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Councilman seeks rules to slow dense development in Echo Park and Silver Lake

New construction rising over Echo Park

Given how development has become a huge issue in Los Angeles, how can the city discourage dense development in some older and historic neighborhoods?

That’s the question facing the city Planning Department after the 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell asked planners on Tuesday to prepare reports on potential zoning and land use strategies that would eventually slow the pace of dense development in certain portions of Silver Lake and Echo Park.  Numerous apartment buildings and small-lot residential projects have been built in both neighborhoods in recent years and more development is under construction or in the planning stages.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell made two motions on Tuesday – one for Silver Lake and one for Echo Park – to put stricter regulations in place for new construction. The motions must be approved by the full council.

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Both motions ask the Planning Department for amendments to “ensure that any potential future development complements, and is consistent with, the scale and character of the built environment.”

Tony Arranaga, a spokesman for O’Farrell, told Curbed LA that the motions were prompted by a proposed project on Echo Park Avenue to replace a set of Spanish-style bungalows from the 1920s with as many as a dozen new three-story homes.

In Echo Park, planners would focus on the areas around Echo Park Avenue, Scott Avenue, Logan Street, Lemoyne Street, Montana Street, and Morton Avenue if the motion is adopted.  In Silver Lake, planners would review how  high-density zoning impacts the lower-density residential areas, particular those on hillside streets that don’t meet modern standards.

The motions, if adopted, would be the first step in potential changes to land use laws. Changes recommended by the Planning Department studies would also be subject to additional public review and City Council approval.

Wurfl Court – inspiration for new zoning rules | Courtesy L.A. Planning Department

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29 comments

  1. Great news!!!!!

  2. totally support Mr. O’Farrell’s efforts in this.

  3. “Councilman seeks rules to slow dense development in Echo Park and Silver Lake”…or “Councilman seeks rules to make housing more affordable in Echo Park and Silver Lake”

    As a home owner, I personally don’t care either way, but if affordable housing is something we want, we need to stop fighting density. If the supply can outpace the demand, prices will fall – it’s simple economics 101. Hmmm, maybe I don’t want affordable housing because it makes MY home value increase. If you can’t afford to live in LA, than leave! 😉

    • Of course we need to build more housing. I don’t think anyone is arguing otherwise. What O’Farrell and the people of Silver Lake and Echo Park are saying is simply build the much needed housing in other neighborhoods. I’m sure the other council members will be more than happy to sign onto O’Farrell’s proposal to single out Silver Lake and Echo Park for special limits on new development.

    • Not every location is right for density. Small hilly streets, for example. Or having three story small lots homes towering over adjacent bungalows, craftsman’s, 1950’s Spanish etc. homes.

      • Right! Stop development now! Besides, at any given moment, less than 10% of the total city population is actually looking for housing at any given moment which means that the 90% who already have housing and/or own a home will benefit from the rise in housing prices/tenancy! If you can’t afford to live in LA, than leave because increased housing prices and “neighborhood charm” are more important that you have a home in the city 😉

      • All the houses on the hillside “tower” over Echo Park Ave. A 3 story house is still going to be lower than the houses just up the hillside. And the Del Mor apartments are already 4 stories.

  4. bathing at baxter

    Proposition S?

  5. ITS ABOUT TIME
    Stop , before the charm turns into Van Nuys !

  6. The Wolf has proposed conducting a study to gather suggestions which might help protect some of the sheep from being slaughtered in their sleep.
    If the council approves the motion, then they can wait until a report is completed at some near distant time in the future after which public hearings may be scheduled and further amendments and revisions entertained.
    Instead of delaying until the year 2025, O’Farrel could save some sheep tonight by patching holes in the fence and locking the gate around the sheep pasture so it wasn’t so easy for the wolves to run in.
    Except that O’Farrel is the love-child of (small lot subdivision ordinance)Garcetti and the developers – so what you are seeing right now is just a little show and delay and delay and do nothing.
    Of course. who am i to disagree with the likes of Alex K. or Kevin or Tony Arraniaga.
    But i know this much – in the past, when out of control development threatened irreversible damage to the character and fabric of a residential neighborhood in Los Angeles,
    the councilman who was genuinely concerned would propose and demand support for a moratorium.
    Once a moratorium is imposed, then let them take as long as they need to do all the studies they want
    Except there won’t be more than 2 sickly old sheep and one frail lamb left in this pasture by the time you see O”Farrel finally wrap his lips around the word Moratorium.

