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Silver Lake-Echo Park Zone Change Advances

October 23, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Advocates of slow growth say they won a significant victory last week when the Los Angeles Planning Commission unanimously approved new zoning for the Silver Lake-Echo Park district. The new zoning allows about half the population growth that would have been possible under a previous proposal.

"It's certainly going in the right direction," said Jim Grant, a representative of the Echo Park Renters and Homeowners Assn. He and other residents successfully argued that development should be curbed because of the hilly terrain and narrow, winding streets.

City planners estimate that 81,000 people live in the district. The new zoning and accompanying amendments to the district's General Plan will allow construction to increase population to about 96,180. That would be 2% more than allowed in the existing General Plan, but is half the increase that planners proposed in July.

'Reflects Wishes of the People'

The change "certainly reflects the wishes of the people in the community," said King Woods, the Planning Department's hearing officer on the matter. "They support slower growth in Silver Lake, probably more so than in other areas of the city."

The plan' amendments and zoning maps now go to the City Council's Planning and Environment Committee and then to the full council for final review. They can be changed at both steps.

A new, fairly restrictive General Plan for Silver Lake-Echo Park was adopted in 1984 as a guide to development. Homeowner groups hoped that actual lot-by-lot zoning would be quickly changed to match the plan, but old zoning that would have allowed as many as 195,000 people in the area remained on the books, causing much confusion and a series of lawsuits between builders and no-growth advocates.

A coalition of homeowner groups from around Los Angeles sued the city and successfully argued that state law requires that zoning be brought into conformity with the 35 district plans.

In January, 1985, Superior Court Judge John L. Cole ordered the city to change all its zoning and, three months later, the City Council reluctantly adopted an ordinance requiring builders to comply with the district plans until the zoning is changed. Now, zoning is being changed throughout the city to approximate growth levels allowed in the plans.

The first report on new zoning in Silver Lake-Echo Park was issued by a city consultant in July and was criticized by homeowner groups because it would have sharply increased allowable growth over the plan's recommendations in more than 200 locations.

According to Grant, the first report treated the area as if it had flat terrain and a grid-like street pattern. But, he said, city planners were "generally receptive" to suggestions that Silver Lake-Echo Park "deserved special consideration" because of its hills, its diverse population and its many older homes.

'A Great Variety'

"There is great variety here on a lot of levels. In architecture, in affluence, in ethnicity. The job is to keep that diversity and charm," said Grant, who was a member of the advisory panel that wrote the 1984 district plan.

"The closer we are to the plan as adopted, the better-served we are," Grant said. "That's not to say the original plan is perfect in all respects, but to my knowledge it is the most accurate . . . expression of the community."

Alita Hanger, an officer of the Silver Lake Residents Assn., said of the zoning approved by the Planning Commission: "I think it came out pretty well."

Woods, the city planner, said a few property owners who had wanted to develop apartments or commercial structures on their land favored keeping the more permissive zoning proposed in the July report. But, he said, "in most cases, areas were zoned down."

The Silver Lake-Echo Park planning district is about seven square miles, generally bounded on the south by Temple Street and the southern boundary of Elysian Park, on the north and east by the Los Angeles River, and on the west by Hoover Street and Hyperion Avenue.

The report adopted by the commission also says that many of the public facilities in Silver Lake-Echo Park are old and inadequate, but it recommends against any new public-works projects that would require demolition of housing.

"Considering the tremendous amount of displacement that has occurred through freeway construction, street widening and institutional expansion, any further displacement is discouraged," the report said. Instead, the report calls for rebuilding facilities.

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