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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Planned Echo Park development generates concern and support

The Echo Park hillside that rises to the west of Echo Park Avenue and Baxter street is packed with decades-old bungalows, steep stairway streets and a canopy of trees. It’s the same hillside where a developer is now preparing to build a cluster of new homes designed by noted Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor.  The developer of the Hearth Project said plans have not yet been finalized for the development on five lots located near the southeast corner of Baxter and Vestal Avenue.  But the property,  which runs from Vestal Street on the west to the Preston Street on the south, can accommodate  up to 18 homes under the city’s small lot ordinance, which allows some property owners to pack more homes on to existing lots.  News of the project has begun to spread among the neighbors, some of whom are voicing support for the development of a site some consider an eyesore and gang hangout and others who are raising concern about the potential impact on the leafy neighborhood.

Leslie Schwartz, a Preston Avenue resident for a dozen years, said she and her neighbors have been kept in the dark about what may happen, relying on second-hand information.  “My biggest, deepest concern is that no one is telling us anything,” said Schwartz, who has contacted the Council District office and attended neighborhood meetings in search of information. “Something is happening and we don’t know.”

Schwartz and others said they were concerned about construction noise and activity as well as the impact additional traffic and cars would have on the narrow streets.

Developer Casey Lynch could not offer many details about how many homes he plans to build on the site, which was purchased last fall from a family trust for $1.725 million. Some of the lots contain a few homes, some more than a century old and others that have been fenced off and empty for years.  “We are engaging community members to ensure that we incorporate their interests in our planning process, with the goal of building an architectural asset in Echo Park.”

Douglas Wilson, who has lived Vestal Avenue for nearly 20 years, said he welcomes the new development that he said promises to be more sensitive to its neighbors  than the 36-unit condo project now under constructions a few blocks south at Echo Park and Morton avenues.

“This developer asks no special favors or variances from the city but rather utilizes existing zoning & building codes to incorporate smart architecture and individual home ownership while supporting green housing,”  Wilson said. “There are a small but vocal minority in this community who oppose change at all costs.  Many of them also live in conditions that violate a myriad of city codes.  We personally champion this developer for the Vestal Avenue project for putting the community first, ahead of greed, crowding and the profit that comes from it.”



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46 comments

  1. If these will be normal sized houses, fine, OK. If this is a big development of those horrible undersized “small lot subdivisions,” NO! Those things should never be allowed to be in the midst of a neighborhood of normal sized housing. They should be relegated to their own zone, just as trailer parks are. They are the width of a trailer, but three or four stories tall.

  2. This is great news and I’m all for it. Barbara is one of LA’s best young architects.

    Douglas, let me know if you need a Vestal Ave based structural engineer to bid!

    • Nice plug….this is a prime example of the kind of people we are dealing with. Soulless!!!!!! Ohhhh….and she’s not that young.

  3. Here is one of the unseen pitfalls with new zoning changes. A large groupings of SFR owned by one owner go on the market to be purchased by a developer who then uses the small lot subdivision ordinance to remove existing character homes that give Echo Park it’s flavor and replaces them with dense, stucco box development. There is a similar landholder situation up on Cerro Gordo where if the properties get sold to a developer, a huge area, stretching to Lakeshore Ave and Fellowship Parkway, can become bulldozed for new development on a much larger scale than currently exists.

    • I stand with you. Development is unavoidable and is a healthy part of any dynamic city. The small lot ordinance on the other hand is often used as loophole to maximize profit at the expense of the spirit of the neighborhood.

      If the developers of this project go small lot remember that neighbors on Avalon and Echo Park stopped a small lot ordinance project just last year.

    • Thankfully this property will never be developed! Will this development have a 7 foot high black fence around it? Yeah great architect!

    • EP old-timer can you elaborate on the stretch proposed on Cerro Gordo? I live a block away and hadn’t heard of this. I’d be interested to know the details.

