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Friday, July 25, 2014

Developer wants to replace Echo Park hardware store with 201 residences

Rendering of Sunset And Everett Apartments /Aragon Properties

By Tony Cella

A Canadian developer plans to drop 201 units of housing on the current site of  an Echo Park hardware store as part of a multi-story complex that met with much criticism at a community meeting Tuesday night, with some of those in attendance deriding the Sunset Boulevard project as a “massive fail” and  similar to a “Century City” type of development.

A representative of Aragon Properties said the 107,100-square foot structure on a 2.5-acre site on Sunset Boulevard near Everett Street  is smaller than city zoning laws  allow  The property, which is currently home to a Reliable Do It Center,  has the capacity to hold 226 housing units by the city’s standards  but Aragon opted to go with a smaller number, company  general manager Fred Shaffer told members of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood. In addition to 201 units of housing, Aragon plans to include 221 parking spots and bike storage on Sunset as well as a duplex on the portion of the lot adjacent to Everett.

The company, which is in the processes of purchasing the property, won’t decide to lease or sell the dwellings until later on depending on what business model is most “market appropriate” as the structure becomes ready for occupancy. Although the developers had yet to see the results of a traffic study, Shaffer told meeting attendees he “did not expect a parking impact” from the development.

Members of the committee, however, said the project is bound to cause a serious neighborhood parking problem.

Committee member Christine Peters denounced the prospective parking arrangements as a “massive fail.” Even if only one person lived in the plotted 68 studio apartments and two resided in the 115 one-bedroom apartments, the off-street parking planned by Aragon as inadequate for the occupants of the complex.

Committee members joined Peters and predicted residents would end up parking along Sunset, where parking is prohibit on street cleaning days, and side streets.  The strain on parking would hurt existing families, who already struggle to find space. “You’re harming your tenants, and you’re harming your community,” said board member Gustavo Moreno

A resident of the neighborhood blasted the plan for excluding retail space, saying  a cafe  in the apartment complex would benefit both the community and the developer and embrace mixed-use zoning. He said the housing, as planned, offered residents no areas to congregate. “Sunset doesn’t have to be a freeway,” he said.

Committee members joined the resident’s criticism, saying the limited parking spots forced residents to use local options accessible by foot or public transportation. Not only is the bus system terrible in the community, Peters said the merchants simply didn’t exist. “You’re adding 400 cars, but you’re not adding pedestrian amenities and you’re expecting people to walk,” she said.

Developers pointed to the inclusion of a fitness center and meeting spaces within the apartment as evidence of existing amenities. Aragon representatives said unoccupied commercial space was available within walking distance of the apartment. In theory, residents could open business catering to the apartment dwellers’ needs.

Shaffer said the developer decided against including retail space on the first floor because doing so eliminated living space, killing the profitability of the venture.

“We need to keep in mind economic viability,” he said.

The hilly terrain limits the number of floors to three on the front portion of the building, with the rear building climbing to four floors. Building another floor would surpass the maximum height allowed by the city building code. “If we had a flat site, that would’ve been easier,” he said, referring to adding commercial space.

Peters rebutted by noting the community’s master plan allowed developers to build higher if they included mixed uses, such as retail spaces.

The general manager said the city planning department had told him that wasn’t possible. The plans stipulated, however, five percent of the on-site housing was to be reserved for residents with “very low” income, defined as a total income of $41,400 for a family of four by the city housing department, which granted the developers wiggle room in other areas.

Shaffer said more height also meant more costs because the builders would have to create bigger retaining walls on the hillside behind the complex.

The developers expressed a commitment to making the project work and thanked the board for its input. Although the company does not own the property yet, Aragon representatives said they had placed a six figure deposit “that was non-refundable at this point” on the project.

Residents who saw the mock-ups were awed by the size of the planned apartments.

“It looks like Century City,” said one stakeholder.

Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.

41 comments

  1. This is a TERRIBLE project. I actually have no problem with the size, but not putting retail on SUNSET BLVD is pathetic. I also don’t care about parking (people in LA need to learn to take the bus, bike, or walk anyway).

    DEMAND RETAIL.

    • Silver Lake resident

      A lot of people simply don’t have the option of going carless. Think about how many residents of this city rely on their cars to get to and from work every day. Think about the lower income families who rely on their one family car to drop kids off at school and get the parents to work every day. Not everyone has the ability to live nearby their jobs. Heck, I work on the Westside near LAX — which is impossible to get to via public transportation from Silver Lake — and I could never afford to live in the neighborhoods near my office, nor would I want to. Some people commute much further than I do and their cars are a necessity.

      I wish rich developers would invest money in LA’s public transportation instead of more overpriced, ugly housing. People can’t “ditch their cars,” as you suggested, until public transport is more RELIABLE and ACCESSIBLE.

