By Bill Hendrickson
Following a public hearing in the Los Angeles City Planning Department on September 29, city planners said they would take some time to decide the fate of a 113-year old Craftsman style house at 132 N. Avenue 56 in Highland Park.
At issue is a proposal by the house’s owners, Ed and Marissa Solis, to use the house as a business location for their real estate agency, NELA Homes, a local firm previously operated from leased offices on Figueroa Street in Highland Park.
Commercial use of the Avenue 56 property would require a “conditional use permit” (CUP) from the City because the house is zoned residential (RD2-1) and is located within an official historic-preservation area known as the Highland Park-Garvanza Overlay Zone .
The Solises say that a CUP would be justified because even though they do not plan to use the house as their residence, they do plan to renovate and restore the exterior to its original beauty, thus upholding the zone’s preservation goals.
Ed Solis told the Boulevard Sentinel that as a business location the restored house would be a showcase, demonstrating to clients the renovation potential of NELA properties. Marissa Solis told the Sentinel that working from the restored house would be the closest thing to achieving her dream of working from home.
The Solises, represented by Elizabeth Peterson Group Inc., also say that the city’s municipal code (Section 12.24 X.12.B gives a City Planning administrator scope to permit a real estate business in a building otherwise zoned residential in a historic preservation zone.
In Highland Park, the Solises’ plan recently met with a thumbs down. During a Zoom meeting of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council on August 6, the council voted 8-2 to send a letter to the planning department opposing commercial use of the property.
The council members who voted against the Solises’ plan were siding with stakeholders at the meeting who argued that properties in a residential, historic area should be shielded from commercial use.
The opponents also pointed out that there is ample office space on Figueroa Street in Highland Park, and thus no need to convert a house in the neighborhood to business use.
Stakeholders at the meeting who were in favor of the Solises’ plan spoke well of the couple as longtime local business owners who would be good stewards of the property.
All of these points of view were aired at the public hearing on September 29. Now it’s up to the City to decide.
This is an updated version of a story that ran previously in the Boulevard Sentinel.
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