Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 – 11:57 AM
Plans for a four-story condominium development located partially in Beverly Hills and partially in Los Angeles, slated to replace a three-story 1930s apartment building in a potential historic district will be on the City Council agenda today, facing a groundswell of grassroots opposition from local residents.
Concerned Citizens of Beverly Hills and Beverly Grove have created a website with a petition at www.preserveoakhurst.org in protest of the proposed development, with the hopes of preserving the historic neighborhood of early Beverly Hills. The historic preservation of the district has the support of the Los Angeles Conservancy.
The project first drew attention when the group filed a Writ of Mandate challenging the approval by the City of Los Angeles that would have resulted in the demolition of the structure that fronts in Beverly Hills. Opposition to the project came on many fronts, including the eviction of long-time, at-risk residents on fixed incomes and height and density issues that vary from Beverly Hills to Los Angeles. Perhaps the most significant issue is the preservation of the neighborhood’s special character.
Beverly Hills has recognized the architect, Edith Northman, as a Master Architect, whose structures are subject to review by the Cultural Heritage Commission prior to demolition. The buildings represent three of nine properties on the east side of the 300-block of North Oakhurst that have been recognized by both cities surveys as part of a potential historic district. Northman was one of the only female licensed architects working in Los Angeles in 1927. A survey of the Historic Resources Group for the City of Beverly Hills said, “The North Oakhurst Residential Historic District is significant as a notable concentration of Period Revival style multi-family residences of the 1930s. Various local architects and builders contributed to the district. . . One hundred percent of the residences contribute to the district’s significance, making the North Oakhurst Residential Historic District a cohesive representation of the Period Revival style multi-family residences.”
The project was approved at the Central Area Planning Commission in Los Angeles last March, and a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appeal was filed by resident Steve Mayer. “In failing to evaluate this proposed project through an EIR (Environmental Impact Report), the City of Los Angeles, as the Lead Agency, is in violation of CEQA and will be vulnerable if the project is approved through the current MND (Mitigated Negative Declaration,” said the appeal.
The proposed project will be several feet higher than neighboring buildings, and out of character with the neighborhood, say residents. Critics say it will open the door for developers to evict other long-term residents and build more such developments. “You can’t build a project like this, especially one that is fundamentally out of scope with the neighborhood, without adopting mitigation measures for the City of Beverly Hills. The bottom line is that the developer needs to mitigate the impacts to the Beverly Hills and that includes a reduction in height and incorporation of the historical elements of the existing buildings,” said Hall.
The issue of preserving neighborhoods in Los Angeles has become so heated that residents have formed The Coalition to Preserve LA and the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a grassroots initiative that seeks to reform the LA Planning and land-use system. Last January, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the appointment of a new Planning Director, Vincent Bertoni. Bertoni, who served briefly as planning director in Beverly Hills, was a citizen activist to preserve his own neighborhood. On Tuesday, the Beverly Hills City Council will review the Planning Commission’s decision on the proposed project.
The first City Council Study Session for the New Year will include a licensing agreement for a line of casual Beverly Hills apparel, waived fees for upcoming City Council Candidate’s forums, a discussions regarding the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act” and problems with the United States Post Office and poor postal services today.