The Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved the Westchester Community Design Overlay (CDO) Guidelines and Standards and proposed zoning changes, and also adopted findings and the environmental negative declaration, by a unanimous vote of 6-0 on Thursday, January 24th.

The guidelines for design themselves are approved but can’t become effective until the Los Angeles City Council acts, and this won’t happen until after the item has been scheduled before the City Council Planning and Land Use Committee, which will make a recommendation and then forward it to the full City Council for a final vote, said city planner Chris Koontz.

The Community Design Overlay includes various locations in downtown Westchester generally covering properties with commercial plan designations along Sepulveda Boulevard between Los Angeles International Airport and 84th Place, bounded by Sepulveda Westway, Sepulveda Eastway, La Tijera Boulevard and Kittyhawk Avenue, says city planning documentation.

The Westchester Community Design Overlay and zone change were proposed as an implementation of the Westchester-Playa del Rey Community Plan in 2004, which sought to improve building design, pedestrian activity, and commercial vitality in the downtown Westchester commercial district, said Koontz.

The proposal consists of three items that were heard by the city Planning Commission:

— adoption of the downtown Westchester Community Design Overlay Guidelines and Standards for the area which implement the Community Design Overlay;

— recommendation to the Los Angeles City Council of a zone change that would establish the boundaries of the downtown Westchester Community Design Overlay; and

— recommendation of appropriate “Q” conditions and “D” limitations for parcels within the Community Design Overlay area.

The proposed “Q” conditions assure that ground-floor uses are compatible with the Community Design Overlay’s goal of creating an active pedestrian environment.

Development “D” limitations are proposed to reiterate the existing protections and limitations for parcels within the Community Design Overlay boundaries. No change to allowed building density is proposed.

The Community Overlay Design and zone change will control use and design of new buildings on private property, but “additional measures are necessary to spruce up existing improvements and to bring to life the public property,” according to city planning documents.

Koontz said that related efforts already being implemented included the creation late last year of a Business Improvement District (BID) for the area, and a joint effort between the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association, Los Angeles Department of Transportation and Los Angeles City Council District 11, represented by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, to improve sidewalks, medians, street trees and lighting on Sepulveda Boulevard.

The proposed boundaries of the Community Design Overlay include a slightly larger area than the Business Improvement District by including properties along Manchester Avenue north of the Business Improvement District, as well as east of Truxton Avenue.

The downtown Westchester Community Design Overlay area covers approximately 55 acres of commercial plan-designated property fronting Sepulveda Boulevard and Manchester Avenue, as well as frontage on Sepulveda Westway, Sepulveda Eastway, La Tijera Boulevard and 87th Street.

The majority of the properties are retail and office with General Commercial Plan Designations and zoning of C2-1 or C2-2D, and parcel sizes range from under 6,000 square feet to over 250,000 square feet, said city planning documentation.

The purpose of the Westchester Community Design Overlay is “to ensure that development within the downtown Westchester area reflects the overall vision of a cohesive, pedestrian-friendly and vibrant commercial district,” say city planners.

“The purpose of the CDO is to create an urban environment where surrounding residents can feel safe and enjoy walking to the adjacent downtown commercial district, and is designed to reduce vehicle trips within the commercial district and increase pedestrian activity,” say city planning documents.

The request for adoption of a zone change was from R3-1, C2-1, C2-2D, “Q” C2-2D, C2-1VL and “Q” C2-1VL to “Q” R3-1-CDO, “Q” C2-1-CDO, “Q” C2-2D, and “Q” C2-1VL-CDO

The conditions and limitations of the “Q” classification include:

— General: for all properties that include one or more lots within the boundary of the Community Design Overlay, all properties shall meet the guidelines and standards of that overlay;

— Use: for commercial zoned parcels ground floor use shall be limited to retail, restaurant and community services. No residential uses, medical uses or office use shall be permitted on the ground floor;

— Parking: surface parking lots shall not be located between the front property line and the primary building/storefront on Sepulveda Boulevard or Manchester Avenue, but rather to the rear of all structures, provided there is vehicular access from side streets or alleys to the rear of the lot;

— Entrances: all buildings shall have a ground floor with a primary entrance oriented towards the major street. This ground floor primary entrance shall be in addition to any rear entrance toward rear parking lots or alleys.

— Building Articulation: at least 60 percent of the building faÁade at the ground level shall consist of doors and windows;

— Signs: billboards, super graphics, off-site signs, pole signs, roof signs, flashing, moving or blinking signs and inflatable devices are prohibited, and no upgrading, modernization, electrification, digitizing or alteration to existing billboards shall be permitted; and

— Density: the parcel at the northwest corner of Manchester Avenue and La Tijera Boulevard shall have residential uses limited to the density provided in the R3 zone.

Development limitations pursuant to the Los Angeles Municipal Code, subject to the permanent “D” Development Limitation are as follows:

— For those parcels in Height District 2 east of Sepulveda Boulevard, floor area ratio (FAR) shall be limited to 3:1 for commercial projects and 6:1 for mixed-use projects that include residential dwelling units; and

— For all other parcels in Height District 2, floor area ratio shall be limited to 3:1 for all projects.

Information, Chris Koontz, (213) 978-1193.

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