      • EP new-timer, it is not a proposed development. I was expressing concern that similar land ownership situations exist in Echo Park that could greatly change the character of the hillside neighborhoods. The Cerro Gordo area owners have amassed numerous SFRs and contiguous empty lots over the decades. They are up there age-wise and what happens if they or their children decide to cash out to a developer who in turn changes it all to small lot subdivisions?

  4. This makes me happy. For all you anti-gentrifreaks out there, remember, more housing supply means lower rents… So pick your battles.

    • You are high if you think this is going to make rents go down.

      • Agreed. Small lot subdivisions selling for $500,000 makes people with 800-1000sq ft houses think they’re sitting on a cool million.

      • I agree slobby. What west side planet are you from h8ter? As an L.A. native and someone who’s lived in this area for most of his life I can assure you rents aren’t going down. Wake the F up.

        • Yeah……I love to watch historical buidings be distroyed! Why does h8ter live here???

          • More supply and lower rents is not rocket science… However, making an area more desirable, thus increasing demand, increases rents. I am an echo park property owner and resident of about 10 years now. I don’t see how making the neighborhood nicer hurts anyone, I do acknowledge that ugly buildings can hurt though. I love the charm of the neighborhood, and rely on pressure from anti-change’ites like yourself to ensure that the local input affects her choice in architectural style.

            Didn’t know they were demolishing buildings, though. The article specifically states that the area in question has been described as “an eyesore and gang hangout” it also mentions 5 lots, I just assumed they were undeveloped lots. See the comment from “ben” below.

            Please don’t be reactive; instead, read and respond intellectually. I live here because I love it here. I’m not trying to agree or disagree with you, I am a supporter of clarity over agreement.

  5. To be fair, EP old-timer, take a gander at the site they’re looking at developing. I’ve eyeballed it a few times and wondered why someone else hadn’t replaced the run down stucco cottages up there yet, and I guess this is the answer.

  6. This is so dumb… we need more specific zoning to keep the infill density along Sunset where the infrastructure can handle growth, and residents have options to get around the community besides driving. Adding more dense development up in the hills where 99% of trips require a car is just madness.

  7. Alijill- she’s young for all she’s accomplished. And she’s silver lake based. Please also provide the historical credentials for these buildings.

  8. L.A., like much of SoCal, is horribly overpopulated. The traffic is getting worse at an alarming rate. It seems like building more houses/living units will just encourage more people to move here.

    Also, many of the houses that already exist are vacant because banks are foreclosing on them.

  9. Please provide information on who to write to, or how to petition this development. The small lot ordinance is something to take a stand against. It does nothing to improve the neighborhood, provide quality housing, or affordable housing. It’s just straight up greedy. If we can all get together on this one and take a stand in an organized manner, we can make it not happen.

    • What about people who want small houses/lots? They can’t build things if no one wants them.

      I have a rental near fargo/echo park that is on a very small lot, been that way since someone sub’divided it decades ago… and it’s a great property. More sq footage would just be more gardening expense as the current tenants don’t seem to care about the outdoor spaces at all.

    • The small lot subdivision isn’t really a bad idea. The city is more or less built out, and we will still need to add more apartments over time to satisfy demand. But it seems like there should definitely be more restrictions on where these can be built. A skinny/hilly terrain devoid of amenities or bus service is just a bad location for adding density. Hopefully the developer will be sensible and propose a few single family homes instead of the max of 18-24 units (aka 25-50 more cars driving up and down that steep hillside several times a day).

      • The cars are the problem. The area is congested with apartments already. The idea that there might be 20-40 more cars is just insane.

      • Agreed… baxter is a scary ass hill to drive on, let alone walk. This will not be a commuter friendly location. Know if anyone’s ever been hit at the top of the hill where you can’t see over the hood of your own car?

  10. It might be a lot of things, but it is no “gang hang out” unless by gang you mean the guy who fed the cats. That’s just straight scare tactic.

  11. And h8ter, you make no sense! First you say it’ll lower rents, then you admit it won’t. Then there is this:

    “I love the charm of the neighborhood, and rely on pressure from anti-change’ites like yourself to ensure that the local input affects her choice in architectural style.”

