Highland Park Transit Village wins backing of City Council

Rendering of building styles at Highland Park Transit Village/McCormack, Baron Salazar

By Nathan Solis

A project of 80 apartments and condos planned for city parking lots near the Highland Park Gold Line station  took another step forward on Wednesday after the Los Angeles City Council voted against an appeal brought by residents who said the project is too big and out of character with the neighborhood. The council also voted unanimously to back the Planning Commission that permitted the developer to build more housing units than would normally be allowed and also avoid a lengthy review of the project’s impact on the environment, traffic, city services and other issues.

A handful of Highland Park residents who brought the appeal spoke out against the Highland Park Transit Village at the City Council meeting, stating an environmental impact study was necessary to determine what effects the Transit Village would have on the area. One complaint was that the proposed project, which be spread over three separate sites, would bring more traffic, and a demand for more resources would strain the neighborhood.

“This will destroy the corridor. Things will change,” said Jesus Rosas, whose business is along Figueroa Street, near the proposed development.

The Transit Village will stretch from Avenue 56 to Avenue 59 and along East Marmion Way, with a promise from developers McCormack  Baron Salazar, that there will be no loss of spaces in the city-owned parking lot. The  project will be a joint private and public development, managed by the developers.  The site will be built in two phases, with the first phase tackling a 50-unit residential building and a 10-unit  multi-family building reserved for residents with low and moderate incomes. The second phase will focus on a 20-unit condominium.

Before the vote was taken, District 1 Council member Gil Cedillo, who represents the area, praised the development and played down the concerns that the new buildings – which would rise as high as 47 feet –  would be out of place.

“It’s not a tower, it’s a two story structure,” Cedillo said. Someone from the audience shouted, “It’s three stories.”

“Obviously there are still some concerns,” he added.

Local advocacy group Friends of Highland Park requested an Environmental Impact Report from the developers and would like to bring up more issues about traffic, fault lines and the impact of adding so many residential units added to the area. Outside the council chamber after the vote took place, the Friends of Highland Park shook their heads, stated that they were considering possible legal action.

“I think it’s the wrong area to build something like that,” said Lisa Durado.

80 apartments and condos would be built on three public parking lots/McCormack, Baron Salazar


  1. No. No no no. That rendering couldn’t better highlight how out of place that will look. And please, let’s stop calling it a “Transit Villiage” – it’s an apartment complex. Three of them. Why require Environmental Impact Reports at all if they’re consistently waived?

    But hey, hope all you Cedillo voters, whoever you are, are happy.

    • Yes, we are happy with this! Thankfully, Cedillo understands that a vocal minority doesn’t speak out for the rest of us and understands that density will encourage a stronger neighborhood.

      • He also knows that a building that is supposed to be three stories tall is two stories….

      • First of all, do some research, get it through your thick skull, AND UNDERSTAND that density does not promote anything but overcrowding, traffic, and “caged rat” syndrome. I don’t want my neighborhood to be another “China” or “Japan” with tons of stacked buildings, with no where to park on MY OWN ST REET! Not only that, if you READ the environmental impact report…oh wait, they didn’t get one…anyhow, if you read what the DWP stated about the infrastructure already being at max capacity, you would understand that HP cannot continue to add NEW structures to the old infrastructure. I’m ALL FOR gentrification, AND modernization, but get rid of some of the run-down slums along Monte Vista, or near the 110fwy, don’t take away our parking (for 3 years) to add new APARTMENTS instead!

  2. I wonder if the EIR exemptions are because of SB375? If so, then the law is doing what it’s designed to do. That’s a good thing. It makes absolute sense to build this complex there; it’s close to transit. Why do people think “it’s the wrong area to build something like that”?

    • Because it is change and people fear change.

      • Actually no, it’s not about change, it’s about complete disregard for the lack of infrastructure needed to allow for a project of this size. Did any of you read the entire city report and proposal for this project? The DWP stated that the infrastructure is AT MAX CAPACITY!!! Adding to this will most definitely cause problems to the already strained sewage, water, and electricity lines, not to mention TRAFFIC!!! Oh and did anyone think about the ALREADY OVERCROWDED SCHOOLS? Unless the apartments are SENIOR ONLY, the new kids will have to attend already extremely overcrowded schools. And what about the businesses that will be greatly impacted due o the construction? Well, the proposal talked about giving them the average yearly earnings they received between 2002-2003! What if they earned more LAST YEAR, or year to date? Believe me, I’m PRO-GENTRIFICATION of the area, but get rid of the slums and run-down buildings (for good) FIRST, then replace them with new ones, don’t add to an already crowded and strained location simply to “look cute” from the Metro.

