Despite the heated objections of about 50 residents, the Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Environment Committee on Tuesday voted in favor of a zone change that would allow construction of 22 condominium units on a pristine hillside in Highland Park.
But the committee ordered developer Michael Simms of Highland Park to widen Avenue 66, the street that residents will use to gain access to the property. The committee also ordered Simms to build a second road to the property, to be used for emergency access only.
Jeanmarie Hance, a planning deputy for Councilman Richard Alatorre, who represents Highland Park, said he favors the development because he believes it will improve the neighborhood.
"We feel like we have a good plan and enough controls over the project to ensure it will be a good project," Hance said.
Alatorre's backing is likely to be an important factor when the project goes to the full council for its expected approval.
A group of nearby residents led by Michelle Minch argued that the development would cause crowding in schools and create traffic problems.
Residents also expressed their concern about the developer's plan to remove 63,000 cubic yards of earth--more than one-third of the hillside, according to opponents--and take out about 25 large trees.
Minch, whose home lies at the end of Avenue 66 next to the hillside, said she will sue the city if the zoning change goes through. Unless Mayor Tom Bradley disagrees, the council's decision will be final.
"It's very frustrating. I think I could have gotten up there and said, 'There's a toxic dump under the site,' and no one would have paid any attention," Minch said after the hearing. The committee vote was 2 to 0, with Councilwoman Pat Russell absent.
Alatorre's office opposed a project submitted last year by Simms that called for a 34- to 37-unit condominium complex, Hance said. But, after negotiating with residents and the developer, the councilman decided to support construction of 22 one- and two-story detached condominiums built to look like single-family homes, Hance said.
In February, the city's Planning Department recommended construction of just 17 single-story units, but its recommendation was overturned by the Planning Commission, which raised the number of units back to 22 and approved the two-story design.