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Rezoning Puts Wrecking Crews at Their Doorsteps

Times Staff Writer

Not long after carpenter Steve Hunter finished remodeling the interior of his home on a quiet, shady street in Hollywood, a neighbor knocked at his door with the bad news.

It came in the form of a legal notice, tucked away in a newspaper’s classified ads, announcing plans by a developer to demolish the house just two doors away from his.

Ethnically Diverse

But the part that troubled Hunter most was that the property--indeed, his entire neighborhood--had been approved for rezoning from residential to light industrial.

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“I was shocked. We’ve lived here for seven years and this was the first I’d heard of it,” said Hunter, who says that none of his Tamarind Avenue neighbors were aware of the plan, either.

Yet city planners and officials of the Community Redevelopment Agency say that plans for the ethnically diverse neighborhood, sandwiched between Sunset-Gower Studios and the studios of KTLA television south of Sunset Boulevard, were no secret.

They say the area, bordered by Sunset Boulevard, Bronson and Fountain avenues and Gordon Street, where an estimated 1,000 people live, has been targeted for limited industrial use since 1973, when the Los Angeles City Council adopted a community plan for Hollywood as part of the city’s general plan.

Since then, they say, at least three public hearings have addressed the issue, including one in 1986, when the area was included in the CRA’s Hollywood redevelopment district, and another in 1987, when the City Council began considering the zoning change. They say residents were mailed notices of each of the hearings.

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The council approved the rezoning last December and needs only to incorporate the decision into an ordinance to make it official.

As part of the rezoning, the area of neat houses and small apartment buildings will become home to what city officials envision as a cluster of sound labs, film processors and other small companies serving the television and motion picture industries.

Little Comfort

But that is no consolation to Hunter and his neighbors, who accuse city officials and those of the CRA of plotting the destruction of their residential neighborhood without giving them an adequate chance to defend themselves.

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“They can talk about public hearings all they want, but if nobody knew about them--and nobody I know of did--then what kind of justice is that?” said Hunter, who has joined dozens of his neighbors to oppose the rezoning.

They have organized a vigil to prevent the first of two planned demolitions of houses in the neighborhood, a turn-of-the-century bungalow at 1433 Tamarind that is said to have once been the home of the late actor Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto in the TV series, “The Lone Ranger.”

However, Hunter acknowledges there is probably little the group can do to save the vacant house from the wrecking crew.

A developer last week received CRA approval to tear down the house and build a 4,000-square-foot rectangular industrial building with parking in what is now the front yard. Neptune Development Co. of Santa Monica still needs final approval from the Department of Building and Safety.

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Meanwhile, another developer intends to raze a house across the street and build a three-story, 8,000-square-foot building with an eye toward attracting a variety of entertainment-related tenants.

“They’re gonna come in here and pick us off one house at a time, until there’s nothing left,” said Eddie Gevoglanian, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years.

“Our property values will be shot down the tubes. Who’s gonna want to live next to a machine shop? . . . There are people here whose equity in their homes is the only security they have, and this threatens to blow it all away.”

New residential construction has been prohibited in the area for three years, ever since the neighborhood was included by the CRA in the redevelopment district, city planner Michael Davies said. Once existing homes are sold and demolished, they may only be replaced with buildings approved for industrial use, he said.

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Jose and Mirna Rosales, who last year decided to add a bath and enlarge the master bedroom of their Tamarind Avenue home after living there for five years, apparently are the exception to the 3-year-old residential construction ban. That was because the Department of Building and Safety mistakenly issued permits for the work without first requiring the couple to obtain CRA approval, a CRA spokesman said.

‘Nobody Told Us’

However, the couple consider themselves anything but lucky.

“We spent $50,000 on our house, and we sure wouldn’t have if we knew (the neighborhood) was going to be industrial,” Mirna Rosales said. “We didn’t get anything in the mail and nobody told us anything.”

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Hank Iiyama, 68, who has lived in the neighborhood his entire life except for a year in a Japanese-American internment camp and two years in the Army during World War II, has a similar complaint.

“Being retired, I make it my business to know what’s going on with people in this neighborhood,” said Iiyama, who said he found out about the rezoning two months ago, about the same time as Hunter. “Nobody I know was told anything about it.”


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