A 196-unit, four-story apartment complex was given an official nod by the county Board of Supervisors Jan. 25 that the developer says will bring construction jobs to the Westside and provide much needed housing to the region’s employees and residents.
The supervisors, by a 4-0 vote, granted the Dinerstein Cos., a Houston-based development company, a change in zoning for the Millenium-Playa Del Mar complex in Del Rey. Located at the site of the former City of Angels Church at 5550 Grosvenor Ave., the nearly 5-acre lot will house luxury apartments.
Josh Vasbinder, a Dinerstein principal, said his company made several concessions to appease homeowner groups that were opposed to the project for over a year, and he believes that the neighborhood eventually will see the benefits of what will occupy the former church property.
“I think we addressed a lot of the community’s concerns, especially with the reduction in height,” Vasbinder said. “We’ve tried to design a project that fits into the community where there is a need for additional housing.”
Prior to last summer, the developers were seeking to build 216 units.
The supervisors’ vote paves the way for a general plan amendment and a change to the area’s zoning laws. What was formerly a low-density residential area will now be classified as a high-density designation, which can house 45 units per acre.
Dinerstein also plans to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the complex, which is an internationally recognized green building certification system.
Dan Rosenfeld, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ senior deputy for economic development, sustainability and mobility, said the supervisor generally supports investments in communities in his district that create housing and jobs.
“(Dinerstein) made continuous efforts to respond to the community’s concerns, and we feel as a result, the project is better because of that effort,” he said.
Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes Del Rey, brought the motion for approval to the board. “This is a good urban in-fill development that will enhance the surrounding community,” the supervisor told his board colleagues.
Vasbinder feels Ridley-Thomas’ remarks at the meeting and his vote show that he backs more jobs to the local economy as well as the apartment complex.
“There was a clear indication that the supervisor was in favor of it,” he said.
Pastor O.C. Smith, a former vocalist to jazz composer and bandleader William “Count” Basie, founded the City of Angels Church in 1985. Smith died Nov. 23, 2001 and no services have been held at the church in recent years.
Some homeowners in the immediate area, as well as the owners of an apartment complex close to the former church property, were opposed to the county authorizing a change in zoning that will permit the developer to build the complex.
Vasbinder confirmed that his company had reached confidential settlements with several homeowners in the immediate area.
Elizabeth Pollock, the secretary of the Del Rey Neighbors and Homeowners Association, said now that the board has given its approval for the apartment complex to be built, the developer must mitigate what she feels are potential troublesome traffic situations, particularly at the intersection of Juniette Street and Centinela Avenue near Playa del Rey Elementary School.
“That intersection is going to be a problem,” Pollock, who spoke before the board, predicted. “We need a traffic signal there.”
She also said the possibility of a trampoline company moving onto Grosvenor would increase traffic and car trips in the neighborhood.
The Del Rey Neighborhood Council also opposed Millenium-Playa Del Mar.
The project site is somewhat unique, as it lies on county land but is surrounded by Los Angeles city streets. Therefore, Dinerstein must obtain county and city permits to complete its construction work and transportation mitigation.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he has heard very little from Ridley-Thomas’ office about the project, although his planning deputy, Whitney Blumefied, attended the board meeting.
“I’m totally sympathetic to how my constituents, many of whom opposed this project, are feeling,” said the councilman, who represents Del Rey.
Parking is another of Pollock’s worries. She said because there will not be sufficient parking spaces at the complex, it is up to both county and city officials to make sure that street parking is not used by the apartment residents.
Vasbinder said some of the project’s opponents have asked for the traffic light near the school and his company is willing to consider it. But he also pointed out that the developer would not make any infrastructure decisions alone.
“We will certainly look into what kinds of traffic calming measures can be implemented,” he said. “We will be working with our traffic consultants as well as with city and county transportation officials.
“We can’t promise that we’ll do something until we consult with the government officials,” Vasbinder added. “Some things might be out of our control.”
Playa Vista Jobs and Opportunities and Business Services, better known as PVJOBS, will be the beneficiary of many of the construction jobs for the project. Nora MacLellan, a board member of the nonprofit, said the organization’s mission is one that seeks to give at risk citizens a second chance at life through employment, and that is something that can benefit Del Rey as well as the local economy.
“This program also helps disadvantaged youth as well as recovering addicts,” she said. “Wherever there is any major development on the Westside, I believe that there should be hiring of local disadvantaged youth as well as a local hire program.”
Rosenfeld said having a local hiring plan in place was a big factor in Ridley-Thomas’ decision to support the apartment complex.
“This is high quality housing, but I think that jobs are paramount on the minds of a lot of people in this economy,” Rosenfeld noted. “And the supervisor became convinced that PVJOBS would provide local jobs and the project would provide good quality housing.”
The name of the apartment complex is another minor point of contention. Pollock and others want the name to be changed to Millenium-Del Rey because of the location of the project. Vasbinder said that he is willing to discuss a possible change, but would not commit to a new name.
“(A name change) is not official yet,” the company vice president cautioned. “We’re looking into it, but we haven’t made any determination yet.”
Despite their belief that they had a good project, Vasbinder said the developer was unsure how the board would vote. “To be quite candid, we were on pins and needles until the final moments on whether they would approve the project,” the Dinerstein executive admitted.
Pollock is troubled that Millenium-Playa Del Mar is the latest in a series of developments that have been granted a change in zoning by government authorities to developers within a small area.
“Playa Vista and the Entrada Towers (a project slated to be built at the site of the Radisson Hotel on Centinela Avenue near the Westchester border) have all been given zoning changes to make their projects larger,” she noted. “It seems like if you buy land and you don’t like the (existing) zoning but you have developers and elected officials who are willing to approve these developments, the community is going to be left with a white elephant.”
Rosendahl, who had previously expressed his reservations about the project with the county, plans to have his staff meet with Del Rey homeowners to outline the city’s obligations as well as what can be done to help mitigate any concerns that his constituents still have about the development.
“That meeting will be organized very soon,” the councilman vowed. “I want to find out what our options are and I want to be informed of what’s been approved.”
Vasbinder said that he anticipates construction to begin by late summer or early fall.