The Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC) unanimously put its support behind Windsor Village on Wednesday this week, agreeing that the Morumbila condominium project slated for 853-859 S Lucerne Blvd and approved by City Planning, was not compatible with the historic Windsor Village neighborhood.
The Morumbila project was approved by City Planning in late May 2014, to combine two lots on South Lucerne Blvd, just south of the Ebell Theater, into a 32 unit condominium complex. Plans call for renovation of the existing 3-story, 18 unit James Terrace apartment complex at 849-853 S.Lucerne, and building of a 4-story, 14 unit condominium on the abutting vacant lot at 859 S Lucerne.
The development has been on and off again since 2006 when a single-family Mediterranean home was demolished on the site, inspiring local residents to work toward getting a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone established for the neighborhood which was adopted in 2010.
In its endorsement of the Windsor Village Appeal, the GWNC agreed that the project “…violates the Windsor Village Preservation Plan because the size, height, bulk, massing , scale and design of the project are not compatible with the historic fabric and character of the neighborhood, as the Preservation Plan requires.”
In addition, the GWNC also supported the position of Windsor Village that “The City Planning Commission actively caused a prejudicial irregularity in the HPOZ vote regarding the issuance of a Compatibility Certificate, by forcing a member of the HPOZ Board to recuse herself, without justification…”, which resulted in a tied vote on the Board, and left the HPOZ Board without an official position on the project. City Planning then moved forward to approve the Certificate of Compatibility. Attorney R.J. Strotz, a Windsor Village resident and WVA Board Member, wrote the Appeal on behalf of Windsor Village.
The owner/developer Ik Kyoon Ahn and his architect Peter Wilson went back to the drawing board several times and reduced the development by one floor in height and by one unit overall, but residents in the neighborhood are still not happy with many aspects of the project. “They actually increased the size of the building,” WVA Board Vice President Joe Hoffman told the Larchmont Buzz. “They reduced by one unit but increased the overall square footage, and reduced the open space. Because of the way the lot is now plotted, this building is going to be the most noticeable, biggest, tallest building on the street, spanning two large lots and creating a canyon effect on Lucerne. You won’t be able to miss it, coming from the north or south, or looking north from the [Harold Henry] park.”
While the design plans technically adhere to zoning laws, residents feel the development doesn’t meet the conditions of the HPOZ ordinance which should trump the zoning requirements. Many feel the HPOZ’s Preservation Plan is more qualitative than quantitative in its guidelines, and that the Plan should be rewritten to give more specific, historically compatible, directives to developers wishing to build infill in Windsor Village and its sister communities, Wilshire Park and Country Club Park.
In this case, Windsor Village activities feel the development fails on many levels, including: insufficient setback from the street; massing that appears to encroach on the two-story historic apartment just to the south and overwhelms the streetscape; not enough open outdoor space; historically incompatible with the architecture of the neighborhood; and the removal of a 100 year old Sycamore tree on the southern edge of the property.
The date for the Appeal to be heard by the Area Planning Commission has not yet been calendared.
Disclosure: Writer Julie Grist is a resident of Windsor Village.