent to the site on the east, along Sycamore Ave., are developed with one- to two- story buildings, the project site is located along a commercially developed corridor., and there have been other similar development projects – most notably the Essex Wilshire-La Brea building – in the area in recent years.
Owners of the three nearest residential properties (including, by way of full disclosure, Buzz Co-Publisher Elizabeth Fuller) filed the Density Bonus appeal after the project was approved by the City, arguing that the new development will negatively affect their properties through loss of backyard privacy, loss of sunlight, and – during the construction phase especially – additional traffic congestion, parking issues and further damage to failing neighborhood streets. The neighbors asked that, even if the project was approved, the developers be urged to work with neighbors to mitigate the negative effects as much as possible.
In the end, however, the Commission voted unanimously to deny the appeals (which had been supported by the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council), ruling that the project is essentially consistent with both the current zoning for the property and the state-level Density Bonus law. Commissioner David Ambroz did, however, urge the developer to work with the City Council District 4 office to consider some modifications in the building’s facade, which he said is so generic that it could be “a rest stop in Phoenix…it has nothing to do with the neighborhood.” “The neighborhood is gorgeous,” Abroz said, “and this [design] is not adding to it.”