Architect Jay Vanos (pictured above) and his consultants have become a familiar sight at Echo Park neighborhood council meetings, showing up about eight times during the past 2-1/2 years as he worked to win support for a large housing and commercial project on Sunset Boulevard. On Tuesday night,Vanos finally got what he wanted, the blessing of the council to build 64 units above commercial spaces on a hillside property near Sunset Boulevard near Mohawk Street. The vote by the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council came despite ongoing complaints from nearby residents about the size and style of the project and the impact on parking and traffic. “It would be a monstrosity,” said one resident.
If some Echo Park residents thought the 64-unit project was too big, Vanos said it could have been even bigger. The developer could build 127 units on the property with the necessary approvals. In fact, Vanos said he presented another proposal that would not require special city approvals to the office of Councilman Eric Garcetti. He said he was advised by the council office not to show those plans in part because they would be “provocative.” “We don’t want that … we want to get your support for this one,” said Vanos before the neighborhood council voted 8-to4 in favor of the project (two members abstained).
Vanos said he had worked to deal with many of the concerns, noting that the tallest parts of the two buildings would be stepped back from the street. In addition, the project would include 10 units for very-low income residents, which permits the project to take advantage of certain “density bonuses” and incentives that allows developers to build bigger projects if they include affordable housing. Still, the 10 new units reserved for low-income residents would fall short of the 11 units of housing that would be demolished to make way for the development, a sore point with some residents. In addition, the only parking garage entrance for residents who would live in the complex would be located at the top of the hillside lot on Elsinore Street, which would funnel more traffic into the residential neighborhood.
The vote by the neighborhood council, which is only an advisory body, is expected to be taken under consideration by city agencies reviewing the development. Vanos must still seek city approval to build what the city considers as a five-story high project, which is one story higher than allowed even when taking into account density bonuses and incentives.