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Builder, Residents Spat Over Piece of the Rock

August 27, 1987|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

A group of Eagle Rock residents is gearing up to fight a proposed condominium complex they say would partly obscure the Eagle Rock, a 50-foot boulder and city landmark that perches above the Ventura Freeway near Figueroa Street.

"The eagle is very important to the culture and history of Eagle Rock. It's an emotional type thing . . . we don't want some apartments built in front of it," said Katie Smith, a real estate agent and past president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce.

Los Angeles developer Kenneth Bank has put funds in escrow to buy the 2 1/2-acre property, which is zoned for single-family homes. Bank said he has applied for a zoning change that would allow him to build 20 condominiums.

In an interview, he dismissed residents' fears as unfounded and said that the topography and nearby trees would conceal most of the construction.

The obstruction, if any, would be very "very, very minimal," Bank said.

Most everyone agrees that the Eagle Rock, an imposing granite boulder that nature has sculpted into the head of an eagle, is an important historic landmark that should be preserved. But some residents say anti-development forces are exaggerating the danger to exploit community fears.

Says Project Won't Block View

Dean Spurgeon, Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce president, was one of 60 people who attended a meeting called by the developer earlier this month. He said he walked away convinced that Bank's condominiums will not block any views.

"Unfortunately," Spurgeon said, many of the project's critics "haven't gone up there to see it for themselves." From his living room window, Spurgeon has a panoramic view of the boulder, he said.

Jeanmarie Hance, a planning deputy for Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alatorre, who represents Eagle Rock, said the councilman opposes any construction that would block the view. Bank plans to build near Eagle Rock View Drive and Patrician Way, on a site southeast of the rock.

Bank also has offered to give the city 65% of the rock itself, along with some nearby flatland for use as a park if the city grants the zoning change. Since the rock is a city landmark, any building plans must also be approved by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.

A second project by Bank in Eagle Rock has also aroused discussion. Bank plans to build a 106-unit apartment building on a one-acre site at Eagle Rock Boulevard near York Boulevard. Zoning permits such density, but Bank said he is also negotiating with city officials for a zoning change that would allow him to build bigger individual units.

In turn, Alatorre's office has asked that Bank install a children's play area, a room for day care and extra landscaping. Hance said the councilman would also like a say in the building's architectural design.

Some residents are unappeased by those concessions and say that, along with any big apartment complex comes more noise, traffic and crime.

Smith, the real estate broker, said: "Eagle Rock is like a little Midwestern town, and it wants to stay that way."

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