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Westwood Developer Plans to Seek Exemption From Construction Ban

July 27, 1986|PETER PAE | Times Staff Writer

A Westwood apartment building developer plans to ask the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday to exempt his project from a six-month moratorium aimed at giving residents time to establish a historic preservation zone.

Amnon Kawa, owner of AMI Builders, wants to demolish five apartment buildings and build a three-story complex in the 1200 block of Devon Avenue.

But residents want to preserve what they call the "unique character" of the neighborhood by having it designated a historic preservation zone.

The council approved a six-month building moratorium in February to give residents time to seek the designation. The six-month period will end Aug. 14, and the City Council is considering extending the moratorium for another six months.

Historic status provides design control to ensure that restoration and new construction is compatible with the area's architectural integrity and cultural values.

'A Gross Injustice'

"It is a gross injustice," Kawa said. "I will fight to build on my property until I bleed."

According to Kawa, the moratorium is discriminatory. "I can understand if people don't want you to develop on it. But it is unfair to have a moratorium after one buys property with good intentions to build on it."

Kawa said he will request a hardship exemption that will allow him to proceed with construction plans he started before the moratorium was imposed. "I have invested $2.5 million into the project with nothing to show for it. Now that's a hardship," he said.

Sandy Brown, director of Friends of Westwood, which represents 400 households, said the hardship exemption would undermine the Westwood Community Plan that is being drafted. "Until the plan is completed sometime in January, 1987, no exemptions to the moratorium should be allowed," she said.

Traffic Problems Cited

Friends of Westwood and several homeowner groups in Westwood fear an increase in traffic and parking problems if development occurs in the Devon area. They favor the moratorium and intend to support the historical zoning request. "Any increase in the density of the area will be highly undesirable," Brown said.

"It doesn't make any sense when they talk about traffic and parking problems," Kawa said. "Devon Avenue is one of the widest residential streets in the city. The only people who will drive through will be residents, and I am giving the buildings a 3-1 parking ratio (three parking spaces for each dwelling unit)."

Catherine Rich, a tenant in one of the buildings owned by Kawa, said she asked for the moratorium as soon as she learned that Kawa had plans to construct a new apartment. "I don't want this place to look like another Westwood Village," she said.

The two-block area south of Wilshire Boulevard and east of Beverly Glen Boulevard is an enclave of courtyard-type apartments built in the 1930s and 1940s. There are no driveways and the street is exceptionally wide for a residential area.

"The Devon area was contemplated as a commercial center," said Daniel Scott, a city planner for Los Angeles. "However, in 1925 when UCLA chose the current site on the Westwood-Beverly Hill location, the Devon plan was abandoned and work began on Westwood Village near the campus."

Common Courtyards

A historical survey completed by the city planning office states that most of the structures were designed by Allen Ruoff, who was a "strong proponent of the small home and the beauty of simple, honest construction."

"Ruoff and other contractors maximized the amount of common space by orienting the buildings towards each other on the lots, providing for a central landscaped courtyard," the survey states.

"You can find these kinds of buildings interpersed with other buildings in the city. But you will not find them in a group like it is here," said Rich, who has been working to preserve the character of the area since March.

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