NEIGHBORS LOSE
LAGUNA SENIOR APARTMENTS
 ZONING APPEAL

East LA Area Planning Commission president Greg Wesley declared he was “having trouble with the fact” that there was no public hearing. Zoning Administrator Daniel Green explained, “ most cases like this one do have a public hearing…when you look at the volume of [zoning variance] requests it does seem quite lengthy.”

Yet in the end, despite the fact that more than a dozen area residents, including representatives of the FHRA, Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council, Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, and the Silver Lake Improvement Association spoke against the five story Laguna project as orversized and inconsistent with the neighborhood, the Commission voted 4-0 to uphold the project’s approval, including the seven zoning variances, with a few minor conditions. The more stringent of the conditions, suggested by the Sliver Lake Improvement Association, were removed from the list when the developer objected.

Commissioners: Michael Fleming, President Greg Wesley, Alexis Moreno and Yoland Chavez
Many of the speakers in favor of the project were connected with the developer or agencies that fund such senior/disabled housing projects. They pointed out the need for affordable housing for low income seniors. Those from the neighborhood agreed there is a need, but pointed out the project was out of scale for the area. One resident who lives directly across the street described the proposed building as being “like a Titanic next to a tiny raft in the ocean.” But even such a graphic word picture was not enough to sink the project.

Developers want to build the five story high, low income, Laguna Senior Apartments on the west side of Myra Ave. just north of the Sunset overpass. Because the plans were originally drawn for a larger site on Laguna Ave. in Echo Park, they had to ask for a total of seven zoning variances in order to squeeze the building onto the proposed site.


Without the usual pre-approval public hearing all the variances were granted…neither the GGPNC nor Silver Lake Neighborhood Councils were properly notified. After learning of the problem just in time, GGPNC board member Mary Rodriguez filed the appeal which was heard on Wednesday April 14, 2004 by the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission  Click here for the official Public Hearing Notice.
Dozens of interested parties from both camps listen as Mary Rodriguez addresses the commission detailing the neighborhood concerns about the size of the project and how neighbors and neighborhood councils were left uninformed.


The official address of the building would be 4201 Sunset Blvd. because the top floors of one end of the building would face Sunset.


 
The proposed building would be out of scale with  zoning and other structures  around Myra Ave. between Fountain and Sunset.
Here the architects' drawing of the 64 unit  five story building has been combined with a photo of Myra Ave. showing the exiting three story apartment building, the largest on the street, at the right side of the photo.

At its March meeting the GGPNC Board of Directors voted 13-1 to oppose the project as approved. While all supported plans to bring low cost housing for seniors and HIV/AIDs patients to our area, the current plans shortchange both the neighborhood and the clients to be served.

The approved plans call for 64 one and two bedroom apartments crammed into the space where zoning rules say that 41 should be the limit. They show just 32 parking spaces for the 75-100 tenants, (plus workers and visitors to the building) about half what the law requires. The building is between 12 ft. and 27 ft. higher than the area’s maximum height limit of 45 feet. Instead of the required front, side and rear setbacks of between 8 ft. and 17 ft. from adjoining properties, building to the edge of the property line appears to have been approved.

Inside the project, things are also outside the bounds of normal zoning rules with a total floor area of 46,000 square feet where less that 30,000sq feet would normally be permitted. Even with all that space the developers have allotted only 4,400 sq feet  for common space less than two-thirds of what the law says is the minimum. They even plan to cut out half the trees that normally would be required.