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Los Angeles

City Council Approves Walgreens Project

Critics of the proposal were absent when the plan for a new store in Eagle Rock passed without discussion.

January 25, 2003|George Ramos | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved a controversial plan to build a 14,000-square-foot Walgreens drugstore in Eagle Rock over the objections of critics, who argued that the store is the last thing the area needs.

The council's 10-0 action without comment contrasted sharply with a City Hall public hearing earlier this week, when more than a dozen speakers urged a council committee to reject the store, saying that it violated the Colorado Boulevard specific plan. The plan calls for structures to be built next to the sidewalk to encourage pedestrian traffic.

A representative for former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running against incumbent Councilman Nick Pacheco in March's city primary, said at the hearing that his boss opposed the project.

After hearing the arguments, the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved the store on Tuesday. The store is proposed for the intersection of Colorado and Eagle Rock boulevards.

At Friday's council meeting, no opponents appeared and no council member asked for additional public comment.

Pacheco, who changed his mind twice about the project before finally deciding to support it, said after the council vote that the plan -- which underwent last-minute design changes -- was now in full compliance with the area's specific plan.

But, Pacheco noted, "I know there are some community members who don't like the aesthetics of it."

There was no immediate word on when construction might begin. The old Shopping Bag grocery store on the site, which preservationists urged Walgreens to use for its new outlet, must be torn down first.

Some have hinted that opponents might try to hinder the destruction of the old store, which was the onetime flagship of the Shopping Bag's chain of 31 stores in Southern California.

In any event, the two-year debate over the project isn't likely to end soon.

In 2000, the proposal was initially approved by the Los Angeles Planning Department, but that decision was rescinded when it was discovered that the walls for two smaller buildings that are part of the project didn't conform with the specific plan.

Opponents also said the main store was not in keeping with the plan, which was designed to foster a small-town atmosphere in Eagle Rock by promoting storefront businesses. The store is to be surrounded by more than 60 parking spaces.

At that time, Pacheco supported the project, saying there was no better use for the parcel.

Later, as opponents argued that the two smaller buildings weren't true storefront structures because of see-through walls, Pacheco backed away from his earlier support.

When the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission voted 3 to 1 in November to approve the project, Pacheco, lobbied hard by opponents, stepped in to assert council authority over the proposal.

Walgreens officials then modified plans for the smaller buildings to comply with the specific plan.

That persuaded Pacheco to once again support the project, leading to Friday's approval.

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