  3. Looks pretty low density to me. However, that rendering is a bit confusing… where do you enter the building, from the alley? That can’t be right.

    • How does it look “low-density”? Because it doesn’t have 50 buildings? There is more than one unit per building. How many people do you think will live in each unit? HP is already crowded enough! We don’t want parking problems like Pasadena. Get rid of the run-down buildings and apartments on Monte Vista and East of Fig…Put these buildings there, don’t add to an already strained infratstructure.

  4. OMG! Apartment buildings! In a major city! But what about the children????

    • It is my understanding that the developer intends on building this transit village directly on top of the children as an act of population control.

    • There ARE apartments in HP already..most of which are run-down, and occupied by ghetto people. Why add to an already maxed out infrastructure when you can tear down the slums and replace them with new buildings? (Believe me, if it were up to me, I’d bulldoze most of HP and replace it with new construction, but unfortunately that’s not an option I can fulfill at present.)

  5. I am a little sad that the ground floor adjacent the train station in Site 2 is not getting spaces that might, at some future point, be easily converted into commercial space. The street between the station and Site 2 is a great spot for all sorts of street festivals, road closures, and generally good old fashioned city living. Though the commercial real estate market is bad right now it is wise to build for the future – and right next to a train station that will someday connect straight to Culver City and Santa Monica is just the spot for some small businesses to take hold facing a station.

    Another transit adjacent project is going up next to the Heritage Square station – but details about that have not been followed in the local or regional press at all.

    • Please, do tell, Ubrayj.

      What is it that you know, that the rest of us don’t, regards the brilliant minds at Metro, who have designed the RC to connect Long Beach to Pasadena, and Santa Monica to East LA?

      • The hell?! Fred, don’t be a dick and try to put that and words in my mouth.

        You misread my comment. The Heritage Square station has a project under construction but nobody in the media has written about it. That is all I know because I pass by it every day and have noticed the demolition crews and grading trucks.

        Regarding the Highland Park station, I think that this transit village ought to be designed with a more flexible ground floor unit design to allow for the possibility that, in the future, a higher and better use would be ground floor commercial. Wise building owners in previous eras designed their buiildings just in case, in 10 to 20 years, they wanted to add another story to capitalize on rising values of their property (instead of tearing down their building each time they wanted to add a floor).

        And seriously, get bent.

      • Fine – it’s a one-transfer ride to Santa Monica. At the times of day when these trains are running every 6 minutes on each line, that means that you have to add 3 minutes to your trip.

        And of course, once they’ve build the lines, it’s quite possible for them to change their minds about which ones are served by single runs of the train. When BART opened to SFO, over the course of the next few years they went through several different permutations of whether the trains from SFO went to Pittsburgh/Bay Point or to Dublin/Pleasanton, and whether they stopped at Millbrae before or after SFO. I’m sure at some point we’ll see some experimentation by Metro on this front too. (They’ll probably do the same with the Crenshaw line, the South Bay extension, and the main Green Line.)

  6. It should be starting to sink in, how much the Gold Line is destined to reshape the Figueroa corridor. Especially in the area around the Highland Park stop, there is a lot of flat space near the stop that offers a lot of development options.

  7. No commercial spaces? Will the city improve the century-old onramps to the 110 for the additional traffic? Is the city still planning on taking away lanes from Figueroa for bicycles? Unless most of these new residents bike or take public transportation (which I highly doubt) this development is going to be a headache for local residents. Local businesses, however, (Antigua, Good Girl Dinette, Foliero’s, etc) must be exited.

    • All the stores/restaurants mentioned above actually seem very concerned about losing the parking spaces to this development that also is being built with fewer parking spaces for residents than normally required because it is considered ‘transit oriented’

      With limited spaces to park during a 1-2 year construction project it’s going to put a big damper on their ability to attract business. Hopefully, the end result is positive but overall, it seems that the developers and their political supporters have taken the initiative and are going to build.

      Jesus Rosas should have secured Gil’s vote before he lined up behind him and supported Gil’s candidacy.

  8. Anything that will increase traffic on the already scary to drive on 110 is bad news if you ask me!

  9. More apartments equals more cars, even if you “green wash” the people and call them a “transit village”. I hope none of the village proponents whine about increased traffic, especially when we convert auto lanes to bike lanes on roads like Figueroa and York (which I support, btw).

