The City Council of Culver City has approved a zone change to allow a developer to build nearly 200 apartments for senior citizens and two office buildings at the corner of Overland Avenue and Culver Boulevard, despite objections from neighbors who said they were promised that single-family homes would be built on the vacant lot.
The council voted 4 to 1 Monday to change the zoning for the seven-acre parcel across the street from Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios to allow a $30-million planned development instead.
The change will permit Goldrich, Kest & Associates Inc. to build the housing and office development, which would not have been possible under standard zoning, city officials said.
Plans call for a two-story building of 97 apartments for senior citizens, featuring common dining facilities and shared services such as transportation and recreation. A three-story building of 100 senior citizen apartments is scheduled to be built later. Two three-story office buildings and a small restaurant will complete the project.
More than 130 conditions, controlling details from the size of buildings to the widening of Overland Avenue, were attached to the zone change by the City Council.
Monday's vote was the last major obstacle to the development, which received conceptual approval from the council March 14. Only specific plans for each building need be approved before construction can begin. The first building for senior housing should be completed in about three years.
Neighbors of the proposed project and Councilman Paul Jacobs, who voted against the zoning change, said the developer had promised to build homes on the property.
"Their proposal has some merit," Jacobs said, "except for the fact that the community planned on having a single-family residential community there. The city held out that promise by means of zoning and planning decisions and the developer held out the (promise) of that kind of development through merchandising."
Jacobs said that zone changes often upset a community's expectations about development. "Zoning is changed all the time," he said. "But never in the middle of a development like this. I can't ever recall changing the zone for the benefit of the developer in the middle of the construction of a development."
Mark Bornstein, a spokesman for Goldrich, Kest, said the company originally intended to use the property to complete Studio Villa Estates, the 180-home subdivision that it began in 1979.
But Bornstein said the company felt it would be difficult to profit from the sale of more homes, because high interest rates slowed the home-buying market. The proximity of noisy Overland Avenue also made development of more homes undesirable, he said.
"Having a change in plans in not new or uncommon (for developers)," Bornstein said.
David Lazarus, who lives in Studio Villa Estates, said after the council meeting that he does not object to the senior citizen housing. "But this city does not need another commercial office center," he said. "We are surrounded by offices and it's all going to impact on traffic."
The eight-story Filmland Corporate Center, another office building, is near completion just four blocks northeast on Culver Boulevard.
Nancy Wildman, who lives in the neighborhood, told the City Council the development is too large. She said the council had "ignored and betrayed" the community by allowing developer Jonah Goldrich to change his plans.
But Bornstein and council members said that at earlier public hearings several neighbors supported the senior housing and office development.
And Bornstein said trees planted around the perimeter of the project will make it more desirable than the homes that had been planned. "There will be more privacy and seclusion for the neighbors because of the change in plans," he said.
Council members said the widening of Overland Avenue is the most important condition placed on the Goldrich development. They agreed with Councilman Richard Brundo's proposal to allow Goldrich to build the office buildings only after posting a $1-million-plus letter of credit for the cost of widening the street. If Los Angeles city and federal funds for the project are not secured, the developer's money will be used for the widening.
Goldrich will also be required to submit a letter from Los Angeles officials saying that they plan to go ahead with widening the east side of the street, which lies within Los Angeles' boundaries.
Tenants will not be allowed to move into the office buildings until Overland has two traffic lanes in each direction.