Friday, March 21, 2008

Panel Votes to Restrict Housing on McCowan’s Property

Community residents packed the Port of Los Angeles hearing room to express opposition to a condo development on the McCowan’s Market property. Photo by John R. Stinson.

A city panel has recommended a zoning change to restrict residential development on the property that once housed the McCowan’s market at 20th Street and Walker Avenue.

Sending cheers through the audience of neighborhood residents, the Harbor Area Planning Commission voted unanimously to impose a “Q” (“qualified”) condition on the property.

If approved by the Los Angeles City Council, the Q classification would cap development at three residential units on the McCowan’s property.

Testifying at the standing-room-only hearing on March 18, Councilwoman Janice Hahn emphasized that the neighborhood had expressed vocal and unified opposition to the developer’s initial plans to build 18 condominiums.

Lawn signs sprang up and phone calls and emails flooded Hahn’s office. “There was not one request for high-density condos at this location,” said Hahn.

Opponents formed Vista Del Oro Neighbors Against Condos (VDONAC), which organized the grassroots lobbying campaign that effectively influenced Hahn and the planning commissioners.

Their message was to preserve the single-family residential character of the blocks immediately surrounding the property.

Dozens of signs dot the neighborhood around 20th Street and Walker Avenue, including ...

... near the vacant land where the market once stood.

“This is a great example of a neighborhood that came together to save its quality of life as it pertains to the character of the neighborhood,” said Hahn.

“I’m proud of how the community organized so quickly,” said Hahn. “It made a difference. The signs, buttons, calls and emails were very impressive and people’s voices were heard.”

Councilwoman Hahn and condo opponents celebrate the unanimous vote for a “Q” (“qualified”) condition. Photo by John R. Stinson.

The property is owned by Michael Rosenthal, who did not attend the hearing or send a representative. In an interview with San Pedro News, Rosenthal said he filed an objection with the city planning commission, challenging the Q condition.

Rosenthal’s objection is on file, but the planning commission is proceeding with its recommendation. The city council will ultimately rule on the zoning and, in the process, will consider any appeals filed by Rosenthal.

The city council vote is expected within six weeks.

“They’re putting a Q condition on something they don’t know yet because I haven’t proposed anything,” said Rosenthal, who is no longer intending to construct an 18-unit complex.

“I heard the community and people don’t want condos,” said Rosenthal. “I want to make peace with the neighborhood and Councilwoman Hahn’s office.”

Rosenthal said he is now planning to build two detached, single-family homes on each of the three lots. Each home would have a two-car garage.

Rosenthal argues that the current zoning allows such construction to proceed, but city officials contend that public hearings are required.

When Rosenthal first discussed his two-home-per-lot plan, VDONAC leaders and Hahn aides asked to see drawings, which Rosenthal has yet to release.

Meanwhile, opponents are continuing to rally around the Q condition.

It may boil down to a bureaucratic race, in which the developer chases building permits and Q advocates make a run for city council approval.


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Anonymous said...

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