By Aaron Blevins, 10/20/2011
Residents Submit Petition Against Parking Lot Development
Residents who live near Olympia Medical Center submitted a petition containing nearly 400 signatures to Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, last Saturday, hoping to ensure that their concerns are heard as some of the hospital’s physicians continue to plan for a new residential property.
The project has been proposed by a separate partnership of physicians and non-physicians who collaborated to support the hospital, Olympia president Dr. Shahram Ravan said. He said the hospital is not pushing the project.
Originally, the physicians, including Ravan, sought to build a 44-unit structure with small office or retail space at a site on Olympic Boulevard between Alandele and Spaulding Avenues that is currently a parking lot. However, architects continue to refine the plans as residents and neighborhood associations call for changes.
“We are in the process of doing [the revisions],” architect Shahab Ghods, of West Los Angeles-based Plus Architects, said. “The scope of the project hasn’t changed.”
He said the physicians had withdrawn their variance requests, though they are still seeking a zoning change. The lot currently has commercial, multi-family residence and single-family residence zoning, but they would like residential accessory zoning for a mixed-use structure.
Ghods said architects plan to make some cuts to the structure’s top floors, specifically on the Alandele side. Also, they are aiming to reduce the size of the project on the single-family site, he said.
“We put the bulk of the project on the Olympic side,” Ghods said.
Some residents in the area, though, are more concerned about the implications of having another residential structure — such as congestion and parking issues — than the structure itself. Others are worried about the rezoning setting a precedent for the rest of the neighborhood.
“There’s already plenty of development in this area,” resident Liza Gerberding said. “One could say it’s overdeveloped.”
She said the neighborhood is a historical part of Los Angeles, with nice apartments and commercial buildings. If the Olympia physicians were granted a rezone, other companies could begin to do the same, Gerberding said.
“We don’t want [the existing structures] razed and paved over,” she said. “Beautify? It’s already beautiful.”
She referenced the city’s general plan for the Wilshire area. Gerberding said city officials reexamined those very lots in 2000 or 2001, and opted not to alter the zoning, though several other zone changes were made in nearby areas.
“It’s zoned for a reason,” she said.
The signatures were presented to LaBonge during the Miracle Mile Residential Association’s annual meeting. The association had previously voted against the project, president Jim O’Sullivan said. He said members felt that the project was too big for the area.
“They couldn’t answer our questions, and it seemed too big,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s too intrusive to the neighborhood.”
Although O’Sullivan echoed some of Gerberding’s comments, he said he hopes the developers will eventually present a project that the association can support. He said he is a fan of the hospital and goes there for treatment when necessary.
“They’re a great, great hospital,” O’Sullivan said, adding that lawsuits should be expected if the physicians proceed and don’t refine the project to fit the neighborhood’s needs.
Ghods said he will continue to work with the community, but some residents are not interested in the project whatsoever. He said the project received preliminary approval from the Mid-City West Neighborhood Council, but was then blindsided by opposition.
“We think it’s an exciting project for the site,” he said.
The physicians could legally build 37 units at three different sites on the lot, but planners don’t want to exacerbate the issues residents are predicting for the planned project, Ghods said.
Ravan said the group is hoping to make the neighborhood more appealing, for residents and for potential Olympia employees who may relocate to the area. He said contractors are taking recommendations into consideration.
“I think this is a good project for the area,” Ravan said. “It will improve the appearance of our neighborhood. We are trying to create a win-win situation. We’ve done everything possible to minimalize any affect on the neighborhood.”
Renee Weitzer, chief planning and land use deputy for LaBonge’s office, said no final decisions have been made, but she plans to set up a meeting between the developers and the concerned residents to discuss the issues.
“It’s a project that is moving, and nothing is set in stone,” she said.
LaBonge confirmed that he had received the petition and acknowledged the community’s concern.
“I accept the community’s concern that what is currently proposed at that property is not acceptable to a lot of neighbors,” LaBonge said.
Tags | Olympic Boulevard project