A residential project that has homeowners and the owners of a nearby apartment complex worried will be facing its initial planning review very soon.

The project, called Playa Del Mar Apartments, is planned for the site of the City of Angels Church at 5555 Grovesnor Blvd. in Del Rey. The developer, Houston-based Dinerstein Companies, is asking Los Angeles County officials for a zoning change to build an apartment complex that nearby residents find too dense and out of character with the neighborhood.

Dinerstein is also requesting an amendment to the county’s general plan.

“It’s a massive development,” said Debby Berg, one of four co-owners of Club Marina, a three-story complex on Jefferson Boulevard that is within a few hundred feet of the planned development.

Susan Boyer, another Club Marina owner, added, “There is very little green space. It’s just a box-like structure.”

The Wednesday, July 14 hearing before the county’s Regional Planning Department will also be one of the first opportunities for Del Rey residents to see how much influence they have with their county supervisor.

Berg and Boyer are hoping that Second District County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents Del Rey, will intervene with the developer. The property lies on a small plot of land that is within county territory, although the developer will use Los Angeles city streets to access the project, if it is approved.

Ed Maddox, Ridley-Thomas’ senior chief deputy, said the supervisor would likely wait until the final environmental analysis is completed before weighing in on the planned development.

“Typically, the supervisor would not comment until a project has reached its full environmental review,” Maddox told The Argonaut.

Pastor O.C. Smith, a former vocalist to jazz composer and bandleader William “Count” Basie, founded the City of Angeles Church in 1985. Smith died Nov. 23, 2001 and no services have been held at the church in recent years.

The developer had previously been seeking to build a 216-unit complex, but has since lowered the number of proposed apartments to 196, said Dinerstein Vice President Josh Vasbinder.

“We’re in the very early stages of the process,” Vasbinder said. “We’ve really tried to mitigate residents’ concerns with the project that are within our control.”

Del Rey resident Chris Nevil feels that to date, the developers have engaged in what he calls “a lot of window-dressing” regarding community concerns about the project, which mirror typical complaints in other parts of the city about larger projects: height, density, proximity to existing homes, as well as scale and community compatibility.

Another Del Rey homeowner, Theresa Luo, practically has a bird’s-eye view of the proposed density and scale of the planned development.

“My living room window looks out directly onto the proposed project,” Luo, a former member of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, said. “If Dinerstein gets to build their apartments as big as they’ve planned it, the sky that I now get to see will be replaced by a building.”

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose council district includes Del Rey, wrote a letter in April to Ridley-Thomas as well as to Anthony Curzi in the Regional Planning Department on behalf of his constituents.

“My constituents who live near this project, within the Los Angeles community of Del Rey, have serious concerns about this project,” Rosendahl wrote. “With the proposed increases in both height and density, this apartment complex potentially threatens this neighborhood’s quality of life.”

The Archstone Company, which has luxury apartments in Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey and Santa Monica, was previously planning to build another complex where Dinerstein is now hoping to construct its project. Boyer said Archstone’s project was also large and dense, and the new plans look very similar to her.

“(Dinerstein) has altered it very little,” she said. “It wasn’t very popular then either.”

Vasbinder said additional project modifications include buffers to the north and south as well as the reduction in the height of a parking structure to 35 feet.

“We’re open to suggestions on how we can improve the project,” he said. “Our goal is to build the best project possible for everybody.”

Nevil, a former president of the Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Association, said he was not necessarily averse to seeing something new at the church site that could be advantageous to the immediate neighborhood and to Del Rey.

“We’re not obstructionists,” he said. “But I’m looking for something that has lower density and for something beneficial to occupy that space.”

Luo feels that the developer has tried to involve nearby residents and businesses in the planning process, despite her anxiety of the project’s size.

“Dinerstein has been vigilant about working with the community,” she acknowledged. “Their representatives have been by my house many times and have passed out surveys about adding appeasements such as pocket parks and grants to local schools.”

Nevertheless, Luo remains concerned about the long-term effects that the proposed development might have on the neighborhood’s character, as well as the surrounding infrastructure.

“At the end of the day, if they get the approval to change the current land-use permit and build their much bigger building, after their representatives have left, the immediate neighborhood lives with evidence of a lot more people, traffic, cars, and a gigantic structure that will tower over our one-story homes, looking over our roofs, yards, and into our windows,” she said. “No incentive they can offer can ease the intrusion into our lives and their dismissal of our neighborhood aesthetic.”

In his letter, Rosendahl also mentioned traffic congestion, noise, what he called “an above-ground parking structure that is out of character and scale with the adjacent community” and air pollution.

“As a result of these concerns, I join the Del Rey Neighborhood Council and the Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Association in urging Los Angeles County to deny the request for a general plan amendment and to deny the request for a zone change,” the councilman wrote.

Luo takes exception to Dinerstein’s request for an adjustment of the zoning codes.

“Zoning changes in a neighborhood should only be granted under extraordinary circumstances and then only when it is clearly evident that the neighborhood and not the developer will be the primary beneficiary of those changes,” Luo asserted.

Vasbinder said that his company would continue to work with community members throughout the planning process.

“We’re a family owned company, and we’ve demonstrated our willingness to continue to work with the community,” said the Dinerstein executive.

The project will require the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

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