The Echo Park neighborhood council has given its blessing to one of the largest residential developments proposed for the area – a 214-unit residential complex that would rise as tall as five stories and stretch for nearly 700 feet along Sunset Boulevard. But while the council endorsed the project last week, it was clear that many board members who supported the complex would have preferred a much smaller development. Several Board members and residents expressed concern that the Sunset Gateway on the eastern tip of the neighborhood would encourage similar, large-scale projects that could change the character of Echo Park and hasten the pace of gentrification. “Where is the Echo Park flavor?,” asked one person at last week’s council meeting. “All we are doing is helping [the developer] price us out of our own neighborhood.”
However, the developer, Aragon Properties of Canada, won kudos from several board members and residents for working with the community to modify its development, with the architects adding brick to the facade, shaving a few feet of the height and making other changes to reduce the mass of two large structures. The developers added ground floor retail and commercial space, and set aside 15 units for low-income tenants. But the while board members said the changes resulted in a better development, it was still too big.
Board members and some residents pointed out that the council as well as the city was powerless in some respects because state law allows developers to build larger than normal projects if they provide units for low-income residents.
“This is still a huge building in the middle of a historic area,” said Jennifer Deines, who was part of a group of residents who formed in opposition to the project. But in light of restrictions imposed by state law, “it turned out the best it could be.”
Board member Cheryl Ortega said the development reflects a different kind of Echo Park, one with little room for low-income residents and large families. “Its showing the face of a different community,” said Ortega of Sunset Gateway.
The council’s vote is only a recommendation; final approval rests with the city’s Planning Department. Public hearings are expected to be held in April and May. Construction on the project is anticipated to begin next spring, with construction taking about 18 months, according to a consultant working on the project.