A group of Brentwood residents has concluded that it's never too early to try to block a construction project proposed in their midst.
Before the prospective developer has even purchased the property in question--the Eastern Star retirement home on Sunset Boulevard--the residents have banded together to form the Concerned Brentwood Homeowners. Their aim: to keep a plan to develop the property and some adjacent land into a luxury hotel from ever getting off the drawing board.
De De Logsdon, a member of the group, said residents have learned from past disputes in other neighborhoods that early intervention is important.
"We've seen other developments such as those on Wilshire Boulevard, where nobody really knew what was going on until it got to planning and zoning and then it was a \o7 fait accompli\f7 ," Logsdon said.
Logsdon said her organization has received hundreds of calls from concerned residents in response to 25,000 "hotel alert" flyers they paid to have distributed with The Times.
The Eastern Star facility, on Sunset Boulevard west of Barrington Avenue on a little more than six acres, has served as a retirement home for 53 years for members of the Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic organization, which plans to move to a site that is more convenient for its members.
The 105-bed home became a source of controversy in the spring of 1989, when it was declared a historic-cultural monument a month after it was put up for sale. That in effect limited the property's uses by requiring a full environmental impact review before the home could be altered or demolished.
Santa Monica architect David Greenwood and his colleagues in the Monarch Star Partnership, who have negotiated a purchase contract with the Eastern Star Homes of California, set forth a proposal in December to preserve the structure by turning it into a hotel.
Greenwood declined to discuss his plans in detail. But William Krisel, president of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn., a larger, long-established community group, said that during a July meeting with his organization, Greenwood presented a concept to refurbish the Eastern Star as a luxury hotel similar to the Hotel Bel-Air.
As Krisel described it, plans call for using the almost four acres of vacant land directly behind the Eastern Star home to build one- or two-story bungalows on the southern half as part of the hotel project. On the northern half of the vacant parcel, a strip along Chaparal Street, single-family homes would be built.
A wall complete with landscaping would be erected to separate the bungalows from the homes, Krisel said.
Krisel said he and other members of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn., which pushed for the Eastern Star's cultural monument status, are "totally open-minded" toward Greenwood's proposal because their main interest lies in saving the building because of its architectural, cultural and historic significance and its sloping front lawn.
"We have to be realistic that something is going to be built there. It can be torn down and gone forever like a lot of other historical buildings in Los Angeles and in place of it could be the ordinary five-story apartment," said Krisel, who added that his organization would oppose any zoning changes.
Under present zoning and building codes, a developer could build a five-story apartment building with 112 apartments and parking spaces for 250 cars on the property facing Sunset Boulevard, Krisel said.
Although a hotel is not an approved use for the site under existing zoning laws, Krisel said, a developer could conceivably open a hotel on the site without going through the time-consuming process of obtaining a zoning change. If it were developed by a planned unit development procedure, Krisel said, a nonconforming land use such as a hotel could be built subject to stringent conditions and public hearings. Such a process, he said, would give Brentwood residents considerable control over the height and density of the structure.
Soon after Greenwood disclosed his plans, however, several members of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn. organized the Concerned Brentwood Homeowners to fight the hotel concept.
Joe Cornyn, a member of the new group, said he believes a hotel would only exacerbate an already hazardous traffic situation on Sunset Boulevard, and he said he would like to see the property continue to be used for residential purposes.
"The concept of developers and politicians having the ability to convert residential zoning for other applications is a real concern to me and to us, not just as it relates to zoning on this parcel but to the rest of Los Angeles as well," Cornyn said.
Jon Byk, also a member of the homeowner group, said his organization plans to circulate another batch of flyers, begin a petition drive and hold another meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the University Synagogue, at Sunset Boulevard and Saltair Avenue.