Council tables Legado Del Mar decision for two months: Developer concessions not enough to reverse the tide of neighborhood opposition in Playa del Rey
By Gary Walker
Just two weeks after getting the apparent blessing of a Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa subcommittee, the proposed Legado Del Mar development at 138 Culver Blvd. hit another roadblock on Dec. 3.
Failing to reach consensus about the adequacy of concessions offered by real estate firm Legado Co., the council punted the question of whether to support or oppose the development to its Feb. 4 meeting.
The mixed-use complex would include 72 apartments, 14,500 square feet of retail space and two levels of underground parking on the undeveloped triangular parcel known to locals as “Jake’s Lot.”
Legado Co. has offered to make crosswalk improvement, install decorative landscaping, upgrade street trees, install bike racks, allow public access to its parking lot and contribute $100,000 to a special fund for other community improvements. The developer has also reduced the project’s retail footprint but intends to take advantage of residential density bonuses for inclusion of affordable housing.
During the meeting, some council members said the proposed six-figure payout was insufficient in light of such a potentially lucrative project.
The Legado project has faced intense opposition for five years from residents who live near Culver, some of whom accused supportive council members of getting into bed with the developer.
“You might as well have a price tag in front of each one of you,” said Michael Gemme, who lives less than a block from the project site.
Gemme is also upset that council member Tom Flintoft works as a lobbyist for the project, though Flintoft has recused himself from voting on it.
Julie Ross, who lives near the planned development, accused the council’s planning and land use committee of “having their minds made up long ago” when they voted last month to call for a final decision by the council as a whole.
Ross also called for the strongest possible environmental review for the project and two other potential Legado developments on nearby parcels.
Benjamin Resnik, an attorney for the company, said there are no concrete plans for additional construction.
Nicole Swain, one of only two public speakers in favor of the development, said its opponents have been much more vocal than those who support or are indifferent to it.
“As someone from the younger generation, I would love to be able to walk to some new places” on Culver Boulevard, she said.
Considered by some as one of L.A.’s more developer-friendly neighborhood councils, several members of the Westchester-Playa board nonetheless peppered Resnik with questions and concerns about various aspects of the project, particularly its height.
Council member Scott Carni said he was surprised the body was asked to weigh in so shortly after the subcommittee review.
“There’s a lot of good stuff here,” he said, “but we need to talk to the community more.”
Board member David Voss said instead that the council had already taken too long to act.
“Tabling this and asking for another 60 days is the definition of insanity,” he said.
Council member Cheryl Burnett, who lives a few blocks away, said more time is needed to fully answer community concerns.
“We don’t have to say yes to this project. We have a community that for five years has said they do not like this project,” Burnett said. “Just because a project is ‘by right’ does not mean that it is right.”
Council Vice President Mark Redick things the root of the problem is a “patchwork, haphazard, mismanaged” public relations effort by the developer.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin should intervene to work out a deal that satisfies both sides, Redick said.