By Bill Hendrickson
In late August, a large residential development proposed at the corner of Avenue 64 and Garvanza Avenue failed to clear a hurdle on its path to approval. But the developer, Skya Ventures, will have another chance to make its case to community leaders.
Here’s the issue:
The proposed development – a three story, 59,000 square-foot, 33-unit building – lies within the Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Zone (“HPOZ”), an area subject to official city guidance on how to save historic buildings and regulate land use planning. The section on “infill” development which would cover the proposed development in the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ is in Chapter 9 beginning on page 85 of the official city guidance.
As part of the approval process for building within the zone, the Los Angeles City Planning Department has required the developer to obtain a “Certificate of Compatibility” from the Board of the HPOZ, a design-review panel made up of five appointees by the Mayor, the local Councilmember, the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission and the Board itself.
The first meeting between the HPOZ and the developer was held via Zoom on August 25, with 50 community members attending.
Matthew Foss, a consultant for the developer, spoke first. He basically ticked off a checklist of design requirements that the building meets, such as commercial space and greenery – while skirting is drawbacks, including the development’s elephant-in-the-room size compared to other buildings in area.
Community members spoke next. Of the 15 people who commented, all were opposed. Objections primarily focused on the height and scale of the project as well as its mundane design. Charlie Fischer, former president of the HPOZ, said the architecture resembled a “milk carton on its side.”
Some of the commenters also raised concerns about the layout of the units in the proposed building: 28 of the residences are shown as having five-bedrooms, causing the commenters to question the developer’s intent: Is this actually live/work space, hostel/hotel space or some other form of short-stay occupancy being built under the guise of residential development?
The HPOZ Board members spoke last; three of the five board members were present, Jonathan Silberman, Alexandra Madsen and Laura Gershenhorn. The Board gave the developer eight recommendations for improving the building’s design, such as scaling down its size, using setbacks to modulate its imposing presence, including more landscaping and adding brick or other architectural style to fit with the area.
Ultimately, the Board of the HPOZ will write a letter to advise the City Planning Department recommending the project as planned, recommending it with changes, or not recommending the project. But before that, there will be another public meeting among the HPOZ Board, the developer and community members. That meeting has not been scheduled yet, though interested parties can stay informed by visiting the Office of Historic Resources and Urban Design Studio website.
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