LAKEWOOD — Bob Munro has two words to describe the city-backed proposal to build a senior citizen apartment complex next to the contracting company he represents: "Lousy planning."
Munro, a spokesman for Sully-Miller Contracting Co., 3000 South St., has been waging a low-key battle with the Lakewood City Council to stop construction of the $13.3-million federally subsidized Heritage Park housing project. It would be located on a four-acre vacant lot near South Street and Downey Avenue, only yards from where Sully-Miller operates a tractor and truck storage yard.
But James O. Pittman, Sully-Miller vice president, says that with last week's council approval of a zoning change at the site and the first of several reviews by the Lakewood Planning Commission, the battle is over for Sully-Miller.
'An Imminent Thing'
"I know it's an imminent thing," Pittman said after making a "final plea" to the council Tuesday night during a public hearing. "We're just going to have to live with it."
The company opposes the project, Pittman said, because it fears that elderly residents who eventually move into the garden apartments at Heritage Park will object to Sully-Miller's early morning truck noise.
"We have certainly tried to be good neighbors, but we can't guarantee that we won't create noise," Pittman said. He predicted that "inevitable complaints" by elderly residents could eventually force the company to move.
Pittman said he has experience to prove his point. In San Juan Capistrano and Carson, where housing was built alongside existing Sully-Miller sites, persistent complaints have caused the company to spend millions of dollars in noise reduction efforts.
Financed by Bond Sales
Calmark Development Corp., which proposed the project a year ago with Culver City-based Corporate Fund of Housing, plans to build seven two-story buildings nestled behind the newly built Lakewood Medical Center building. Low- and moderate-income Lakewood seniors will pay between $332 and $575 in monthly rent for the 201 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The project is being financed through the sale of tax-exempt municipal bonds issued by the county, said Michael Costa, Calmark senior vice president. Heritage Park is one of five senior housing projects Calmark is planning to build in the county beginning this summer.
The other projects are in Diamond Bar, Whittier. La Verne and Monrovia.
Last month, many residents of nearby Wolfe Street joined Sully-Miller's opposition to the project. They feared the complex would add to traffic problems along South Street and would loom over their block of single-story homes.
But assurances from representatives of Calmark that the design will be aesthetic and will not interfere with residents' privacy led many of them to now support construction.
'A Win-Win Situation'
"We were really against it," said Janet Grover, who has lived at her 3225 Wolfe St. address for 31 years and has seen nearby South Street transformed from empty land and dairy farms into a mix of mini-malls and auto repair shops. "Now I believe it's a win-win situation."
City officials agree. With 20% of Lakewood's estimated 75,000 residents over age 55, and little developable land left in the city, the project is needed, city spokesman Donald Waldie said. He added that the project would also be a boost to Lakewood's retail industry.
"The driving force here is service to our residents and preservation of our local commercial base," Waldie said.
Still, there is some continuing opposition to the project by homeowners who argue that the site is inappropriate for an apartment complex.
Truck Noise Cited
William Glazewski of 4920 Downey Ave. told the City Council Tuesday night that large trucks roll along South Street most of the day and occasionally park along the thoroughfare at night, exceeding acceptable noise levels.
However, Wendy Lockwood of Environmental Science Associates testified that residents living at the complex would not be affected adversely by noise coming from either the Sully-Miller storage yard or street truck noise.
Lockwood, who took noise measurements at the site two weeks ago, said that although outside decibel levels recorded were sometimes 20 points higher than normal, inside noise levels would be lowered by normal building construction.
"I assume you expect the elderly people to all keep their windows closed," said Roy Pepper of 5322 Hershel St. in response to Lockwood's testimony.