An Open Letter To Our Councilman About Development of the Grinder Lot

Word is out in the development community that Westchester is commutable to Silicon Beach and property is cheap (ok, compared to other westside communities). The proliferation of multi-family units is mind-boggling.

I’ve been following one such proposed development extra closely because it falls within the boundaries of Kentwood Home Guardians, the HOA whose Board of Directors I sit on. The project, proposed for 8521 Sepulveda Blvd. (the site of the former Grinder restaurant), has been making the rounds of the neighborhood groups, trying to drum up support for the project ahead of City review.

Do I think the project is too tall for the neighborhood? Yes. Do I think this is a project to block? In the current political climate, no.

Let me explain.

In recent years, our State legislators have taken it upon themselves to legislate zoning density at the city level, ostensibly to alleviate California’s housing shortage. The problem is they sit in Sacramento and couldn’t possibly know what is going on in every city in the State. One recent law gives developers rights to build extra density beyond what city zoning laws allow, if there is a small, prescribed number of “affordable” units included in the project. In the case of the Grinder lot, the developer is proposing 87 units with eight units set aside for low income tenants.

By law, only 1/2 parking spot is required per unit, the proposed building towers over adjacent single family homes and there is no room for on-site for delivery and moving trucks. I think all of this sucks for our community, but according to the developer, State law allows 103 units on this lot. The developer has also reconfigured parking to provide 80 spots (too few for sure, but double the original plan).

So, while I find this project problematic, I’m mostly happy that it’s being built on Sepulveda and with 25 fewer units than could be built. There is currently a law being considered in Sacramento (SB 827) that will allow projects like this to be built up to 1/2 mile into our residential neighborhoods. That will be a disaster. I’d rather support reasonable (-ish) density along major boulevards and save major fighting for when a project like this comes to the church lot on my corner (or your corner) deep in our single family neighborhoods.

So, with this in mind, I wrote the letter below to our City Councilman with ideas to improve the project, but not block it. I invite you to write, also (email is councilmember.bonin@lacity.org). Cut and paste my letter, if you want. 🙂 Above all else, please join me in paying closer attention to what our State legislators are up to with respect to local zoning, paying particular attention to the disastrous SB 827.


Hi Mike! I am writing to you in my personal capacity, not as a representative of Kentwood Home Guardians. 🙂

I’ve now sat through six presentations on the Grinder project, including two private meetings as President of KHG, two KHG community meetings, the first PLUC presentation and the ultimate Neighborhood Council vote of support for the project. While I generally like Caladan’s proposed use for the lot, I continue to see a couple of project points that present major issues, and I hope you will scrutinize them before lending your own support to the project.

First is the developer’s proposed use of Manchester for deliveries and move-in’s. He is proposing that large trucks will park just west of the project to load/unload. As you’re probably aware, there is already a lot of activity in that area – ingress/egress from the gas station and Jiffy Lube, as well as at least one bus stop. Additionally, I was reminded the other day when I turned west on Manchester from Sepulveda just prior to sunset, that drivers can be blinded by the sun on Manchester in the late afternoon. Add the high volume of traffic making a left onto Sepulveda Westway to get to Trader Joe’s, and I believe you have a recipe for disaster. I should also mention that large trucks (including trash trucks) will surely extend into the bike lane. This is all a recipe for disaster and is antithetical to the goals of Vision Zero.

In the perfect world, the developer would be forced to reconfigure the project to make space for loading and unloading on-premises. At a minimum, the developer should be required to severely restrict move-in and delivery times to minimize risks.

My second major concern is the Sepulveda-facing lobby. Uber drivers will undoubtedly try to stop on Sepulveda to drop and pick up passengers because that will be the address of the building. More concerning is mail delivery. An address on Sepulveda will be a virtual guarantee that postal workers will stop on Sepulveda to deliver mail. I was personally treated to a major slowdown last night coming out of Santa Monica at 6:30 pm, caused by a postal truck blocking one of two lanes on a busy commuter arterial while delivering mail to an apartment building. Please work to get the building assigned an address on the Manchester side of the building.

I also have concerns about the shortage of parking in the building. While the developer has represented that he will do all he can to prevent access to 85th Place in Kentwood by pedestrians from the building trying to access cars parked on the street, that doesn’t prevent them from parking across Manchester in the CVS lot or across Sepulveda in those residential neighborhoods (neighbors without a homeowners association to advocate for them). I don’t have a suggestion for this problem, but it’s going to be a problem. 80 parking spots for 84 expensive units (read “two people per unit to afford the rent”) is not going to keep all tenant cars in the building. The developer has offered to pay a couple of years’ fees for a permit zone on 85th Place, but I believe that 2/3 of the neighbors are going to have to agree to it, correct?

After listening to several presentations and all the public comments that came with that, the three concerns above have surfaced (in my mind) as the biggest impediments to the success of Caladan’s proposed use of the lot. Please give some consideration to what can be changed to the mutual success of all involved.

Thank you!!
Tracy

 

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