Return To Sender: Atwater council rejects housing proposal for former post office parking lot

Preliminary rendering of Atwater project presented at neighborhood council meeting. Final plans are still in development/Tony Cella

By Tony Cella

The Atwater Village Neighborhood Council on Thursday voted not to support a proposed small-lot housing  project on the site of a former post office parking lot.

The board members deemed the eight-home, for sale development next to the Atwater post office to be out of character for the neighborhood and in a poor location and without adequate parking. “That sounds more like an investment vehicle for landlords,” said board member Alex Ventura.

The 13,700-square foot lot at the corner of  Glendale Boulevard and La Clede Avenue will host eight separate single family-homes  if the developer wins city approval. Each three-story house will contain three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The houses will be approximately 1,550 square-feet in size and will be priced in the low $600,000’s, according to the developers.

One house will be reserved for low-income buyers, and the project will include 900 square feet of retail space that would use street parking, which stakeholders claimed didn’t exist. Each house will have two parking spaces except for the affordable domicile, which will only have one allocated parking spot, according to project heads at ReThink Development.

Board members criticized the planned development for being too dense and claustrophobic compared to the typical single-family home neighborhoods of Atwater Village and . “I can’t imagine living like that, especially for $600,000,” said board member Karen Knapp.  Another board member, Luis Lopez,   voiced concern about turning the commercial area into a set of homes because of the limited amount of space for businesses to develop on Glendale, one of the neighborhoods main shopping venues.

The lot was fenced off when the United States Postal Service opted not to continue leasing the parking area as part of long-term cost cutting strategies. Last year the Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to then councilmember and now Mayor Eric Garcetti seeking relief from what she described as “anarchy”  as customers jammed into the remaining  parking lot. In the past residents have expressed concern that the traffic situation, which overflows onto the key transit vein.

Board member Jayden Brant claimed the now vacant lot was often hit with graffiti and believed placing active homeowners on the property would scare off potential taggers.

A person in attendance supported the project because most of the construction would be done off-site, taking the noise burden away from residents, and because they would be the only Platinum LEED –  an environmentally-friendly certification –  houses built in Los Angeles for under one million dollars, according to the developers.

In previous meetings, Ventura stated that the council had a policy of not supporting developments utilizing the small lot subdivision because of the dense nature of the projects. He believed single-family homes were a defining characteristic of the neighborhood, a vision that had been contested in the past by fellow board member James Heugas who was absent from the meeting. Huegas had asked the board to keep in mind the renters of the village and other tenants of non-single family abodes.

The council is an advisory body and it has no power to enforce its vote. Final approval rests with the city.

The developers said they didn’t know what they would build on the property, which the company owns, if the city vetoed the plans, but it was pointed out they could build a 29 unit apartment complex without requesting variances.

One stakeholder was happy the council didn’t support a smaller proposal to avoid a rental project.

“Don’t think you’ll be able to muscle this through and have us think you’re giving us a better deal,” he told the developers during debate.

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.


  1. Imagine that – a neighborhood council voting not to support a housing project. Hear that Echo Park Neighborhood Council: It’s okay to say “No”.

    • Echo Park resident

      Was just about to say the same thing!

      Good job, Atwater Neighborhood Council! Echo Park Council, I hope you’re paying attention to this. You CAN turn away developers and preserve the character of our neighborhood!

    • Just say NO! to over-development. In fact, believe it or not, YOU too can say no.

      Click on http://chn.ge/18KtS7r and SIGN the PETITION

      Stop thoughtless development that makes no attempt to integrate with the neighborhood in terms of scale, character or verified need.

      We’re in day 3 of our petition. 150 online supporters, 150 handwritten signatures in support. 700 to go! Join us in sending a message to City Hall– No More Variances, Bonuses, Insensitive “By-Right” projects that violate the Community Plan for land use. There are ways to fulfill housing needs that enhance the existing neighborhood– lets see those designs instead.

      Community-driven vs. Profit-driven………. enough is enough! Speak up!

    • Bravo, Atwater Council, for having enough gumption to stand up and say no to horrible, overly dense development with horribly undersized units. And shame on Eastsider for its constant push of development in the area, completely selling out to all the real estate interests, especially with its “sponsored” posts — just a shill for real estate developers and gougers.

      Echo Park is not the only one suffering from these small lot subdivisions. So too is Silver Lake, where the Neighborhood Council seems to think it must bend over backward to approve special exemptions from the zoning regulations (variances) to accommodate them. Here in Atwater, this one — from the description of it — requires a variance too. A variance is a special request to not have to follow the rules. That is something that should be denied nearly always, only very rarely being approved. But the city takes the opposite approach, instead very rarely denies, bends over backward to accommodate.

      The rules themselves are seriously deficient to protect neighborhoods. Do not allow variances to undermine the already weak rules!

