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Burton Way projects get mixed receptions

Grove developer Rick Caruso's plan to build an eight-story mixed-use project near San Vicente Boulevard wins praise. But neighbors criticize a 14-story condo project nearby.

June 16, 2009|Cara Mia DiMassa

When Rick Caruso first bought a triangular lot near the intersection of Burton Way and La Cienega and San Vincente boulevards nearly 15 years ago, he had yet to make his name as the baron of developments such as the Grove and Americana at Brand.

The property has sat undeveloped ever since.

But in the last few years, the area around it has been on an upswing -- buoyed in part by the success of Caruso's Grove project to the east.

Shops and restaurants along 3rd Street have become regional draws. The Philippe Starck-designed SLS hotel opened on La Cienega Boulevard, just east of Burton Way.

Now, the boom is extending onto Burton Way -- and not everyone is happy about it.

The street, named for Beverly Hills founder Burton Green, serves as a gateway from Los Angeles into Beverly Hills. It has always been a bit of an anomaly in the middle of a densely packed city, with a wide tree-studded grass median dividing traffic lanes.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, June 17, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
Burton Way projects: An article about Westside development in Tuesday's Section A misspelled San Vicente Boulevard as San Vincente.

The street is lined mostly with upscale mid-rise apartments and condos..

In recent months, two projects in the Burton Way area have emerged -- though so far, at least, they have had different receptions.

Caruso's plans to build an eight-story mixed-use structure on his lot, with 88 apartments and a ground-floor Trader Joe's, have been widely praised by residents who welcome the project as a smart addition to the neighborhood.

But the second, a tiered, 14-story condominium project planned for just north of Burton Way, along 3rd Street between Wetherly and Almont drives, has met with opposition from neighbors, who criticize the building's height and say that it is out of character with its neighborhood.

"While the views would be great looking out," said Harald Hahn, president of the Burton Way Homeowners' Assn., "looking in, it is a disruption of the total fabric of our community."

The 95-unit Wetherly Drive condo project, as it is known, replaces 84 units in seven older apartment buildings and has been supported by outgoing L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss.

But last week, the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee delayed a vote on the project, possibly until Councilman-elect Paul Koretz has had a chance to weigh in.

Jonathan Genton of Genton Barth Real Estate Group called reaction to his project "pretty surprising. . . . We have been in the community for well over three years at this point," he said, adding that the developers had scaled back the property in order to address concerns they had heard.

Genton -- and others -- stressed that the height of the property was in keeping with other buildings in the area, including the nearby Four Seasons hotel.

And they tout the community benefits of the developer's plan calling for Genton Barth to pay for a universal valet program for nearby 3rd Street as well as provide workforce housing for employees of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in a separate location in the area.

To a certain extent, the debate over Genton's project focuses on the very nature of the Burton Way neighborhood. Hahn called the area "a low-rise community, a neighborhood you can live in. It isn't very dense. That is what we are trying to preserve."

But Stephen Kramer, an attorney and the president of the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, said that both the Genton and Caruso projects are "very much in keeping with where the community is going.

He said that his group was working with the city's transportation agency to increase transit options for the area, in part to embrace Burton Way's identity as a high-density neighborhood. "You have to get people out of their cars, and you have to get them close to transportation," Kramer said. "These are corridors. Burton Way is not a side street."

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cara.dimassa@latimes.com

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