On July 13, the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council voted 9-2 to support the appeal of a four-story apartment complex at 1309-1331 S. Pacific Ave. in San Pedro. Board members Rock Ashfield and Bron D’Angelo voted against supporting the appeal.
In April, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously approved the development. Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council and Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council supported the appeal prior.
This past November, both NWSPNC and Central SPNC voted to support the project but suggested changes.
“In part, we were pleased that they were not asking for an exemption to parking requirements,” said Diana Nave, chairwoman of the NWSPNC’s Planning and Land Use Committee. “We also felt that this part of Pacific was a riskier area to develop than in some of the other projects we had reviewed.”
The development is 45-feet tall and is on the west side of Pacific Avenue, between 13th and 14th Street. The project will have 102 units — a dozen of them for very low-income tenants — and 127 parking spaces.
The appeal of the development deals primarily with the impact and interpretation of the state density bonus, Nave said.
“This is a law under which developers can get certain incentives and waivers in exchange for inclusion of a certain number of income-restricted units,” she said.
NWSPC opposed the density bonus law before it passed because it would be disruptive to the community plan, she said.
The developer used the state density bonus ordinance to request several variances, i.e. a relaxing of restrictions.
Jonathan Lonner, a representative of Burns & Bouchard Inc. — the company that is representing RKD 13 PAC. LP, which owns the property — said that since the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approval in April, there have been no changes to the size or scope of the project. However, a community group called Citizens Protecting San Pedro appealed the commission’s decision.
NWSPNC’s resolution in support of the appeal points out that the project does not conform to the Local Community Plan, the Community Plan Implementation Ordinance, and the Pacific Corridor Redevelopment Plan. In addition, a letter that the NWSPNC approved to send to Councilman Joe Buscaino and the Los Angeles Planning Department contended that the formula used to calculate traffic impacts was inaccurate.
“You might hear this appeal is just a policy difference of opinion and that the city is doing what the state allows,” said Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council member Robin Rudisill, who also chairs her council’s Planning and Transportation Committee. “That is nonsense. Those are just excuses. We’ve poured over both the state and the city regulations. This is not a policy issue. In this appeal, we’re talking about city planners who are making serious errors and abusing their discretion in approving this project.”
Citizens Protecting San Pedro had a lawyer look at the project and summarize the many ways the city violates its own law in approving it, Rudisill said.
“In the appeal, we show how the city violated their regulations,” Rudisill said. “But even looking at it big picture, it’s clear on its face that a 77% floor area ratio bonus and a 55% height bonus are too much to ask for them to provide just 12 affordable units.”
Rudisill said that if this is not done correctly, it will haunt the community on every project that follows.
“The city’s violating and abusing their own laws,” Rudisill said. “It’s not fair to us community members or the developers, for that matter.”
Rudisill said that Citizens Protecting San Pedro is in favor of a project at 1309-1331 S. Pacific Ave, but not one like this.
“Every day we learn of more corruption within our city and we must do all we can to not let it happen in San Pedro,” Rudisill said.
The density bonus law requires the floor-to-area ratio and height be on-menu items, Rudisill said. On-menu items are a relaxation of zoning requirements that can be earned by things like providing a certain amount of affordable housing, or being close to a major transit center.
“But when the project didn’t meet the requirements as on-menu items, the city allowed the applicant to then move them off-menu,” Rudisill said. “But that’s not allowed. And, that’s one of our main appeal points.”
What can be an on-menu item and what can be an off-menu item are very specific and they cannot be interchanged, Rudisill said.
Lonner said the appeal was factually incorrect in what the density bonus provisions allow, but he did not elaborate. Instead, he thanked the NWSPNC for including him in the discussion, as the other neighborhood councils did not invite him or the company he represents to speak when they voted on the appeal.
“It’s an attempt by a couple people that don’t want a project in their neighborhood to happen in yours,” Lonner said.
There have been similar projects approved in San Pedro, and in the city and state, Lonner said.
NWSPNC Treasurer Melanie Labrecque said her family lives next to the development and that traffic there is very heavy. One of the intersections it intersects with, 13th Street and Pacific, is busy and there have been many accidents there, she said.
“To add 107 units like right there, it’s very concerning,” Lebrecque said. “That’s a lot of density to add to that very congested area as it is right there on Pacific.”
Lee Williams, chairman of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, said it is important to make sure that affordable housing is part of every development in San Pedro.
“I like the idea of spreading the affordable units out, instead of creating ghettos and low-income like sections of San Pedro,” Williams said. “It’s nice to have various income levels living together in different neighborhoods so that we can get that homogenized interaction.”
Williams said he did not want to discuss the appeal, because from what he had heard from the city, it has little merit.
Danial Nord, who has lived, worked and owned property on Pacific Avenue for 18 years, said he wants to see responsible development on Pacific, but this development is irresponsible.
“The applicant has created and uploaded a document called ‘applicant rebuttal,’ attempting to legalize their dismissal of our community concerns,” Nord said. “They distort and obfuscate a few cherry-picked points, while completely omitting the most important issues, like falsified traffic and air quality studies, cumulative impacts, a high injury network … tsunami and emergency services routes, insufficient affordable housing, and violating community and redevelopment plans.”
Nord said that the developers are flippers, and they are not planning on building anything.
“They’re violating all these rules to secure outrageous entitlements to the lot so they can turn around and flip the entitled lot and walk away with a load of cash,” Nord said.
Flipping like this inflates housing costs by adding middlemen, Nord said. While 12 very-low-income units will be built, 90 market-rate units will be built as well — and there are already 490 empty market-rate apartments in San Pedro.
San Pedro resident Allen Franz said that if built, the project will be profitable, but it won’t be safe, livable or sustainable.
“We need, for San Pedro as a whole, a clear precedent that Los Angeles Municipal Code, that the San Pedro Community Plan, the CPIO, and the Pacific Avenue Redevelopment corridor — which the community developed — have value,” Franz said. “We’re not doormats for anybody with a wad of cash to come in and put in whatever they want.”