A mixed-use development proposed at the site of Prestige Coach Craft in the Del Rey area is in the process of being reconfigured to meet the land use guidelines of the area, say representatives of the development firm that hopes to build the complex. The development would increase housing units in the area but would have required a variance to the neighborhood’s existing specific plan.

Representatives of the developer, Katherine Companies, a Torrance-based property and development firm, has proposed a dual use complex at 4131 Glencoe Ave., where Prestige Coach Craft, a longtime automobile body repair shop, is currently located.

The project was proposed to be 84,931 square feet, nearly 55 feet tall, with 64 condominium units, of which four would be set aside for low-income families. In addition, there are plans to include commercial and possibly retail space at the site.

“We have decided to change our entitlement strategy so that we won’t have to ask for an exception,” Nicole Smith, a planner with Katherine Companies told The Argonaut Tuesday, January 15th.

“We opposed it initially because it would have required an exception to the Glencoe/Maxella Specific Plan,” said Steve Knight, who is on the Del Rey Neighborhood Council Planning and Land Use and Transportation Committee.

The specific plan allows for a maximum a floor area ratio of 1.75-to-1, and the applicant, Cameron Vasseghi, had requested an exemption of 2.15-to-1.

Floor area ratio is defined as the ratio of the total floor area of buildings on a certain location to the area of the land of that location, or the limit imposed on such a ratio. In the initial proposal, the developer had requested a higher density than the specific plan allows.

“If (the) project is in line with the specific plan and the floor area ratio, then the Planning and Land Use Committee would probably have no basis to object to it,” said Knight, who added that the committee would need to see the project before drawing any conclusions.

“The key for this project is [that] there is an affordable housing component,” said Smith, who gave a presentation of the project on January 3rd at a Planning and Land Use Committee meeting. “There will definitely be a commercial component, and possibly office space as well.”

The proposal was slated to be presented before the Del Rey Neighborhood Council January 10th, but the applicant decided to postpone its presentation, said Jonathon Neumann, who chairs the council’s Land Use and Planning Committee.

“The item was taken off calendar by the developer in order to refine the project,” Neumann explained. “They seem to be responding to the concerns of the community, which is good.”

The developer had asked for an exception to the specific plan by invoking California state Senate Bill (SB) 1818. Amended in 2005, the law states that project applicants are eligible for a range of density bonuses up to 35 percent, based on the percentage of affordable units in a development. Localities are required to offer at least one to three incentives (reductions in parking, for example) rather than one, based on the percentage of affordable units in a development.

SB 1818 also limits parking requirements that localities may impose.

After the January 3rd meeting, Smith said that she had received “constructive feedback” from the committee.

Knight believes that the council needs to take careful note of the level of development that has been ongoing in the Glencoe/ Maxella area over the past several years.

“The area was built out a lot faster than was expected,” he pointed out. “There has been a strong demand on water and sewer services.

“Circumstances have changed in the area since the initial environmental impact report was drawn up for the Glencoe/Maxella Specific Plan.”

Knight, who has lived in Del Rey since 1951, said that traffic had also increased over the last decade, and an additional mixed-use development could place an even greater strain on the neighborhood’s infrastructure.

Glencoe and Maxella Avenues have seen a reconfiguration in land uses over the last five years, with several housing developments replacing industrial, automotive and storage businesses.

The developer chose the Prestige Coach site because it would be a good addition to the changing residential corridor.

“[An auto body shop] is not compatible with the adjacent uses,” said Smith, pointing out that there are condominium and apartment complexes flanking Prestige.

Wendy Wong, who works a few doors away at Angel City Body Kinetics, said she feels that the corridor has changed according to the evolving tastes and preferences of residents who are moving into the surrounding neighborhoods.

“There are more things that are complementing lifestyles of people who live in the area,” she noted. “I think all of this development is really new and exciting. There’s a big focus on health and wellness, and I think that it’s really brought up the quality of life in the neighborhood.”

Wong said that many of her clients live locally in the nearby suburbs. Knight, who lives on Short Avenue, has seen the section of Del Rey that abuts Lincoln and Washington Boulevards rapidly undergo an esthetic metamorphosis.

“I realize that we need housing, but we should be keeping the industrial jobs,” Knight said. “Many people who work in that area live there too, and many of them walk to work.”

Prior to the developer indicating that he was willing to change the entitlement process in order to comply with the specific plan, Neumann believed that the applicant would reconfigure the development in order to comply with the specific plan.

“In my opinion, I would be very surprised if they come back with the same request,” he said.

There have been occasions when exceptions to the specific plan have been granted, according to Neumann.

“But they were for exceptional causes,” he noted. “We do try to adhere to the [specific plan] and we ask developers to adhere to it also.”

The project will come before the Del Rey Neighborhood Council Planning and Land Use Committee Thursday, January 24th.

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