By Samuel Temblador
A proposal by developers to build 18 modern homes near Vestal Street and Baxter Avenue in Echo Park won the support of the Echo Park neighborhood council Tuesday night but not without sparking an emotional stream of public comment and debate.
Developers Casey Lynch and Michael J. Brown are seeking city permission to carve up the site into as many as 18 properties for their Blackbirds development under the city’s small-lot subdivision ordnance. Accompanying Lynch and Brown at the meeting was Barbara Bestor, the architect behind the duo’s development plans. Bestor described the implementation of what she called “stealth density, which would make two or three houses look like one house” and the “living street strategy,” which would allow surface level parking to be used for other practical and aesthetic purposes, Bestor concluded that such a new development formula would “reduce bulk … parking and traffic.”
The most vocal of the proposal’s opponents, which included senior citizens, expressed their concerns over the increased difficulty in finding parking. Considering alternatives to driving in order to resolve the issue was out of the question for older residents as they felt it would be impractical to turn to walking or biking over driving.
The majority of residents present however, overwhelmingly supported the proposal, claiming that the creation of the innovative housing would, as one supporter put it, “set a precedent for other communities.”
After the discussion and debate, the board of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council voted in favor of the project 10 to 1, with two abstentions.
The neighborhood council is an advisory body that lack power of land use decisions. The developers must still win approval from the City Planning Department and other agencies to go forward with their project.