  7. Fair enough… but housing advocates better hold his feet to the fire when the city updates community plans. Sunset should be fair game for dense mixed-use with very little parking.

  8. It’s frustrating that the Echo Park community (like so many others in LA) is simultaneously anti-gentrification and anti-development. Here’s the reality: people are going to keep moving to Los Angeles. We will either acknowledge that and build enough housing to accommodate all of them, or we’ll watch as gentrification continues to push out anyone who isn’t rich from any even remotely-desirable neighborhood.

    Echo Park could house significantly more people without losing its vibe. Maybe instead of discouraging any new development, we should be talking about how to encourage development that makes the area better for everybody. (dense housing in walkable areas that mimics the historical architecture of the area, maybe?)

  9. I am so glad that there is even a conversation about this! For too long we have been told it’s an either-or situation; either we have an attractive neighborhood or we have density. This is the first step in figuring out how to have both. Let’s have a win-win where we keep our charm but add more capacity sensibly.

  10. It’s time to Kick out Mitch !

  11. LA is growing and expanding and the population is growing and expanding and there’s not enough housing, so housing has to be built. Unless folks stop procreating, which I highly doubt will happen, we need to build more housing. HOW and WHAT is built is the key issue here and I think Mitch is attempting at really looking SMART design, balanced development, etc.
    We need to keep some history while incorporating the new and at times erase history. We move on. We develop. We change. I was born and raised in this city and it’s always changing, but HOW it changes can make or break the future of LA. Major streets like SUnset with bus lines that run up and down is a good choice for developments while smaller, hillside streets dependant oncars isn’t such a good idea. It’s just common sense. I’m happt to see Mitch is willing to look at this density issue with a keener eye. Let’s PLAN for the future with an eye on design, quality of life, accessibility, etc.
    On another note, I would LOVE to live in Big Sur, but there’s no way I could ever afford to live in even a shack there. That’s life.

  12. EchoParkingLot

    As someone who lives behind those under-construction small lots pictured at the top of the article, I would gladly have welcomed buildings of that size, and the headaches, early mornings etc. that accompany their construction brought if they were built to house a mix of incomes, and utilized the space to provide more modest dwellings for a greater number of people.

    The neighborhood (council, citizens alike) and the city should not be encouraging the patterns of the past and developers who would build these luxury monstrosities, but developing a future in which we all, rather than a select few, can choose where we live. If that means density, then so be it. I’ll choose all the attendant, but solvable issues that density may bring over living next to global elites with a fetish for “vibrancy” and airbnb businesses that covet 15-foot ceilings and rooftop decks.

  13. Not in my back yard? Go look at the back yards of the folks on the 1400 block of Waterloo St. You want that in you back yard? Glendale did this in the 70’s and 80’s and that place looks like a ransom note of zoning permits.

  14. I know it sounds NIMBY but having had life long friends in Silverlake which I visit I can agree to a degree that the neighborhood is a sardine can of limited parking, little free space and congestion. You put dont more people per square footage but none of the infrastructure to handle it. And you cant put new infrastructure if the neighborhood is already dense and as I said earlier of little free space. I feel more anxious now driving there then anytime in the 90’s in which I looked foward to it.

