Saturday, December 15

Developer, homeowners argue over condo project


Thursday, October 2, 1997

Developer, homeowners argue over condo project

High rises may exceed height limit but could secure permit

By Rachel Munoz

Daily Bruin Contributor

More conflict in Westwood.

Surprised? Don’t be. With numerous developers, each bearing a
plan for Westwood, the village has been anything but a serene,
congenial community. In fact, agreement on any one project has
proven impossible.

The latest project idea opens yet another chapter on the
never-ending saga of disagreement.

Developer Richard Weintraub is proposing to build two
condominiums on his Wilshire Boulevard property, replacing three
40-year-old apartment buildings and a hotel.

Sound harmless? Not quite. The planned condos will tower over
Wilshire, one at nine stories and one at 14, a height with which
many of Westwood’s residents and homeowners’ associations are not
comfortable.

In 1980, the Specific Plan was developed to assist unhappy
residents and homeowners’ associations in fighting their battle
against over-development in the village. The Specific Plan was
established to control future development for Westwood. Part of the
plan includes a strict height limit of six stories.

But what many resident and homeowners groups may not know is
that the Specific Plan does allow for buildings over six stories to
be built – as long as a conditional-use permit is filed through a
public hearing process. The hearing process for Weintraub’s
conditional-use permit is scheduled for Oct. 9.

For the condos to be legally built, the Specific Plan lists 12
conditions that the development must satisfy. As stated in the
Sept. 11 report put forth by the hearing examiner, the conditions
include the minimization of traffic and parking problems,
enhancement of aesthetic qualities, encouragement of more open
space and reduction of high-density residential development and
shadows caused by the high-rise.

One homeowner who disagrees with the condos’ height is Laura
Lake, president of the community organization, Friends of Westwood.
She has continuously expressed disagreement over the idea of
high-rise condominiums.

"I don’t know why he is even attempting it," Lake said of
Weintraub’s proposal to build the condos.

Lake headed the campaign to protest the high-rise buildings
earlier this summer, standing by her conviction at a public hearing
for the project in August. Lake hoped for compliance with a
six-story building.

Councilman Michael Feuer agrees with Lake. He has consistently
denounced the nine- and 14-story condos.

Although much of the community strongly supports a strict
six-story height limit, Richard Weintraub’s architect John Reed
insists there really isn’t a concrete height limit, but rather two
separate guidelines within the Specific Plan for building in
Westwood.

"People are not reading the (Specific) Plan," Reed said. He
notes that the second set of guidelines contains certain criteria
for constructing taller buildings. "These condos comply with the
Specific Plan," Reed said, mentioning that the condos not only "met
the criteria, but went above and beyond a lot of requirements."

The hearing examiner’s report supports Reed’s claim that a
nine-story and a 14-story condo could be built. According to the
report, there was nothing negative found to reduce the project’s
chances of completion.

The staff report reveals that in addition to the condos clearly
meeting the approval of the Specific Plan, "the proposed project
represents the first high rise on Wilshire Boulevard which is not a
conventional single tower," noting that the other high rises on
Wilshire are much higher and maximize the ground space they are
allotted.

Right now, Reed seems most concerned about clearing the air with
concerned residents.

"Density is not an issue, the environment is not an issue," Reed
states. "The problem we’re having is miscommunication." He assures
that Weintraub would like to reach an agreement with the
community.

The next step for Weintraub will occur on Oct. 9 when five city
councilmembers will review the staff report along with other
information on the two condos. The board will decide whether or not
to grant a conditional-use permit.

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