    More people equals more cars equals more congestion/ frustration/ pollution/ resource contention/ etc

    • Better here, on land that is already developed, than up in the hills, or out in some exurb where it will come at the expense of open space and wildlife.

      And even if you’re convinced every new resident will still own a car, at least they will have access to a walkable neighborhood and mass transit. You gotta figure these people will be driving a lot less than the people living up in the hills or out in the IE.

    • The U.S. PIRG just published a report showing that U.S. car use has been in decline since 2004. We are very much past peak car and the alleged connection between humans using a building and the “required” parking has been proven to be a mostly baseless connection (that is, one made up by planners who’ve never bothered to check their numbers). Further, whether or not there is traffic matters very little – what matters is that the city gets productive land uses that generate more money for the city per acre than a parking lot and that the quality of life of local residents (i.e. how measurably happy and healthy they are) is improved.

      Whether or not car trips are generated does not really matter here – we can have prosperity and happiness with or without lots of cars. What matters is that we get a good building for many generations to come – to help us all live better lives and to help pay the city’s bills. If the project cannot do that as currently designed then we ought to have it re-designed. Otherwise, I think good judgement says, the project should proceed.

      • Basing my response on your comment, I should expect that constructing these buildings should bring me happiness? Traffic is one of my biggest headaches, not to mention human congestion and living in an area that, thanks to Tom “Glad-He’s-Dead” Bradley, was designated a “prime location for low-income housing” has turned into a slum. We still have gang members, drug dealers, LOTS of registered sex offenders (and I get to be the lucky one who has all three living next door!), not to mention the upswing in occupancy. I have held my breath since the late 80s that this place would change, and as a home owner, hope it is sooner than later, but I can honestly say that fixing the “façade” of HP so that it looks cute from the Metro, won’t fix the entire place.

    • Apartments do not have to mean more cars. A solution is to uncouple apartments from parking spaces. An apartment that does not come with a parking space will have a lower rent and attract residents without cars. There are plenty of people without cars who would welcome a lower rent apartment adjacent to the Gold Line light rail station and within walking distance to shops. Those with cars would pay separate rent on a parking space.

  10. More housing close to transit = good. Yes, this will encourage more transit use, especially if it’s true that residents in the transit village get free TAP cards for life.

    Increased density means more people closer to the shopping and dining on Figueroa. More potential customers within walking distance of commercial activity.

    Adding bike lanes will allow people to easily cycle to Metro station and encourage folks to cycle in general. This will reduce the demand for curbside parking– that’s good.

    People here like to pretend that they can prevent the population from rising. Yeah right. How about we make some sacrifices from our selfish lifestyles to make FUTURE GENERATIONS’ (our children, and their children) lives more environmentally sound and convenient.

    People hate driving yet they protest measures that encourage alternate modes of travel. How does that make sense?

    • Correction, people hate TRAFFIC, not driving, and making it inconvenient to drive isn’t going to make a cyclist out of a driver.

  11. Please don’t make the Transit Village a fortress. It should be connected to the community and not face its back to the street.

  12. I love Los Angeles! LA logic: more density and housing closer to transit will increase traffic in the long run. Brilliant! Thank god for the weather!

    • absolutely, more housing anywhere in LA will increase traffic. Sure, high density housing near transit is marginally better than high density housing not near transit… but more residents == more traffic. Period. You’d be naive to think otherwise. The problem is that the transit options that most people will use (really, rail) do not go enough places to truly be useful to the majority of new residents.
      I’d like to see a study of residents in these new housing developments, to see how much they actually use transit.. and more importantly, how many miles a year they put on their cars.
      Anecdotal evidencey mom lives at one such complex in Pasadena. She’s near shopping, transit, etc. She only puts 4K miles on her car each year, which is great by LA’s standards. Most of her girlfriends in the complex have similar auto usage. Sounds great, right? Well, there are roughly 500 autos associated with that complex (a complex that had only retail prior to building all the units). So, with these 500 new autos.. let’s assume they drive an average of 4K miles per year, that’s 4 million more local miles driven than prior to that complex ever being built.
      Ah, sure it’s probably better for the world on the whole.. because these folks might be driving 12k miles per year if they lived somewhere else… but we’re ruining our local micro environment, with worse congestion/ pollution/ resource contention

      • Sure. In the short term. But developments like these are designed to change automobile-dependent behavior in the long term. As public transit increases (with no help from NIMBYs), the system will eventually take you where you want to go. Don’t add additional free parking, and gradually residents’ behavior will change. The “local micro environment” way of seeing things seems a bit limited to me. Part of why LA is so hard to move through is because neighborhoods think of themselves as isolated, separated units (hence, our Neighborhood Council system) which only organize to protect themselves rather than see themselves as part of a larger city.