    Great. You depend on those you disagree with to make sure nothing gets fucked up? Never mind your understanding of the small lot ordinance is completely twisted. You’re the one who want’s to have an honest discussion, I suggest you pick a point of view first and it’ll make that discussion much easier for others.

    • I totally see your point, but try to stay focused on one thing at a time.
      First:
      Here’s how markets work (in short)

      More people want to live here than can live here = higher rents.
      More places to live than people who want to live here = lower rents

      Thus, if the same amount of people want to live here, then the rents will be lowered by building more housing. period. ( mind you on this scale, “lowered” would be a minuscule amount, if measurable )

      I was actually granting you some favor on your point by bringing in a SEPARATE argument… one that clearly had nothing to do with the homes being developed…. rather the appeal of echo park. If the area continues to become more popular, then the demand is actively increasing, which given a static number of place to live will drive rents up . Unless the increase in supply of housing exceeds the increase in people who want to move here.

      To throw in a wildcard: if you believe that these will tarnish the neighborhood, then it serves that people would NOT want to move here anymore, thus lowering demand to live here, while increasing supply visa-vie ugly small lot sub’ homes. Those forces would both act in the same direction, lowering rents :).

      These forces, unfortunately, are insignificant when we’re talking about a few homes… would take thousands of homes to actually feel measurable changes in rents in nela.

      To address your statement that I disagree with you yet depend on you:

      I disagree with your view that development should not take place… but I agree with the reasons you fear it, I don’t like ugly homes or degrading the neighborhood. So… can’t community pressure be used to ensure she doesn’t build 90’s stucco track home looking boxes? Or can it only be used to kill improvements and prevent any building at all?

      To address your request for my point of view:

      More housing is a step in the right direction, and I much prefer small SFHs as they seem to have more soul than giant condo projects, but to each his own.

      As for my misunderstanding of the small lot ordinance:

      Instead of insulting my lack of understanding, why wouldn’t you use the opportunity to explain it? I don’t know much about it other than what has been said in this thread.

      I might just agree with you if I knew more about why you felt so strongly. You come across as really angry fyi. You don’t have to be angry with me, I’m here to listen to what you have to say.

      • did “h8ter” just call me angry?

        Im not angry, I just find your all-over-the-place opinions annoying. I’m pretty sure you’re just looking for an argument.

  12. The discourse on this is shameful. Let’s keep it intelligent. Let’s get the information. Let’s find out what they are actually planning and stop calling each other names. Let’s take this off the low-brow plane of insulting and instead work together to understand the issues that I believe affect all off us:

    Environmental impact?
    Impact of increased traffic?
    The preservation of historic homes?
    The social and cultural costs : more cars equals less safety for our children???
    Noise?

    Please people, we don’t have to be mean. Let’s talk.

  13. I would like to echo the concerns of Leslie S. and of Henry. I have talked to several of my neighbors on this block of Vestal and none of us have been able to get any info on this project. I am not sure who in the community is being engaged, but we have not been able to find them. Houses on regular size lots would be fine, but a dense build would be problematic.

  14. This is a great idea! About time someone does something with the piece of poo lot. She’s an amazing designer. Can’t wait to see what she brings!!! Bravo to the developer.

    Back off all the haters. Let’s get EP cleaned up!

  15. Do Your Research

    This isn’t a big developer moving in, people. This is a small nuanced development company run by classy folks who have done other thoughtful, tasteful, and good things around LA. Ben made a great point: the homes currently on the site are in disrepair, and though they might be old, they’re hardly historical. Sure this is change, and change scares people, but this project will bring added value to a great neighborhood.

    • It’s a very good point, but you have to understand most of the people on here are driving past the changos condos everyday, saw the plans for the avalon/ep ave lot-stuffers and every other weird idea that’s come along. So to say “trust us” is not that easy when — to be honest — the whole project seems very hush hush.