  2. this is a terrible idea in a horrible location (what will these new residents do on game days in the horrendous traffic, for example)… it’s simply another case of greedy developers looking only for short term gains.

  3. The lame Orsini project down the street in half empty. Another residential complex is being built on the corner of Sunset & Hill. At least it’s gonna be mixed use even if it is a stupid mini Walmart. Do we really need more apartments along this stretch?

    • Silver Lake resident

      Also, those ugly condos on Sunset and Alvarado are also mostly vacant!

      When will developers come to understand that the people who live in Echo Park live there for a REASON — to get away from the prefab, high density, homogenous apartment living of West Hollywood, Santa Monica and the like?

    • REALLY? Half empty?? I live in the Orsini Apartments. I guess I should tell my neighbors or those people parking in all those spots. It is 92-94% Occupied most of the year in all three buildings.

      Echo Park is a wonderful historic neighborhood. It is incredibly diverse. There are ultra modern homes sitting next door to turn of the century(1900s) Mansions. It was Los Angeles’s first suburb. The hardware store(60s-70s styling) this project would replace is an eyesore. There are currently no other businesses in the spot save for the hardware store, it’s warehouse and maybe a garage or two. But some retail space would be nice.

      Parking is essential. No one wants to park on the street and deal with meters. People that want to force everyone to take the bus should experience taking 4 buses TO work, on a two and a half hour (each way) trek that can run about $4 each way like I use to and many still do.

      In the end this seems like a nice project that will benefit Echo Park and it’s residents.

  4. Patrick MacKellan

    This project is a complete joke. The developer has no clue what it means to build in a vibrant urban area like Echo Park. The lack of street retail in the project is inexcusable. The community should fight this one tooth and nail.

  5. NooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. We must demand retail. Otherwise it will be a huge dead zone and make it miserable to walk.

  7. A friend of mine used to live on Everette and would always complain about how impossible it was to get onto the street during a Dodger’s game. Now they have a traffic cop at that intersection every now and again but I still see poor cars backed up to turn left onto Everette. In no way would constructing a super complex make this problem even less. Living just down the street I can also confirm that street parking is already at a minimum in that area, even when games are not going on so that will certainly add to frustrtaions of the future tennants as well as the existing community. And finally I think it’s clear from the makeup of Echo Park that the super complex has no place. People move to the EP for the sense of commuity and the character of the area. Whether it’s a 1930′s apartment or turn of the centruy bungalow, these are the typse of dwellings that attract the colorful and eclectic mix of residents that we have here. If and when this place gets built I see it sittting empty like the Orsini, Echo 360 or those super schwank lofts on Alvarado.

    • Normally I’m all for denser development, but this is out of place and out of scale (200 units) and given that 80 home games occur at Dodgers Stadium, which has 56,000 seats (granted, most games not sold out) and since that side of the street is used as a fast lane for buses during game time. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to have a mega complex (to me anything 100+ units) there. Maybe if there was an intersection with a stop light perhaps. And with no ground floor retail to enliven the street, and no public parking, it seems like no thought by the developer went into the context of where the building was being placed. In this day and age residence over retail is the way to go. Also, Meredith if by Echo 360 you’re referring to the 36 on Echo townhomes on Echo Park, those are actually sold out. I know that project was controversial at one point but compared to this 200 unit proposal, and 800 unit Barlow proposal out there, 36 single family homes seems quite reasonable by comparison. :)

  8. If every new resident in this prospective monstrosity were prohibited from owning a car – build it.

    If the city let’s this ( and Barlow) go through – our neighborhood becomes as congested
    As Santa Monica, century city, mid- town , etc.

    So, Until ” smart growth” = no more cars, stop wrecking LA neighborhoods with these developments.

    Build a sculpture garden, filled with giant bobble heads of dodger greats, instead.

  9. Does anybody know how to vote against this? If so, please post so residents can have their voice heard.

    • Seriously. Can someone post info on how we can protest this mega development? It’s completely against the character and inherent nature of Echo Park.

  10. Victor Heights Resident

    Why is it so unheard of in this city to start demanding developers chip in a small percentage towards mass transit projects? This is a standard practice in Vancouver. It’s just the same argument over parking and livability we’re having over and over and over and nothing ever changes. There’s going to be a streetcar along or a subway underneath Sunset someday. Why not alleviate some residents’ fears over parking and make them feel as though they’ll also profit off of a development in their community?

