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Controls Sought : Highland Park Residents Push for Slow Growth

August 25, 1988|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Leaders of an association of 12 Highland Park neighborhood groups have formally embraced the citywide slow-growth movement, announcing their own campaign for development controls.

The Highland Park Neighborhood Assn. proposed a combination of density restrictions, historic preservation zones and design review standards.

Chairwoman Diana Barnwell said the goal of the three measures is to slow the replacement of old, single-family homes and to keep new apartment developments in tune with the historic feeling of one of the city's earliest suburbs.

At community meetings Aug. 16 and Sunday afternoon, more than 200 people signed a petition urging the Los Angeles City Council to adopt an interim control ordinance covering the residential portions of Highland Park zoned for large apartment buildings.

Design Review Board

The group, which consists of about 200 members and gained 50 more during the two meetings, also proposed creation of a design review board to be made up of architects, planners and community residents "with demonstrated concern for the neighborhood." Its approval would be required for all construction in areas zoned for large apartment complexes.

The ordinance would be intended to check unwanted development while the organization seeks to formally reduce building limits in the area through review of the Northeast Los Angeles Plan.

The review is scheduled to begin in October and could last two years, Barnwell said.

As outlined, the interim ordinance would prohibit construction of apartments of more than two stories and would require all new buildings to have roof lines consistent with those nearby, enclosed stairwells, front and side yards and landscaping.

Barnwell said the group would also like to add density limits but will wait to make them specific until it has circulated the petition door-to-door.

Need for Support

"We need to have a lot more numbers to make that fly," Barnwell said. She said the proposal will need support from council members Gloria Molina and Richard Alatorre, who represent portions of Highland Park.

Molina has offered her backing in principle but has not endorsed a specific set of guidelines, Barnwell said. A strong show of community support will allow the group to seek stiffer controls, she said.

Similar interim controls have been adopted in other parts of Los Angeles, including a restriction on mini-mall construction on portions of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock.

The Eagle Rock Assn. is seeking to broaden the restrictions in that ordinance and add another ordinance to cover Eagle Rock Boulevard.

Residential Construction

The Highland Park proposal covers only residential construction because the Highland Park neighborhood group sees the area's many historic homes, rather than its business district, facing the most immediate development pressure.

During the recent meetings, Barnwell read an hourlong prepared statement reviewing the history of Highland Park, a community stretching along the Arroyo Seco channel from Pasadena nearly to Elysian Park.

Accompanied by dozens of slides illustrating each point, Barnwell said that the area's graceful life style and historic architecture were damaged once by the post-war boom of "cell-block" apartment houses and that it is again "ripe for the picking.

"As other cities and communities in Los Angeles insist on greater zoning and design controls, developers are descending on Highland Park in great numbers," Barnwell said.

Slides showed boxy, apartment buildings virtually without yards and trees. Some of them were shown to have bare stucco walls or garish exposed staircases to the street; others nearly butted against stately turn-of-the-century houses.

"These developments all represent one theme: maximize profit; disregard the community," Barnwell said.

"The Highland Park Neighborhood Assn. is not against responsibly controlled development. We are against rapid, uncontrolled, architecturally insensitive development. . . . Keep in mind the city of Los Angeles has no design standards."

As part of its program to preserve past architectural forms, the Highland Park neighborhood group also endorsed the efforts of residents in two small neighborhoods to create Historic Preservation Overlay Zones. The designation of such a zone by the City Council would define an area as one of historical significance and guide new construction and alterations of older homes to protect it.

2 Zones Proposed

The two Highland Park zones are proposed for areas near the intersection of Echo and Hayes streets near Avenue 60 and fronting Figueroa Street near Avenue 50.

Neighborhood group members will be circulating petitions supporting the zones in both of those areas in addition to its petition for an interim ordinance, Barnwell said.

An audience that totaled about 300 at the two meetings generally showed approval of the proposals, although one Highland Park property owner repeatedly interrupted other speakers Sunday to complain about possible restrictions on his development plans.

The Highland Park neighborhood group, which had about 200 members before the meetings, has increased its membership by about 50, Barnwell said.

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