      I do agree the houses are nothing anyone will miss though. But there are some really nice trees on the lot! I hope they build around a few.

  16. I got a letter today from the developer saying there is going to be a community discussion about the place and that they aren’t planing on packing the units in. I hope it’s really nice, I live right next door.

  17. I have lived on this street for years. The real issue here is parking. Vestal is a narrow hillside street with limited street parking. The developer must provide sufficient parking for residents and guests of the development so as not to exacerbate an already congested street. My concern is that the small lot ordinance will enable the developer to circumvent the need to provide sufficient parking.

    A thoughtful development can be a great benefit to the neighborhood.
    I challenge the developer to share his plan on the Eastsider. Let his plan speak for itself.

  18. A neighbor just told me there’ll be a MEETING WITH THE DEVELOPER on TUES. APRIL 17th at 6:30 p.m. at Echo Park Pottery, 1850 Echo Park Ave. Concerns & questions will be addressed at the meeting. So spread the word and be there to air any grievances. Found out the developer’s name is Casey Lynch. His email is [email protected].

    Many I’ve spoken to definitely share the concerns of Leslie: (“Environmental impact? Impact of increased traffic? The preservation of historic homes? The social and cultural costs : more cars equals less safety for our children??? Noise?”)

    I agree with Gene & Corner Soul in their concern about parking. Even if the developer provides onsite parking, there’ll still be a dramatic increase in traffic. The streets were probably originally designed to accommodate a few donkeys!

    As for Ben’s “replacing run-down cottages already there. . .” I completely disagree. I’ve been in those homes to see that the previous tenants had kept up, many at their own expense. You can’t replace the old pre-30s wood floors and construction. Those “run-downs” are part of the original Echo Park.

    The developer should definitely post his plans on the Eastsider!

  19. The developer, along with EPIA folks, Christine Peters and Andrew Garston are telling people they may not attend the meeting on the 17th. It is a “private” event. This is outrageous. I encourage all concerned residents to attend. If they kick you out, that’s on them.

  20. Apparently there was a public meeting with EPIA yesterday (announced yesterday on this blog). Did anyone attend? Is there any info.
    Thank you.

  21. “the houses are nothing anyone will miss though” is only true if they had not been peoples homes for decades. Five households have been evicted. I lived at 2030 Vestal for almost two decades; the other tenants were in their homes for 22, 25, 30, and 33 years.

    “putting the community first, ahead of greed, crowding and the profit that comes from it.”
    seems an odd description for tearing down 5 occupied houses and replacing them with 18.

    • “Putting the community first, ahead of greed, crowding and the profit that comes from it.” says it all. Developers literally plow their way through the community, destroying evictees’ lives – as well as taking away the reasons we all settled in Echo Park. Putting the community first? They have no sense of the word “community!”

  22. The Small Lot Subdivision ordinance is misunderstood by the masses and it causes fear and panic among the residents of the neighborhood. Here is a nice study prepared by HUD, using LA as a SLS case study, very informative and useful:

    http://www.huduser.org/portal/bestpractices/study_102011_1.html

    • It was pointed out by multiple people, including the architects, at the GEPENC meeting that the SLS provides developers a loop hole for expanded development of undersized properties. It was touted that this project is a truly defined SLS project.
      The HUD statement is written for the benefit of those who created the ordinance. It is not based on real application or study of actual results.
      The project may be a better design in space and efficiency.
      The access streets are sub standard. Also the project will steal precious street parking through drive way and fire hydrant access.

  23. Have no problem with Small Lot Subdivision ordinance IF projects are built in suitable places.. Suburbia is definitely moving to City. A good place to live when we run out of oil. The developers of the Vestal/Preston project have great low density plans — all very well planned & nice architecture.
    – – – Except NOT on OUR steep, narrow streets originally built for single residences. More traffic, more back-ups/back-downs, making the streets even more dangerous than they already are. Try going up or down Baxter, Vestal or Preston even when it’s not trash day. A great plan – but should be built on flat land with wider streets.

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