Area Residents Contest Project for Elderly : Housing: The plan calls for 86 units and 50 parking spaces on a one-acre parcel. A community group wants no more than 42 units. Councilman Woo’s office hopes to negotiate a compromise.


A Los Angeles Chinese social service agency has run into stiff neighborhood opposition to a plan to build a three-story elderly housing complex on a hillside west of Elysian Park.

Opponents contend that the density of the proposal, which calls for 86 units and 50 parking spaces on a one-acre lot, would upset the area’s rustic appearance and overwhelm its narrow, winding streets.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Aug. 27, 1992 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 27, 1992 Home Edition Glendale Part J Page 2 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Chinese center--A photo caption in the Glendale section Aug. 20 incorrectly identified Alice Chang as director of the Chinese Community Service Center Inc. Chang is the volunteer director of the agency’s adult day-care program.

Representatives of the Chinese Community Service Center Inc., which hopes to build the project with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the high density is necessary to support services the elderly residents will need, such as van rides to go shopping or to visit the doctor.


The Los Angeles Planning Commission is scheduled to decide today whether to grant a fourfold increase in the density allowed on the three lots that which make up the parcel at Morton Avenue near Academy Road. They are currently zoned for a total of 21 units.

However, a spokeswoman for Councilman Michael Woo, who has not taken a position on the proposal, said the councilman will request a continuance, hoping to negotiate an agreement between residents and the developer.

“We’re in the process of bringing the neighbors and the developers together on some type of livable compromise,” said Julie Jaskol, a spokeswoman for Woo.

Residents say they support the construction of senior housing on the site but on a smaller scale.

“We’re supportive of the concept” of senior housing, said Valerie Tuna, who lives nearby on Park Drive. “We’re opposing the size.”

After a hearing examiner last month recommended approval of the project in a report to the Planning Commission, residents held an open meeting, formed a neighborhood organization and sent a delegation to meet with Howard V. Katz, an attorney representing the Chinese Community Service Center, and representatives from Woo’s office.

In the meeting, members of the newly formed Morton Avenue Community Committee proposed that the developer cut the project to 42 units and maintain the 50 parking spaces, Tuna said. They also asked for alterations in the design of the building, which neighbors said seemed imposing and monolithic. It proposes to have three stories of living space built on top of a parking lot.

In response to the meeting, Katz said, the project’s architect has prepared a new design, which will soon be circulated throughout the community. It reduces the height by one story along the street and adds more windows to eliminate blank wall space.

Katz said the number of units and parking spaces will remain the same.

Katz disputes the potential for parking problems.

Many senior citizens don’t have cars and, in any case, would rarely leave the project, Katz said. In contrast to a family apartment building, the elderly housing complex would have mostly single people living in it, he added.

“It probably has the impact of a building one-third the size,” Katz said.

In his recommendation to the Planning Commission last month, hearing officer Eric Ritter predicted that the traffic impact would be negligible and cited the need for senior housing as a compelling reason for granting the density allowance.

If financed by HUD, the project would be open to “very low-income” senior citizens--those with annual incomes of $16,400 or less--who would spend no more than 30% of their incomes on rent. Tenants would be chosen by lottery, without regard to race or ethnic background.

Supporters of the project stressed the dearth of low-income rental housing for senior citizens.

“The rent of apartments, especially the commercial apartments, is so high that it is prohibitive” for senior citizens on fixed incomes, said Peter Alegria, director of the Asian and Pacific Coalition on Aging, who has testified on behalf of the project.

In Los Angeles, about 74,000 senior citizens fall into that category, according to city figures. As of 1991, fewer than 1,800 HUD low-income housing units have been built for senior citizens in the city.

The land, at 1727-1739 Morton Ave., belongs to Alice Chang, volunteer director of the center’s day-care program for the elderly and developmentally disabled. Chang said she bought it in the early 1980s for about $240,000, intending to build a convalescent home for the center. However, that plan proved too expensive, Chang said. Although family members urged her to build condominiums on the land, Chang said, she has held onto it hoping to use it for senior housing.

If the Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the funding, the center will buy the land from Chang at its currently appraised value, which Katz estimated at between $840,000 and $900,000.

Chang said she intends to donate her profit to a foundation she is creating to provide educational opportunities for impoverished youths in China.