Developers of a proposed 27-story luxury condominium project on Wilshire Boulevard won final approval for the high-rise Tuesday, ending a yearlong battle with Westwood homeowners and Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky over the height of the building.
The Los Angeles City Council approved the 97-unit development by an 8-5 vote after Yaroslavsky failed to garner enough support for a proposal to chop the top six floors off the building. The council voted 7 to 6 for Yaroslavsky’s alternative--one vote shy of the eight needed for approval--which would have limited the project to the height of its tallest neighbor.
It is the second time this year that the City Council has rejected a bid by Yaroslavsky to shorten the $75-million high-rise, which has become a symbol to slow-growth advocates of what they perceive as excessive development on the congested Wilshire Corridor.
Last February, the council dumped Yaroslavsky’s proposal to place a 6-story height limit on the high-rise and four others proposed for the corridor, one of the few skyscraper canyons in the city. The projects had been exempted from height limits imposed on the corridor in 1981, and several council members argued that the city had a moral and legal obligation to honor the exemption.
The 27-story project, to be built at 10570 Wilshire Blvd. by Cal Fed Enterprises, is the first of the five developments to be considered by the council since the February vote. In light of Tuesday’s defeat, Yaroslavsky said he was uncertain how aggressively his office would fight to scale back the other proposed high-rises, which range in height from 12 to 24 stories.
“The message the council is sending is pretty clear,” Yaroslavsky said. “The objective of the community should now be to focus on quality design on the remaining projects, whether they are tall or short. If development is going to occur in that community, it ought to be of the highest quality, not of the highest altitude.”
Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, one of two homeowner groups that has opposed the Cal Fed project, used the council action Tuesday to promote her candidacy for City Council. Lake is one of several candidates for Yaroslavsky’s seat in next April’s election. Yaroslavsky is expected to give up his seat to run for mayor.
“It is a pattern of losing that is continuing to harm our community,” said Lake, who hopes to win the election by appealing to voters’ concerns about development and the environment. “The majority of the council is not responsive to design and environmental concerns.”
Squeeze Into Building
Cal Fed has opposed any effort to reduce the project’s height, arguing that a redesign would be costly and that a shorter building would not address residents’ concerns about congestion and high density. R. Craig Overturf, president of the company, said Cal Fed would build 97 units even if it had been required to squeeze them into a shorter building.
“It is better to have 97 units in a tall, slender building than to squash them into a smaller building,” he said.
In August, the city’s Planning Commission approved the 27-story building, endorsing a recommendation by Kenneth C. Topping, the city’s planning director. Topping made his recommendation after the Westwood Design Review Board--a recently created citizens’ panel that advises the Planning Department on architectural and aesthetic considerations--was unable to agree whether the height of the building should be reduced.
Friends of Westwood and Westholme Homeowners Assn., which represents residents of a 16-story condominium building next to the proposed high-rise, appealed the Planning Commission action to the City Council. It was the first appeal of a ruling under the Westwood design-review ordinance, which was passed in January to give residents a greater say in the design of new projects.