Story was unfair to neighborhood council

Re: “L.A. City Council approves controversial Westchester development,” news, Jan. 30

The article about the approval of a development at 7407 S. La Tijera Blvd. unfairly reflected negatively on the efforts of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa. And, once again, The Argonaut did not reach out to anyone on the council to hear or report on our perspective, relying on only two individuals for the article.

The truth of how this project was modified to make it substantially better than it might have been was reflected in Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s letter to his constituents about the project, wherein he reflected that as a result of the substantial efforts of the neighborhood council the developer agreed to “negotiate a better project.”  We were in the same position that the councilman ultimately found himself as he reviewed our recommended position. As he wrote: “In other words, my voting yes gets your neighborhood much more than my voting no. If I voted no, I could thump my chest and insist I stood up for you, but I would know that you would eventually get a worse project. If I vote yes, I might not get a round of applause, but I will have won you a better project than your neighborhood would otherwise get. As your representative, I feel I owe you that.”

Had this project moved forward as originally designed without neighborhood council involvement or worse still as a by-right project, it would have been higher, larger, have less parking and no traffic mitigation. Rather than be critical of the neighborhood council, The Argonaut should be reporting the good work that was done.

Development is rarely a non-contentious issue. Development of commercial lots adjacent to residential communities is typically the most challenging to work through. This proposed project was presented at the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa Planning and Land Use Committee on several occasions and the committee received much feedback from the community. The committee members listened to the concerns of the residents and did the best that they could given the facts: zoning allows for heights up to 45 feet; under state law (SB 1818) density bonuses are required when a development includes a low-income housing component, which this does, granting the opportunity for an additional 11 feet to the building height; and the Department of Transportation will not permit ingress and egress access on La Tijera for new developments. Committee members negotiated with the developer, who agreed to a number of mitigations in an effort to address the concerns related to traffic and safety at the intersection of 74th Street and La Tijera. In response to concerns about more cars parked on adjacent residential streets, the developer agreed to add more than 70 additional parking stalls over what the code requires. Landscaping and other improvements were also included.

In the end, the neighborhood council supported the project because we realized that with SB1818 and the city’s appetite for dense housing along major transportation corridors such as the 405 Freeway, this project could be much worse than ultimately proposed and that there is tremendous value in the community benefits offered.
Cyndi Hench
President, Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa