Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cutting Echo Park’s skyline down to size

75-foot high buildings would be tougher to construct under proposed Echo Park zoning rule change.

Echo Park’s skyline is pretty much a low-rise affair, with only a few buildings, including the Citibank office tower and the silver dome of Angelus Temple, poking above blocks of mostly one and two-story structures.  A newly introduced City Council motion would keep it that way by removing a provision from planning and zoning rules that allows the construction of building as high as 75 feet in the center of the neighborhood.

The  proposal made by newly elected 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell would apply primarily to several parcels between Echo Park Lake on the south and the Sunset Boulevard corridor on the north.  It was in this area three years ago that the Church of the Foursquare Gospel built a five-level, 74-foot-high parking garage  to serve Angelus Temple.  Under current zoning, 75-foot-high buildings could also be constructed along a stretch of Sunset Boulevard that includes the parking lot of the Walgreens drug store, The Echo nightclub and other businesses without any additional public review.

The 75-foot  limit “is completely out of scale with the neighborhood,” and reducing  the height limit would support other planning guidelines and rules “that maintain a scale that is compatible with existing development,”  according to the motion.  Buildings are restricted to between 30 feet to 45 feet across much of the neighborhood.

The motion,which must still be reviewed and approved by the full City Council, directs the Planning Department to begin proceedings to allow for the reduction in building height.

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  1. Finally, a move in the right direction. Too bad it didn’t happen before that parking structure was built.

  2. i think that with enough people we could drag that citibank building up to glendale where it belongs.

  3. I was so sad when they built that parking structure- completely blocks my sunset 🙁

    Angelus Temple should have a cap on their development as well as height- like their role in bulldozing homes for “affordable” senior housing. Ha!

  4. It seems wacky to even be suggesting we downzone parcels along major streets. Especially when you consider that this stretch of Sunset has had similar scaled mid-rises longer than any of us have been alive.

    I agree that parking structure is gross, but so is that massive surface parking crater in front of Walgreens. How about just putting a restriction on massive parking garages and suburban surface lots instead?

  5. Silver Lake resident

    This is a great step in the right direction! Thanks, Councilman O’Farrell!

    On a related note, I absolutely loathe the Angelus Temple’s parking structure. You’d think they’d loan it out on nights/weekends when they’re not using it to make extra cash and lessen the burden of people parking on residential streets to go to the Echo and whatnot — but nooo! Talk about being neighborly >:(

  6. I hate that godawful parking structure, and yes, the Citibank tower would be more at home in Glendale. But I could see some taller residential buildings along Sunset, if they weren’t too massive.

    Height alone isn’t the problem — it’s massing and scale and also horrible aesthetic choices. The renderings for the Sunset & Everett development do not look promising (talk about more Glendale). Tho I guess I’d take bland boxy vaguely-modernist over more faux-Mediterranean monstrosities. Why do we build so much crap in this country? I realize that development is driven/structured by (1) profit and (2) zoning and code. But is there no room for half-way decent architecture?

    • This seems like the right response to me. Echo Park feels like an urban area that could use a bit more height in its center, but the few tall things that exist are awful.

  7. Would this apply to Silverlake development, too, such as at Sunset Jct. / Conquistador, etc? Could it be “gamed” with variances?

  8. The thing that confuses me is that he says this will “enhance the pedestrian orientation” of the district. I would have thought that in general, pedestrian orientation is enhanced by bringing destinations closer to people, and pushing destinations farther from people enhances automotive orientation. Imposing a lower height limitation on the central section of a neighborhood means that not as many people and destinations can share a geographic location, so there is less potential for increasing walkability.

    Thinking not just about the neighborhood, the population of the metro area is growing, as is the population of the United States, and the population of the world. If new people aren’t allowed to move into a relatively walkable and extremely central neighborhood like Echo Park, then they’ll move into the neighborhoods which do allow growth – especially places like Palmdale and Victorville, where the new people will be driving dozens and dozens of miles every day.

    By all means, preserve significant architecture locally, and preserve the character of the hillsides, but the center of Echo Park, especially along Sunset Blvd, would actually be enhanced by replacing parking lots and strip malls by a few more tall buildings.

    • Thanks for bringing some sense into this rather than emotional appeal that other people are using.

      Echo Park is in the middle of a city. EP isn’t a suburb so it would be foolish to treat as such. And as someone mentioned, height isn’t the problem in EP. It’s just how these buildings look. It’s easy to call the parking structure a disgrace to EP, but that’s simply because the building is ugly.

      And BTW, people need to stop acting that they are entitled to certain views. As mentioned earlier, EP is in a city. And cities by nature evolve, so embrace the evolution and make the best of it.

  9. Yes! this is a major move in the right direction, which is all about appropriateness of scale.

  10. My personal pet peeve is the lack of street trees in the entire neighborhood. The area between the Lake and Sunset should be enhanced to knit the park into the commercial core. Instead, almost all these streets — Park Ave, Lemoyne, Logan, even Echo Park Ave, are bleak and barren, and don’t encourage walking. And along Sunset … I have never seen so many dead and dying trees and puny little stumps. On hot days, hardly anyone walks on the north side because there is NO shade.

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