        • When I say “micro-environment”, I mean LA as a whole. People in these transit oriented villages do tend to venture out into greater LA to explore all that it has to offer. This typically results in car trips. In theory, I agree with the goal of designing for a less auto-reliant future; however, I think this would work great in new cities.. however, LA is mostly built out.. and as we’ve seen, adding transit (mostly rail) has problems with right of way. This will make a dense enough transit network very hard to achieve. This is where I think reality and theory have an unpleasant collision. I’d love to see infrastructure improved first before adding residents, however, I know this is tough economically.. since housing helps pay for development.
          I just see more and more east LA communities getting traffic gridlock like the westside.

      • AMEN!!!! Finally someone who sees the reality of this “Transit Village”.

  13. Cedillo is moving his local council office into a building on Figueroa that is of historical significance. This building is protected by the Historical Preservation Zone laws, but yet Cedillo didn’t say a word to the owners when they blatantly showed a disregard for HPOZ rules recently. SO I highly doubt Mr. Cedillo has any regard for what is best for the historical integrity of the Figueroa corridor. He’s going to build what he wants to build and make all those campaign donors/developers happy.

    • Cedillo has already proven he is a true politician. He has little regard for any of his constituency, and the only way to show our disapproval is to vote him out of office come next election.

  14. Newsflash NIMBYs. Cities change and grow over time. LA was once just a pueblo. Look at it now. Growth happens, things change. If you don’t like change, move to Iowa.

  15. Councilman Cedillo, Is it your plan to ruin LA’s first suburb? HP does not need ratpack housing! We need housing that complements and augments the beauty of the arroyos. We need green space for children to grow and develop.

    Councilman Cedillo for all those people who are constantly saying their neighborhoods are better than HP, ask them what makes their community so much better?

    Everyone what defines a great community? What do we need to make it happen?

    Councilman Cedillo – Guess what? We don’t need developers coming into our community professing to know what is best for us! Will the McCormack, Baron, and Salazar development eventually become the Nickerson Garden Project housing in HP?

    • Gemma, you have an absurd sense of scale. Nickerson Gardens is an enormous 1054-unit apartment complex. This is 80 units exactly where more density is needed, next to a Light Rail station and walkable shopping. Both the Gold Line and the North Figueroa shopping district need more patrons within walking distance.

      • @Steve – You must be kidding if you believe HP needs 80 units near the Goldline!
        Our current LA City Services are inadequate. The day we get our fair share of City Services is the day, I say go right ahead and build! I keep hearing the argument for affordable housing near transit corridors; yet, whenever I travel on LA’s rail system, I do not see the flood of residents from these units riding on the transit lines. Instead, I see people who continue to drive their vehicles. Quite frankly, understandable since LA’s transit system is not complete.

        I believe the lease for Transit Village is 99 years. Do you honestly believe the developers will maintain the integrity of the housing in a manner that will benefit HP? Is it too much to ask that any future development in HP be done in a manner that would benefit and improve HP? My point with the Nickerson Gardens statement is that housing units of any size, can eventually wind up a community nightmare!

        No thanks – leave the parking lots alone! I’m sure if you took the time to poll the business owners, they’d prefer the parking spaces for their patrons!

        • Highland Park business owners are not going to lose any parking spaces as the vast mostly empty parking lots will be replaced by a parking garage underneath the apartments. Business patrons will be able to park in the garage as part of the construction agreement. The vacant parking spaces are now an enormous waste of resources that the neighborhood can no longer afford to support.

          • And where, pray tell, will those patrons park FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS while his idiotic project is being constructed???

  16. Why did City Council completely ignore the DWPs statement indicating that the infrastructure in “THE DENSEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN LOS ANGELES” is at max capacity??? Does he have some secret stash of money to completely modernize and upgrade our 100+ year old sewer, water, power, telephone lines? And what about the schools??? Oh wait, let me guess…let’s tear down homes to make way for new schools for the NEW residents’ kids -_-

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