      I have spoken out — and vociferously — against these small lot subdivisions since they first got started. And I note, you can thank our former Councilman Eric Garcetti for them, they were his baby to push through the City Council — he has never seen an overdevelopment that he would not like to be even bigger and denser.

      And $600,000 will get you a larger single-family house in this area — even in today’s hot market. Why would any idiot spend that kind of money for a place where simply going from one room to another requires going up and down the stairs! And keep that point in mind — as no one intends to stay in such a place any longer than absolutely necessary to move elsewhere — and that means these will all be very transient occupancy, seriously undermining the neighborhood fabric, not stable occupancy. And when that happens, you can expect a slow slid to dilapidation.

      These small lot subdivisions should be allowed only in their own zone — no different that trailer parks are allowed only in their own zone. That’s about all these things are — the width of trailers but 3-4 stories tall.

    • Yep! Sounds like Echo Park of the olden days – neighborhood activists who were are willing to actively stand by the character of the neighborhood. Sadly, no longer the case in EP.

  2. I live 2 blocks from this lot. 8 condo’s on this little lot is too dense. The character of Atwater Village needs to skew to single family. The zoning was changed, I believe in the 1990’s, from multi-family to R1, single family and it should stay that way. Let’s keep Atwater a “village” by keeping a more neighborhood feel.

  3. Small lot subdivision homes aren’t condos. They are single family residences on their own lot just like all the other little houses in Atwater. Some people want to own their own home but not have as much yard and landscape maintenance to deal with. I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s on a major thoroughfare not a quaint little deadend street.

  4. it’s a crappy little corner lot, and for as long as remember an eyesore just dirt and dust. be grateful anybody wants to build on it period–let alone a modern and attractive residential/business structure. you think somebody is going to build a craftsman house on that plot? you’ve got to be kidding.

    • Well, “as long as you can remember” isn’t very long at all. Not two years ago, there was a storefront there on Glendale! The post office tore it down and fenced off. Only then was it dusty, after the tear down.

      If you don’t even know that much of what you are talking about, then what you say carries no weight, is spoken out of prejudices not facts.

      And who are you a shill for: “Modern and attractive?!” I am sure even the developer himself or herself doesn’t really think it is “modern and attractive,” although they would never admit that.

      A crappy lot? Corner lots on major thoroughfare are premium lots! That could have a new storefront that could contribute to the neighborhood and Glendale Blvd, with adequate parking behind it, maybe a nice bistro or restaurant, maybe a small food mart, maybe ….

      • Actually, there was not a storefront in place of that lot two years ago. That parking lot has been a parking lot for many years. The fence went up when the post office could no longer afford to pay to rent it, and the owners of the lot fenced it in.

    • exactly.. i was reading all the other comments and i seriously was lost as to what the big deal was.. 8 units too dense???? and on one of the major, no make that THE major, street in the neighborhood. these council members too really are a piece of work, they lack the ability to understand that just because they live a certain lifestlye doesnt mean everybody does. The developers puting up the money to build this wouldnt be risking their money if they didnt think there would be substational demand for housing like this.

      • My small Atwater house is the only thing on my 6,700 sq ft lot and I can’t build a small income unit because the zoning is R1 and even a “mother-in-law unit (ADU in govt speak) is prohibited because my lot is too small. So I do think 8 uits on that small parcel, even on a busy street, is too dense. A 29 unit building there would be insane. Yikes!

  5. ———————————————————————————————————————————————————
    nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby nimby
    1) “That sounds more like an investment vehicle for landlords” – are you kidding me. new construction in Atwater, a walkable neighborhood? Young professionals would be all over that.
    2) “I can’t imagine living like that, especially for $600,000,” said board member Karen Knapp.” – new construction in Atwater, a walkable neighborhood? Imagination transplant stat.
    3) “Board members criticized the planned development for being too dense and claustrophobic ” – just put a sign out saying no development is welcome and call it a day so that no one wastes their time in your precious hamlet
    4) “Don’t think you’ll be able to muscle this through and have us think you’re giving us a better deal,” he told the developers during debate.” – unless the developer was an asshole or has had a history of steamrolling this comment is small-minded.

  6. Its going to be hilarious when they decide to build 29 low income housing apartments instead.

    8 homes , small lot development. What’s the big deal?

  7. exactly mike!! Just like that oold Kmart lot…they opposed a home depot and now getting a Goodwill…..

  8. Twelve Words or Less

    Knapp argues economics, not character. This is folly.

  9. Luis Lopez and other members of the certain neighborhood groups have always opposed any kind of progress in the neighborhood, he seems to need Atwater Village to remain stuck in some fantasyland of the 50’s, without any younger faces and their young urban professional money coming in to revitalize the area.

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