  15. A 50 unit 5 story building with only 45 parking spaces on Glendale Blvd. Between 365 and Citibank is about to be approved by City Planning. Only 5 units will be provided for “Very low” income tenants. What about middle income tenants that can’t afford the rents here? Tenants will double up in these 1 bedroom units just to afford the rent and as proposed by the developer have to pay a fee above and beyond the rent for a parking space. This will dramatically effect parking in this area as our narrow streets are already compromised. There are no 5 story buildings in Silver Lake and this will set a preedent to continue building structures like this on Glendale Blvd. No environmental Impact study has been done and the department of transportation needs to take a closer look at the current gridlock traffic situation. I was very disappointed that Mr. Farrell did not show up in person for our meeting expressing our concerns regarding this project. We are not saying “No” to building housing , simply asking for a compromise on the outrageous height & density allowances, traffic considerations, parking accomodations and a closer scrutiny of safety factors. Of course the aethetics are also our concern. Due to the outrage of home owners expressed at our meeting in April at the Silver Lake Library the developer’s representative agreed to ask for a continuance so they can reconsider some of our concerns. At our hearing on 4/23 City Planning came down very hard on the developer’s representative when she asked for a continuance and time to review the current plan. City Planning bascially expressed how the developer was wasting their valuable time and they had already approved the project as is. They came very close to denying the request. After observing how City Planning officials treated home owners with very legitamate concerns about the invasion of their neighborhoods and abuse of height and density allowances I left feeling less hopeful that we have any chance of preventing the this complex from going forward, as is. I hope I’m wrong.

    • I drove to whole foods 365 at 2pm on Saturday and every single meter spot but one was free. Fuck this whining about parking spaces. Unless you bought that space STFU.

    • Ugh, I can’t believe you are still gassing on about this housing project as if that shitty stretch of Glendale Blvd. in any way has character worth preserving. You are also complaining about it not providing enough parking spaces to please you AND for it not being affordable enough to please you. You don’t seem to understand that having to provide as much parking as current zoning code requires is one of the many things that makes it impossible to build truly affordable housing in Los Angeles. The rule of thumb cost to build a single underground parking spot is $100,000. For the 45 parking spots that aren’t enough to please you that comes to $4,500,000. That is $4,500,000 before any space to house people is even provided and you are asking for more parking and for more low income units…..?

      • A 50 unit 5 story building with only 45 parking spaces on Glendale Blvd. Between 365 and Citibank is about to be approved by City Planning. Only 5 units will be provided for “Very low” income tenants. What about middle income tenants that can’t afford the rents here? Tenants will double up in these 1 bedroom units just to afford the rent and as proposed by the developer have to pay a fee above and beyond the rent for a parking space. This will dramatically effect parking in this area as our narrow streets are already compromised. There are no 5 story buildings in Silver Lake and this will set a preedent to continue building structures like this on Glendale Blvd. No environmental Impact study has been done and the department of transportation needs to take a closer look at the current gridlock traffic situation. I was very disappointed that Mr. Farrell did not show up in person for our meeting expressing our concerns regarding this project. We are not saying “No” to building housing , simply asking for a compromise on the outrageous height & density allowances, traffic considerations, parking accomodations and a closer scrutiny of safety factors. Of course the aethetics are also our concern. Due to the outrage of home owners expressed at our meeting in April at the Silver Lake Library the developer’s representative agreed to ask for a continuance so they can reconsider some of our concerns. At our hearing on 4/23 City Planning came down very hard on the developer’s representative when she asked for a continuance and time to review the current plan. City Planning bascially expressed how the developer was wasting their valuable time and they had already approved the project as is. They came very close to denying the request. After observing how City Planning officials treated home owners with very legitamate concerns about the invasion of their neighborhoods and abuse of height and density allowances I left feeling less hopeful that we have any chance of preventing the this complex from going forward, as is. I hope I’m wrong.

    • No doubt there were once no two story homes or homes at all in the “Silver Lake” area…

  16. What is considered a personal attack?

  17. Anyone who looks at the numbers knows we need more housing built. The question is, what kind? It’s not more upscale condos that we need, it’s more AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

    Mitch, your record on this issue is unimpressive. Hopefully, these new efforts will be followed up by the hard work necessary to bring better planning and more affordable housing to our neighborhoods. Do this right, Mitch, and you’ll win over your skeptics.

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