  11. I side with the stakeholders on the “massive failure”. This is a joke to say the least.

  12. The city should force developers to contribute a certain amount of money toward public transportion before they approve these ideas.
    This idea – mind you is terrible. Not only does it not fit the neighborhood character etc. within a few blocks either direction – there is a 90 unit apt building being renovated and a 27 unit apt complex being built – on the SAME side of the street. Multiply that number by partners and kids which equals CARS. AND the Dodgers want to bring another team to play at the stadium when they aren’t. – so year round even traffic. Sunset is already cut to 2 lanes when they play (which again I’m all for public transportation) BUT these lanes are also on the route of all 3 of these developments. Everyone dumping onto the same 2 exits and freeways. Not to mention – the other developments projects in Echo Park.
    Echopark is home to LA’s first neighborhood outside of Downtown – we should try to preserve its historic nature!

  13. They’ve gotta put more parking in this at the very least. With Sunset’s right lane shut down 81 days a year, and the surrounding residential streets already completely choked parking-wise, adding another 50-100 cars dumped into the neighborhood is going to make things even worse.

    Don’t get me wrong, I live two blocks from there and that Do-It Center is a blight, but if you’re going to put purely residential there it’s got to have completely sufficient parking for the tenants.

  14. This will look like the rest of Los Angeles: The city of fu@ked up planning.

    We got some awesome weather but man is this city ugly and useless.

  15. Aside from the whole parking and mixed use issue, can we please talk about aesthetics?! Why does this project have to be so ugly? Why can’t it blend into the neighborhood? Do they take the character of the neighborhood into consideration when they design these things? Seems like they don’t. They don’t care, they live in Canada….they don’t have to drive by it every day! All about profit, it seems.

    • Grahm Wellington

      You say it’s “ugly”, it’s not ugly. It’s “new” architecture in an old neighborhood and therefore seems out of place. The question becomes what would be appropriate? Well, I’ve never seen a multi-unit complex of any variety that “matched” the character of an old neighborhood. This development being directly on Sunset, is more appropriately placed than the ones on Echo Park blvd. I would encourage them to consider retail shops on the first floor though. That would be a missed opportunity for everyone involved.

      • No, it’s ugly.

      • Not everything “new” is aesthetically pleasing. I’ll take a 100+ year old Edwardian mansion over a glass and concrete “modern” apartment with white walls and granite countertops any day.

        People live in Echo Park for a reason — so that their places of residents have characterand are unique.

        • you guys just hate everything and anything new. i agree this project has some serious issues with parking, traffic, and retail that need to be fixed. but Grahm is right, it’s not ugly. It really isn’t. It’s an apartment building. They can look a lot worse. compare this to what they built in LA in the 70′s-90′s. This is much more aesthetically pleasing.

          People live in Echo park for the neighborhood, not to look at your perfect little victorian house. There are a lot of elitists around here who feel everyone has to live in a home just like theirs. You’d make the entire place a gated community if you could. Well we’re not all wealthy enough to afford a large historic home. You do know they go for at least $750,000? Hats off to those of you who got in while the getting was good, but that era is over. People like echo park and so new housing is coming. If you don’t like it I’ll call you a WHAAA-mbulance.

          • I rent my 1920s bungalow. I have plenty of friends who also live in RENTED historic homes in Angelino Heights, Los Feliz and Echo Park. I don’t know anyone who owns a home in this area — but I can tell you that we all agree that what makes this area special is the architecture and how vastly different it is from LA. I am in my mid 20s, and my social circle contains many people also in their late 20s and early 30s.

            I moved to Silver Lake not only because I liked the area, but also because I loved how it isn’t filled with mega apartment complex after apartment complex. It’s not elitism, but rather, a passionate desire to keep the Eastside feeling like a neighborhood and to preserve the original look and feel of the area. LA already made its mistakes 50 years ago when historic homes and buildings were demolished to “make room for the new.” Now, we’re feeling the effects of that push towards modernity; in so many parts of town where parking structures and condos stand, used to be beautiful turn of the century buildings and homes. All that history is lost.

            Not to mention, these mega developments push out the Latino working class of the area. I’m definitely not advocating for any gated communities here; I’m fighting against the creation of overpriced housing that will drive out those who cannot afford $2000/month for a studio apartment. If I move out of my place, I’m already priced out of Echo Park as it is. More development means a higher cost of housing — which means that more and more Echo Park residents will be forced to move further and further away from the city.

            Why is it so bad for the residents of Echo Park to fight for preserving the little space and terrain we have left? This “era” you speak does not have to be over. Not all of LA needs to look like West Hollywood — and the more Echo Park residents who share this sentiment that speak up, the better.

          • You do realize that the apartments build in the 70s and 90s you call “ugly” were considered “aesthetically pleasing” at the time they were constructed? These apartments will look tacky and outdated less than 5 years after they go up. (They already look pretty tacky as it is.)

