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L.A. city lawmakers approve Rick Caruso's 16-story apartment tower near Beverly Center

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to approve a 145-unit residential tower near the Beverly Center, ending a nearly three-month back-and-forth saga over the project at City Hall.

Councilman Paul Koretz endorsed the La Cienega Boulevard project in November, withdrew his support a month later, then backed it again last week after real estate developer Rick Caruso agreed to reduce its height by 55 feet, taking it from 20 stories to 16.

Opponents contend that Caruso is still getting too much from the city. Until Tuesday’s vote, city rules allowed buildings no taller than 45 feet on the site.

The approval of the project means “any developer with deep pockets will be able to do whatever they want with land in this neighborhood,” said Dick Platkin, a board member for the Beverly Wilshire Homes Assn., which has threatened to sue over the project.

Koretz disputed the idea that Caruso’s 185-foot project would set a precedent, saying the area already has tall buildings, including the eight-story Beverly Center.  He said he would not support efforts to build equally tall structures on the other side of La Cienega.

The council’s vote, Koretz said, represents a middle ground between Caruso’s request for a 240-foot tower and calls from neighborhood activists to limit it to 134 feet.

“Honestly, everybody’s a little annoyed,” he added. “Some are a lot annoyed. I’m sure the developer is not happy about losing most of the profit out of his building.”

Caruso did not respond to a question from The Times about Koretz’s claim. But in a statement, Caruso said he was “thrilled” with the council’s vote.

“The vote demonstrates that by working closely with the community, we can bring a project to the neighborhood with tremendous community benefits,” he said.

Caruso plans to start construction later this year. He and his associates gave more than $476,000 to L.A. politicians and their initiatives over a five-year period, donating to all but one of the council members.

Last month, Caruso said the donations are part of a larger effort to make the city better. He compared the contributions to his extensive charitable giving to churches, nonprofits and educational institutions.

Supporters of the La Cienega tower, including the local neighborhood council and advocates for increased housing construction, praised Caruso for agreeing to offer 14 units at below-market rents. Backers also say the project will have much-needed amenities, including a market, a restaurant and a 6,910-square-foot plaza with a fountain.

“It’s going to be a good project, and create many, many middle-class jobs,” said Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidZahniser

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