The Los Angeles Board of Zoning Appeals decided at its Tuesday meeting to wait until October to rule on a disputed hotel project in a residential area of Harbor City after the developer made a late request for the delay.
The board's vote came after more than two hours of testimony from residents and Los Angeles city officials, most of whom urged the board to overrule a zoning administrator's decision that would allow construction of the hotel in the Harbor Pines neighborhood.
The developer, Bill Freeman, asked for the delay just as he was about to present his case to the board.
Freeman said he felt ill because of hernia surgery a week ago. "If my voice appears shaky, it's because it is, if my eyes (appear) out of focus, it's because they are, and if I look like I am on drugs, it's because I am," Freeman told the board. He said he did not feel well enough to properly represent himself.
Board member Joseph D. Mandel scolded Freeman for not requesting the delay at the beginning of the hearing, but he joined the board's three other members in voting to suspend the hearing until Oct. 6.
More than 80 residents from the tree-lined neighborhood attended the hearing, which they had hoped would be the final step in their six-month effort to block construction of the hotel. While one resident acknowledged that Freeman "didn't look well," many residents decried the delay as an attempt by Freeman to wear down opposition.
"We got a lot of people on buses to come up here (to City Hall)," said Walt Bethurem, who lives across the street from Freeman's property. "Now we're all going to have to come back."
Freeman received a building permit last March for a 10-room hotel in the 1600 block of West 262nd Street near Athena Avenue. After demolishing a house on the property and digging trenches for the hotel's foundation, Freeman was ordered by the city to halt construction.
City officials said they had improperly issued the building permit because the property, while zoned for commercial use, had been designated for low-density residential development in the Wilmington-Harbor City District Plan. Under state law, the city is prohibited from issuing permits for projects that do not conform to the district plan.
Freeman appealed the decision to the city's zoning administrator, who ruled in June that Freeman should be allowed to build the hotel. Residents and harbor-area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who opposes the hotel, appealed that ruling to the zoning board.