          • Kat,

            thank you for your thoughtful reply. you clearly care about the area, and so do I. But we live in the real world where things will always be changing.The trick is not to fight that change but embrace it and try to control it, so that the new will come without totally displacing the old charm. For instance, while I agree tearing down historic homes is a bad idea, that’s not what is happening in most cases here. These apartments will displace an ugly hardware store. The townhomes on EP ave replaced an empty trashy lot. Most of the developments coming in are being build on vacant lots or on lots with condemned / unlivable structures. All these units will drastically increase housing supply in the area. You’re ‘priced out’ because the owner of historic homes dozens of people he/she could rent it too. EP is an in demand area. That’s not changing. More supply to meet the demand will stabilize prices / rents, and may even lower them for older buildings. The truth is the westside is overflowing, suburbs are emptying, and some of those residents are moving east.

            I’m not saying every project is good. Each one needs to be looked at and reviewed individually. This one needs retail & parking. The barlow complex is just wayyyyy too big. Others seem to be in less than ideal locations. But change is happening no matter what. The objective should be to control it. See you at the next council meeting.

            PS- historic homes are actually benefitting right now too. they are being bought and restored by flippers at record rates. the upside is they are preserved, the downside is they are much more expensive. It’s the way of the world. take the bad w/ the good.

  16. I like how the rendering shows about four cars driving down Sunset. They should have added flying unicorns to make it more realistic. Completely horrible. Retail and parking would make it less horrible.

  17. This will be built, people will move in and be happy. Say all the negative things you can about this place, complain at the meetings and so on but it will do you no good. Besides, no one here really cares about the real question of “why” this place is being built or the reason why we need more housing every day. If you really know or care then you would do something much more drastic than complain about new housing. Like, lets say for starters stop taking medicine when you get sick.

    • Oh little kitten! Where were you in the mid-sixties when the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park was formed to stop the Convention Center from being built on park land? Public discourse and speaking out against big money and development does work sometimes. “Complaining” on the Eastsider doesn’t preclude any of us from doing more than that. Here’s a nice saucer of milk for you. Now run along and stay out of traffic.

  18. Why would you say bus service is “terrible” in this neighborhood? The 2 and the 4 are two of the busiest and most useful buses in the city, and they both stop within 50 feet of this project. If there’s going to be added density in the area (and there will be, since the population of the country is growing, and development in neighborhoods like this is the only alternative to bulldozing forests and farmlands and increasing long-distance commutes), then it ought to be on Sunset, and not way up in the hills.

    But as everyone else said, there needs to be retail on the ground floor. An area accessible as this needs to have people both coming and going, and would probably provide a nice space for people to stop for dinner or a drink either before or after a Dodgers game, or an event in Chinatown.

  19. Let’s make the bus only lane on Sunset permanent! That would be great for many opp’s in EP. I’ve been loving riding it during Dodger games – it’s awesome and sails thru traffic for transit riders.

    As a car free EP resident for 10 years by choice – I agree it’s hard to hear that people think this Sunset corridor has no transit service – the 2,4 and 704 work pretty well for me. And I love the 200.

  20. I like the look of the design. Sleek and modern, a nice gateway to Echo Park. Beats the heck out the Orsini faux festival down the street. I wish it was taller! Maybe more residences will improve the walkability of this stretch of Sunset, which can feel pretty deserted and beat-up and unsafe at times. Maybe the 1/2 empty mini malls 1/2 mile up the street will now get some tenants. I see a lot of plusses here.

  21. Every time the Eastsider posts a story about local development, 9 out of 10 comments are negative. That one-sided response makes us all look like a group of snobbish elitists. The reality is that large cities everywhere are growing denser, and that is a good thing. Are any of you really going to defend the horrific sprawl of development that has occurred in the Greater Los Angeles area over the years? Now, given that dense development is inevitable, we should use our voices for positive change. More parking and more retail are a given, but let’s also consider roof-top gardens and communal areas. Development can and should be a positive addition to a neighborhood, unfortunately haters cut off the conversation and pit us against them, a context which will never produce a common ground.

    • Trying to build dense infill while still providing suburban levels of parking is a big reason why all these new mixed-use buildings are so ugly in LA. Parking structures with all their blank walls and wide driveways are not human scaled and they just kill street life.

      I wish the city would update the zoning so it’s advantageous for local developers/architects to build smaller, more charming mixed-use buildings (10-12 units with a few shops on the ground floor and zero parking – like all the pre-war mixed-use buildings we all love.)

    • @junkmonk: Whoops, that wasn’t really a response to your post per say… just a general comment.

      However, I agree – the conversation should be less focused on just saying “No!” and more on “What can you do for the community?”

  22. This shit is gay. Send it to Silverlake.

  23. I’ve got a crazy idea, if one parking space isn’t enough for you, don’t move there!

    • The fact is that most households have more than one car which means the extra cars would need to be parked on the already crowded streets.

      Your comment is over simplifying the situation and is terribly ill-informed.

  24. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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