Members of a Los Angeles City Council committee told developers this week that they will have to provide lower rents for UCLA students and extra parking if they want to build large apartment complexes in North Westwood Village.
The Planning and Environment Committee, acting on the recommendation of Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, told five developers that it would not recommend council approval of their projects without the changes.
Yaroslavsky told the committee that students are being driven out of the university neighborhood bounded by Gayley, Veteran and Le Conte avenues. Lower-priced apartments in the square-mile area are being replaced by large, luxury complexes, Yaroslavsky said.
The council in August attempted to slow the trend by approving a moratorium on demolition of old buildings and construction of new units in the north village, which includes UCLA's fraternity row.
But five builders came to the committee meeting Tuesday to ask for an exemption from the moratorium so they can continue with projects. All five said they had spent time and money on their plans before the moratorium was approved.
Yaroslavsky recommended that the committee and the full City Council approve the projects, which include a total of 286 new apartments to replace 61, only if the builders meet certain requirements.
He called for all new apartments in the area to conform to R-3 zoning, which allows only half the number of units permitted under the existing R-4 zoning. The councilman said that the more restrictive R-3 zoning will become permanent about a year from now when the city completes a revision of the Westwood Community Plan.
He said if the five developers want to proceed with the larger projects, they should:
- Reserve 25% of all their apartments for student housing, to be rented at 80% of the amount charged for standard apartments in the same building.
- Provide as much parking as the city requires for condominium complexes, roughly two parking spaces for each unit.
- Make new apartments available to tenants from the old buildings and help pay relocation costs for those who are forced to move.
Howard Finn, chairman of the council committee, said he supported the guidelines laid out by Yaroslavsky, whose district includes Westwood.
"We can do something dramatic to provide affordable housing in this area," Yaroslavsky said. "We have got to get back on the track of providing university-related housing."
He said the number of students living within a mile of campus is 70% lower than it was 15 years ago.
All five developers argued that their plans were well under way when the building moratorium was approved and said they should be allowed to continue without making the changes suggested by Yaroslavsky. They said delaying development would cost thousands of dollars in lost rent for apartments that have already been vacated.
The developers are Eugene St. John, Dr. Teleb M. Elcott, North Village Partners, Laskey-Weil Co. and Westwood Properties Inc.
Finn said that he expects construction to go ahead when the developers come back with revised plans.
"If the developers can help solve the problems in the area we don't want to be harmful to them," he said. "The community is going to change but we just want it to change in the right direction. . . . (They can go ahead) if they are willing to provide sufficient off-street parking and lower-cost housing for students."
The builders agreed to return to the Planning and Environment Committee in one to six weeks with revised plans. The committee, composed of Finn and council members Pat Russell and Robert Farrell, must approve the exemptions before they go to the full City Council for final approval.
Four nearby residents suggested that exemptions to the moratorium be denied.
"We don't feel there are real hardships on the developers," said Bob Breall, president of the North Westwood Village Residents Assn. "We feel the real hardship is on the community." Breall said traffic and a shortage of parking are among the problems resulting from overdevelopment in the neighborhood.
Breall asked that the moratorium be enforced until the Westwood Community Plan has been rewritten to permanently decrease the zoning.