A Los Angeles City Council committee has voted unanimously to block construction of a 222-unit apartment complex on the site of the old Monte Sano Hospital in Silver Lake.
The three-member Planning and Environment Committee on Tuesday recommended that the full council permanently take away the developer's exemption from a moratorium on building projects that exceed densities outlined in the community plan for Silver Lake and Echo Park.
The issue must go before the City Council for a final vote. That hearing has not been scheduled.
The council had granted the exemption to the developer, UIC Group (USA), in January on the motion of then-Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson, whose 13th District included Silver Lake. A month later, the council, in an unprecedented reversal, suspended the exemption at the urging of the Los Angeles Board of Education, which expressed fears that crowding of schools would be aggravated by such a large apartment complex.
Woo Against Project
Councilman Mike Woo, who defeated Stevenson in a hotly contested race in April, promised in his campaign to try to get UIC's exemption revoked. Woo and a group of his constituents complained that the proposed apartment complex at the corner of Glendale Boulevard and Waverly Drive is too large for the neighborhood and is not consistent with a community plan that calls for a maximum of 84 housing units.
"I haven't seen or heard anything outside of revoking the exemption that I'd be open to," said Councilwoman Pat Russell, who serves on the committee along with Councilmen Howard Finn and Robert Farrell. Russell said she determined that a 222-unit apartment complex would not be compatible in the area after visiting the site of the proposed project and touring the neighborhood.
UIC, with former Los Angeles City Atty. Burt Pines serving as its attorney, contended that the company had invested $3.9 million in the Silver Lake project since purchasing the 3 1/2-acre lot in 1980. Income from the large complex is needed to offset land and construction costs, UIC argued, adding that it would be unfair to deny permission for the project after the council previously approved it.
"I think we have a true hardship here that was recognized once by the council and should be recognized again," UIC President Paul Alanis told the committee. Alanis said after the hearing that he expects the City Council to go along with the committee's recommendation. He said his company has no other construction plan, but now will try to develop the most economical alternative project that will meet community planning guidelines.
Besides voting on the moratorium exemption, the council committee decided to consider a motion by Woo to change the zoning for the Monte Sano site and further restrict development there. Woo's motion, which is not expected to go before the committee for at least 75 days, would allow a maximum of 64 units on the site.