At least five high-rise condominium projects planned for the congested Wilshire Corridor in Westwood moved one step closer to approval last week when the city Planning Commission rejected height limitations along the street.
The 4-0 commission vote means a proposed six-month moratorium on construction of more than six stories will need at least 10 votes, instead of the usual eight, when it comes before the City Council early next year.
The council's three-member Planning and Environment Committee is expected to vote on the moratorium at a meeting on Jan. 12.
The commission action dealt a blow to homeowners who have been fighting for a permanent cap of six stories on all new construction along the corridor, which extends from Glendon Avenue to the border of Beverly Hills.
"The arguments presented by the commission were not valid," said Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, a homeowners group. "The people in the community want a six-story height limit."
At their hearing on Dec. 17, commission members argued that the moratorium would be unfair to five property owners who filed plans for projects before the restrictions were in place. The projects never got beyond the planning stages because of a slump in the condo market that left many developers with millions of dollars invested in largely empty buildings.
However, a recent surge in condo sales has sparked renewed interest in development along the corridor, causing concern among residents and city officials.
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky in November proposed the moratorium to give city planners time to tighten the height and building restrictions included in the 1981 Wilshire Westwood Scenic Corridor Specific Plan.
The five projects that were approved before the 1981 restrictions were enacted are:
A 24-story 119-unit building at 10776 Wilshire Blvd., currently the site of the Century Wilshire Hotel.
The Westwood Victoria, 10727 Wilshire Blvd., a 12-story 109-unit condominium on the north side of the street between Selby and Manning avenues.
The Wilshire, 10580 Wilshire Blvd., a 27-story 97-unit condominium between Thayer and Westholme avenues.
The Parkview Wilshire, 10250 Wilshire Blvd., a 21-story 35-unit condominium east of Comstock Avenue.
A 20-story 72-unit condominium at 10390 Wilshire Blvd., between Beverly Glen Boulevard and Devon Avenue.
Two other projects, the 160-unit Park Wilshire at 10724 Wilshire Blvd. and the 135-unit Evian at 10490 Wilshire Blvd., were recently purchased after years of standing unfinished because of the condo market slump. Another project, the Dorchester at 10520 Wilshire Blvd., is under construction and is scheduled to be completed next fall.
City Planner Dan Scott said about half of the 48 existing buildings along the corridor could eventually be torn down or renovated to make way for condominium high-rises.
The renewed interest in condos is due in part to lower interest rates and a declining stock of affordable singe-family homes, according to Tom Gilleran of Gilleran Griffin Co., a Westwood real estate.
Investors were making most of the condo purchases in the early part of the decade but most of the buyers these days are homeowners looking for alternatives to apartments and single-family homes, Gilleran said.
"Condos are going back to their original popularity," he said. "We're back to where we were. We have condos that are cheaper than single-family homes in the area."