Leaders of the Mar Vista Community Council and a nearby homeowners association are fuming over what they feel is a bad faith move by the Los Angeles Planning Department regarding a proposed development project at the site of several apartment buildings that could displace current tenants and change the character of the neighborhood.
Their ire stems from an action taken by the city Planning Department, which voted to approve a mitigated negative declaration for a proposed 92-unit condominium project that would replace apartments at 3160-3178 S. Barrington Ave. Last September, the community council, property owner Abraham Assil, and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office negotiated an agreement that would reduce the number of units to 48, along with a renovation and condominium conversion of the existing units.
In turn, the community council gave its consent to support a waiver from the city’s parking requirement of one and one quarter spaces per dwelling unit, which equates to 60 spaces, and an additional one quarter space per dwelling unit or 12 spaces for guest parking.
The Westdale Homeowners Association has filed an appeal to the approval, which the community council supports. The association had only ten days to file the appeal after it learned of the commission’s actions on April 13th.
Approximately 30 residents and tenants gathered outside one of the buildings slated for demolition to protest Assil’s proposed development on April 23rd, the day after the advisory council joined forces with the homeowners group.
Kate Anderson, a member of the Mar Vista Community Council, said that she and her colleagues on the community board were taken aback after learning that the land use committee had approved the tract map.
“We were really surprised to find out (Assil) had come back with this proposal,” Anderson, who is the zone director of the area that includes South Barrington, told The Argonaut. “We thought that we had a deal in place.”
Rosendahl said that he would back his constituents as they seek answers to the commission’s approval of the environmental review.
“I’m totally against the project as it is currently being proposed,” the councilman said. “To assault the neighborhood with that kind of project is just wrong.”
Other Mar Vista residents take issue with what they feel is tantamount to tossing out the previously negotiated agreement between the three parties involved.
“I feel that the ‘good faith agreement’ that was reached last year between the developer, the community council and (Rosendahl’s office) has been completely ignored,” asserted Bill Koontz, who lives north of Assil’s buildings.
Planning Director Gail Goldberg did not return calls for comment as of Argonaut press time.
Tina Pollard, a real estate agent, said that one of the biggest aftereffects of the development could be much more traffic in an already dense area, as well as the availability of street parking.
“A lot of these homeowners associations have very stringent rules about the condition of your vehicle and the number of parking spaces within the development, so parking on the street could become problematic for residents who live in the (nearby) apartments,” Pollard, a Mar Vista native, noted.
“This is a project that is completely wrong for the neighborhood, given its size, scope and density,” Rosendahl added.
The North Westdale Homeowners Association is also supporting the appeal.
“We agree with the Westdale Homeowners Association that this project would forever destroy the neighborhood character of Barrington (Avenue), and approving this development would only encourage additional projects of this scope and size,” wrote Anthony X. Sanelli, president of the North Westdale Homeowners Association.
Both associations are within the community council’s boundaries.
Koontz, who like Anderson is a member of the community council, agrees with Sanelli.
“This project would open the door to other developers doing just the same thing,” he said.
Sanelli also touched upon the potential environmental hazards that Assil’s proposed project could bring.
“A project of this magnitude only serves to overburden a community that is already choked with traffic arteries and pollutants from road vehicles as well as air traffic,” he wrote in a letter to the commission. “In addition, replacing affordable housing for renters with a 92-unit condominium project clearly signals that the rights of renters are not a priority.”
Rosendahl has been an outspoken advocate for more affordable housing on the Westside, and Koontz believes the 92-unit condo proposal could actually take away units where senior citizens reside.
“I think (Rosendahl and I) both agree that we are in need of affordable housing here on the Westside, but this project actually takes away affordable rental units and crams double the number of high-end condos down our throats,” he said.
Pollard believes that a project with this amount of density is bound to create more traffic and congestion at busy intersections a few blocks away, such as National and Sepulveda Boulevards and Sawtelle Boulevard and National.
“This project will definitely impact the surrounding intersections as well,” she said.
Anderson believes that it is her responsibility to stand up on behalf of her constituents.
“As a zone director, it’s important to understand what the community wants,” said Anderson, who will be seeking to replace Assemblyman Ted Lieu in the 53rd District next year. Lieu, who is serving his last term in the Assembly, is running for attorney general.
Koontz said that the community council trusted Assil to honor the previous agreement and now is being penalized for believing that negotiated position in September would be honored.
“Unfortunately we took him at his word and didn’t feel the need to get anything in writing from him,” Koontz, who is also the zone director for his neighborhood, lamented. “I guess you just can’t trust anyone anymore.”
An employee in Assil’s West Los Angeles real estate office told The Argonaut that he was out of the country and unavailable for comment.