HAWTHORNE — Rather than decrease density in the Moneta Gardens area as recommended in a 9-year-old study, the Planning Commission is pushing for zoning changes that would allow much of the industrial land there to be converted for more apartment buildings.
The proposed changes in the city's General Plan for Moneta Gardens--a 30-block chunk of southeast Hawthorne with the largest concentration of apartment buildings in the city--have not yet been approved by the City Council. But the council last week took the first step toward increasing residential density by allowing zone changes along Cordary Avenue and on one lot on West 139th Street that will accommodate construction of apartments.
The biggest of the proposed changes in the plan would occur along 139th Street, where both sides of the street between Prairie Avenue and just east of Kornblum Avenue are currently zoned for industrial uses. The change would make nearly all of that land available for high-density residential uses.
The Planning Commission and the Planning Department say the changes are intended merely to make the zoning in the area uniform and to eliminate the intrusion of industry in what has become predominantly a residential area.
"The plan's objective is to minimize land-use conflicts created by mixed uses," said Michael L. Goodson, a city planner.
But critics say the change in zoning would only make a bad situation worse. "I would rather have that industry there than cram more people in," said Eleanore Carlson, 47, a 20-year resident of Moneta Gardens.
A public hearing on the proposed plan change was held Nov. 10--without any public comment--but a decision was postponed to a still undetermined date because the city is interested in purchasing a lot in the area for senior citizen housing.
(City Manager R. Kenneth Jue would not identify the specific site, but said that a change in zoning before the city purchased it could constitute a conflict of interest.)
Because the public hearing was held, the city is not required to advertise when the issue will come back before the council. Jue said it probably will be reconsidered before the end of the year.
The building boom in Moneta Gardens--an area roughly bounded by Prairie and Rosecrans avenues and El Segundo and Crenshaw boulevards--began in the 1960s when a series of annexations from the county brought the area into Hawthorne. The one- and two-acre lots were relatively inexpensive and large enough for construction of apartments.
Lower Rent, Near Jobs
The area was considered ideal for rental units because of its proximity to industrial areas, particularly aerospace and high-technology companies. The lower land prices allowed for lower rents than in neighboring cities.
What resulted, however, was a mishmash of land uses. One block may contain a crumbling frame house next-door to a new apartment building. On another block, an aging trailer park sits across from a row of neatly kept stucco homes built in the 1950s.
A 1977 city-financed study of Moneta Gardens by private consultants said the neighborhood had the "classic characteristics" of land-use conflict: "noise, congestion, deteriorating structures, poorly maintained premises, nondescript image, lower levels of public improvements and a 'feeling' of neglect."
The study called for rezoning much of the area from high-density and industrial to low- and medium-density residential uses.
But Mark A. Subbotin, the city's acting planning director until he resigned Nov. 17 after being passed for the permanent job, recommended the proposed high-density changes, saying much of the area is already high density and lowering density would aggravate the mishmash.
In an Aug. 19 report, he also noted that since 1980 there has been a net increase of about 1,500 dwelling units, about a 20% increase in the area's housing stock, while only two new industrial buildings have been constructed since 1977. Half of the industrially zoned land is developed residentially on lots that are too narrow to be used for industry, he said.
Among the seven stated goals and policies for the area in the new plan are:
- Minimizing land-use conflicts created by the variety of mixed uses.
- Promoting development of commercial and industrial uses along major arteries and prohibiting the intrusion of such uses into residential areas.
- Permitting new development only when utilities and other facilities are of sufficient capacity to serve new uses.
"We are looking for zoning which reflects the emerging development pattern, while at the same time preserving the existing low- and medium-density areas," Subbotin said in his report.
None of the council members could be reached for comment, but residents' opposition to the plan has been minimal. Critics say that is because most residents are renters and only property owners must be notified of hearings.