The Public Works Committee of the Los Angeles City Council has approved a swap that would resolve more than a year of controversy by allowing a private developer to trade land in Highland Park for a city-owned parcel in Hollywood.
If approved by the full council, the swap will settle a battle between Los Angeles developer Brian Weiss and a group of Highland Park residents who banded together to oppose an apartment building Weiss had proposed for the site. The swap will also give the city land needed to improve what city officials have called a dangerous and substandard ramp to the Pasadena Freeway.
"We're very pleased. It avoids a devastating situation for everyone around," said Diane Alexander, president of Residents and Others for Highland Park.
Under the proposal, Weiss will give the City of Los Angeles three parcels in a hollow northwest of the Pasadena Freeway between Avenues 48 and 52, which would be used, in part, to enlarge the southbound on-ramp at Avenue 52. The land at one time was the Union Pacific Railroad right of way.
In exchange, Weiss will acquire a larger, city-owned parcel, now used as a parking lot, at 1117 Wilcox Place in Hollywood and will pay the city $18,000, the difference in the assessed value of the two lots.
Weiss was unavailable for comment last week.
Discussions of the swap began more than a year ago, shortly after Weiss announced plans to build a 92-unit apartment building on land he owned in a low-income housing area of Highland Park that local residents referred to as "the Hole."
Weiss applied for a zone change and a General Plan amendment, but withdrew his applications after neighbors protested. They said the increased density would increase traffic, crowd schools and lead to more crime.
Councilman Joel Wachs also opposed the project, saying the site is too close to the Pasadena Freeway for apartments.
City officials said Weiss has agreed to sell the Wilcox lot for $373,000 to Robertson Honda, a car dealership on nearby Santa Monica Boulevard. The dealership now leases the lot from the city to provide parking for more than 90 employees, according to Rebecca Logue, an aide to Councilman Michael Woo, who represents Hollywood.
The Wilcox lot is zoned for commercial development but Logue said Robertson Honda plans to maintain it as a parking lot. If the dealership later decides to build on the site, it must preserve the same number of on-site parking spots to minimize the area's chronic parking problem, Logue said.
She said the city has wanted to sell the lot for some time but hesitated to put it up for auction, fearing that a new owner would build there.
The freeway ramp project, which is expected to cost about $750,000, has been placed on a priority waiting list for state funds.