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Appeal Fails, Way Clear for 45-Unit Echo Park Project

August 21, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Capping a two-year controversy, the state Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of an Echo Park residents' group trying to block construction of a 45-unit apartment building on Morton Avenue.

The court action means that the builder, Morton Avenue Associates of North Hollywood, can proceed with the project, which is expected to be completed early next year.

Neighbors of the proposed building maintain its size violates Los Angeles' General Plan and that its tenants will clog the narrow hillside street with traffic. Asking that the building permit be rescinded, they fought a losing battle before city panels, in Superior Court and the state Court of Appeal.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision not to hear the case lets stand the Court of Appeal decision in June in favor of the developer and the city.

"I feel the citizens of the neighborhood have really been shafted," said Katharine Tripp, whose house is next to the construction site. "We suddenly find that we have no rights."

Tripp said that she and other residents are considering moving out of the neighborhood because of the building, to be located at 1850 Morton Ave., near the intersection of Echo Park Avenue. "All the reasons I bought the house for no longer exist--the peace and quiet, the country atmosphere," said Tripp, co-chairwoman of the Elysian Heights Residents Assn.

Told of Tripp's comment, Allan Cooper, attorney for the developer, responded: "I don't believe the presence of our building is going to materially diminish the value of their property or make it a less attractive or less accessible neighborhood."

Site work on the project was begun before the city, under a court order in a broad zoning case, started to bring its zoning maps for the Silver Lake-Echo Park area into conformity with the newer and much more restrictive General Plan. The General Plan would allow only a 12-unit building on the site.

Both the builder and the neighbors say they would have accepted a compromise on the size of the project. However, both accuse the other of not really wanting to settle out of court.

The dispute has left the neighborhood group at least $7,000 in debt with legal fees after already having paid about $10,000 to lawyers, according to members. The association has scheduled a fund-raising dinner Sept. 19 at the Grace Simons Lodge in Elysian Park.

Ronald Flesch, a general partner in Morton Park Associates, said construction delays because of the court cases have added at least $250,000 to the cost of the project, which he estimated will now cost close to $2 million. He said he also has large legal bills to pay. "I'm as much a victim as those neighbors say they are," Flesch said.

Although conceding defeat, leaders of the residents' group say they hope to remain a political force during hearings on zoning in Echo Park. "We hope to alert some other people about what can happen," member Marian Teeter said. "There are many other places in the Echo Park area that need to be under surveillance."

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