Random Lengths News
New San Pedro development approved, despite community complaints
By a 6-1 vote, the City Planning Commission has approved development of a 100-unit apartment complex in San Pedro that is controversial because it will be taller and denser with a larger floor-area ratio and 41 fewer parking spaces than are allowed by local building codes. But when the question was called on Sept. 9, Karen Mack was the only commissioner to vote against the project envisioned at 2111-2139 South Pacific Ave.
“My challenge with this project is that it has such a big community voice against it,” said Mack. “Our ability to respond to that is very limited. So, what I really want to address in my remarks is this imbalance of power in the deliberation process. Neighborhood councils get three minutes, I don’t understand why there is that limitation when there is no limitation for the [city] council office to speak.”
Objections to the project largely come from San Pedro residents. Robin Rudisill, chairwoman of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Transportation Committee, pointed out that the planning commission’s decision was just the first step in approvals. A document called a determination, which outlines the decision, will be released in the next week or so, after which the community can appeal the decision. Rudisill said the appeal will first be heard by the Los Angeles City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee, and then by the city council itself.
The development will have 100 units, including 11 affordable units. It will be 45 feet and 5 inches tall and have 1,800 square feet of ground retail space.
The property is owned by RKD 2111 Pacific, LLC. It is represented by Burns & Bouchard, Inc., which also represented the development at 13091331 South Pacific Ave., a project approved by the city council in June, despite strong objections by local residents.
Parking was the issue that generated some of the biggest complaints at the Sept. 9 planning commission hearing on the new development. Plans allot only 80 spaces for the project’s 100 units — 67% of the 120 slots required in the building code. Interestingly, there will be 75 permanent parking spaces for bikes.
“I’ve reviewed hundreds of projects in my career,” said Denis Bilodeau, a licensed civil and traffic engineer. “And I must tell you this is the most under-parked project I have ever seen considered by a public body.”
San Pedro resident Danial Nord argued that the parking, which includes tandem parking spaces, violates municipal parking codes.
“To qualify for tandem parking, one parking stall per dwelling must be individually and easily accessible,” Nord said. “There are 100 units, and only 59 stalls are individually accessible.”
Floyd Bryan, who lives two blocks away from the project, questioned the safety of the parking arrangements.
“How would you like to have to walk a block or two in the dark?” Bryan said. “That’s not uncommon for people who already live here. Not in my unit, but the people that live around here are walking two to three blocks because there is absolutely no parking.” As for the bicycle parking, Bryan argued that anyone who can afford to live in the project’s market-rate housing will not be able to ride bikes to work; they will need to drive.
Rudisill said that the commissioners did not address the parking and that there was a reason for this. “I’ve been to enough of these hearings to feel that when an item is especially egregious, is when none of the commissioners even respond,” Rudisill said. “The commissioners made no mention of
the parking issues other than one silly thing about future technologies.”
Rudisill was referring to comments by Commissioner Dana Perlman, who expressed concern that specific areas for car sharing and electronic scooters would be useless if other technologies made them obsolete. Perlman made the motion to approve the project, but also to modify the uses of said spaces if future technologies replace them.
Commission President Samantha Millman said the board could only vote on whether the project qualified for an off-menu density bonus and conditional use. An off-menu density bonus means relaxing certain codes because of the affordable housing that the project includes. In this case, this would mean that only 80 parking spaces would be included, instead of the required 121 spaces. In addition, it will also be taller, have a larger floor-area-ratio and be denser than the codes currently allow.
“In order to deny an off-menu density bonus, we either have to make the findings that were alluded to during the neighborhood council presentation, or we have to make a finding that are some measurable, specific, significant impacts and that the only way to address or remediate those impacts is to not build the project,” Millman said.
The conditional use is similar, in that zoning regulations are relaxed if a certain condition is met. In this case, this includes eight additional units, because it includes three additional units of affordable housing. The board could use its own discretion on whether to allow it or not, but if they rejected the conditional use, the project would have 92 units, with only eight units of affordable housing.
However, Rudisill said that the developers do not qualify for the off-menu bonuses.
“If you look at the density bonus law, in a situation like this where you only have 11% affordable units out of a total, but they want a FAR, floor-area-ratio, of a 115% more than the normal code, it should be obvious that they have to look into whether the additional FAR is really needed,” Rudisill said.
Rudisill said that the code requires the commission to approve the project unless they find that the bonuses do not result in cost reduction for the affordable housing cost.
“It’s impossible to make that finding because there’s no evidence,” Rudisill said. “The applicant isn’t providing the city with anything about the cost of the project and why they need that additional FAR and size for these 11 units.”
The project did have supporters, such as Elise Swanson, president of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, who is also a San Pedro resident living near the project.
“Our board of directors voted to support the project after working with the developers over the course of months to address concerns regarding the project and the parking issue that were raised today,” Swanson said. “Our chamber is on record supporting housing solutions at all income levels for our community.”
Aksel Palacios, planning deputy for Councilman Joe Buscaino, also voiced his support for the project.
“This project addresses the shortage of affordable housing units in the city, as well as addressing the need for housing units for residents at all income levels,” Palacios said.
Palacios said that while many in the community had concerns about the project, it is permitted under the state’s bonus program.
“The point and spirit behind these state density bonus laws is to create incentives for developers in the private sector to create both affordable and market rate housing,” Palacios said.
However, Noel Gould, board member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, argued that more market rate housing was not needed.
Gould compared the project to the other project Burns & Bouchard, Inc. represented, 13091331 S. Pacific Avenue, which is about half a mile away.
“Both the 1309-1331 S. Pacific, which you approved, and this 2111 Pacific were projects which the applicant’s business model is to acquire the maximum number of entitlements, and then sell the entitled project to a builder, neither of whom have any stake in the community except to extract massive profits at our expense,” Gould said.