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Protests May Slow Lawndale Plan to Change Building Rules

August 30, 1987|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

Attorney Jonathan Stein of Manhattan Beach, a budding developer, purchased two lots on 171st Street in Lawndale last month with the idea of building five three-bedroom condominiums.

The project is the first of 12 he hopes to build in the little city, which he sees as fertile for growth because surrounding cities have reached or are approaching maximum development.

But Stein's plans may not be realized because of proposed changes in residential building standards, which he and some other property owners consider "anti-development."

"The proposed changes would effectively down-zone" all residential properties zoned for two units, said Stein, noting that a proposal to increase required parking spaces from two to three for units with three or more bedrooms might kill his project because he does not have enough land.

"The city got caught in the coattails of an anti-growth movement," he said, alluding to anti-development drives in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and elsewhere.

Council Hearing Slated

City officials say the changes are not intended to discourage development but are needed to update antiquated parking requirements and make building standards consistent with surrounding cities.

The proposed changes are scheduled to go before the City Council on Thursday as part of a gradual overhaul of the city general plan and zoning ordinances--the basic maps for development--which have been in place with few modifications since 1959, when the city was incorporated. But because of protests by property owners and developers, the Planning Commission, which had approved the changes, has asked to review them again.

The city's parking and traffic problems have become worse as building booms in neighboring Hawthorne and Torrance put more vehicles on Hawthorne Boulevard, which cuts through the three cities.

And while Hawthorne and Torrance have widened streets and modified building standards, Lawndale has remained basically a bedroom community, with nearly all of its commercial development along Hawthorne Boulevard. Narrow streets continue to crisscross the city, which has a population of about 25,300 and is less than two square miles--the second highest population density in the South Bay. (Hermosa Beach is slightly higher.)

Planning Director Nancy Owens said much of the yearlong review will focus on cleaning up language to make city ordinances consistent with state law. She said there will be few zoning or other land-use changes.

The City Council has already adopted more stringent parking requirements for hotels and other commercial developments without much opposition from developers.

The biggest change in those rules was the elimination of compact-car parking spaces, which developers say will reduce the size of future buildings by 10% to 15%.

A compact space is 7 1/2 feet by 15 feet, or 112 1/2 square feet, while a standard parking space measures 9 feet by 20 feet, or 180 square feet, City Planner Kendra Morries said.

Some residents at a City Council public hearing Aug. 20 complained that the city was excluding its own civic center expansion project from the new ban on compact-car spaces.

The project, which will increase the current civic center from about 16,000 square feet to about 30,000 square feet, will designate 62 of its 208 parking spaces for compact cars.

"The city keeps finding itself exempt from its own laws. It's a double standard," said Herman Weinstein, a longtime resident and frequent council critic.

Assistant City Manager Paula Cone said the city has included compact spaces in the civic center project because there is a shortage of available land surrounding City Hall. She said the city is seeking to purchase any lots that become available near the civic center to provide additional full-size parking spaces.

Not Much Opposition

Owens said she wasn't surprised by the absence of much opposition from developers to the new commercial parking requirements.

"I think most commercial developers would say, 'Yes, you're right,' " Owens said. "These same developers have built in surrounding cities which have the higher, more appropriate parking requirements."

Pete Delgado, director of construction for Tumanjan and Tumanjan Investments Inc. in Torrance, a major development company in the South Bay, agreed that Lawndale's parking requirements have been less stringent than other cities.

"It's long overdue," said Delgado, who is building a four-story, 75,000-square-foot office and retail project on Hawthorne Boulevard near the San Diego Freeway under the old parking requirements.

He said that developers will simply make up the loss in structure size by paying less for land in Lawndale. Delgado noted that the changes will probably have a more significant effect on developers with small projects.

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