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Separate Site for Low-Income Units Urged : Panel OKs Luxury Apartments in Westchester

January 08, 1989|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

A developer who wants to build a luxury apartment complex at the Centinela Drive-In site in Westchester should be allowed to build required low-income housing units at a different location, a Los Angeles City Council committee says.

Sage Development Corp., based in Playa del Rey, also succeeded last week in persuading the council's three-member Planning and Environment Committee to recommend reducing the number of required low-income units from 93 to 63, or from 15% to 10% of the planned 624-unit complex.

The committee will forward its recommendations to the full City Council, which is expected to vote on the matter within 30 to 90 days, according to Rick Ruiz, a spokesman for Councilwoman Ruth Galanter. Galanter represents Westchester and is a member of the committee.

In October, the Planning Commission approved the project but unexpectedly imposed the requirement for low-income units to be located on the project site. The president of the commission said the requirement was appropriate because of the need for such housing, particularly in the Westside.

Could Kill Project

At that time, both the developer and nearby residents who had supported the project said the last-minute inclusion of required low-income housing could kill the project.

George Smart, president of Sage Development, had been working with members of the Ladera Heights Civic Assn., which represents about 3,500 households in the unincorporated area across the street from the drive-in, since he purchased the site in 1986.

Originally, a new bus maintenance yard for the Southern California Rapid Transit District was planned for the 11.7-acre site at 5700 W. Centinela Ave., between the San Diego Freeway and La Tijera Boulevard.

But residents opposed that project, as well as a proposal for two 15-story office towers totaling 750,000 square feet and another plan for a mixed use of commercial and retail space.

The homeowners group had approved the apartment complex, but after the Planning Commission imposed the requirement for low-income units, the group reevaluated the proposal.

Ronni Cooper, the group's president, said a poll of residents was taken after a group of homeowners in November presented the board of directors with a petition containing 800 signatures of people opposed to the apartment complex. She said the people who presented the petition opposed the project because of the additional traffic it could create on weekends.

3 to 1 Against Complex

The outcome of the poll, Cooper said, was 3 to 1 against the apartment complex, although only about one-sixth of the residents voted. She said, however, the homeowners group also told the committee last week that if the apartment project was approved, it should not include low-income units on the site.

"From that standpoint, we're pleased with the (committee's) decision," Cooper said.

Ruiz said that although the homeowners group withdrew its support, Galanter backed the project because she believed there still was a preference for a residential project over the industrial and commercial proposals.

Galanter also believes that the project could help reduce traffic by providing housing for employees of major businesses nearby, Ruiz said.

Michael Dieden, a consultant for Sage Development, said he is optimistic that the full council will approve the project, which would include among its many amenities an on-site child-care center with priority for tenants and a recycling center for glass, aluminum and newspapers.

Dieden said he does not expect any problems finding sites within five miles of the drive-in for the low-income units, a requirement made by the council committee. He said a decision has not yet been made, but that it is likely that the required 63 units would be spread out among two or more facilities.

He said that if the City Council approves the project within 30 days, ground breaking would be in the fall, and the project would be completed 14 to 16 months later.

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