Hancock Park Homeowners Association Needs Your Voice – Larchmont Buzz

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Melrose/Seward Office Building Project
Your voices – Your comments – Your neighborhood

Dear Hancock Park Residents,

Please read the letter below regarding the proposed development to Melrose and Seward. If you would like to comment or add your name for the record, to the list of residents who agree with the comments in the letter, you can forward this email with your name and address to:

Urban planner David Woon: [email protected]
Council Member Paul Koretz: [email protected]
CD5 Planning Director: [email protected]
Chief of Staff Joan Pelico: [email protected]

Memorandum letter:

SUBJECT: Melrose/Seward Creative Office Project (CPC-2021-2908-ZC-HD-ZAD-WDI-SPR, ENV-2021-2909-MND)

April 12, 2022

Dear Mr Woon,

We are writing to express our opposition to Bardas Investment Group’s proposed construction of a 5 story building at the corner of Seward and Melrose. We would like to address several points, but before that, we would like to highlight two images.

The first is from the Bardas Investment Group website. As you can see below, the image indicates that the inauguration of this project will take place in the second quarter of 2022. The description is not “revolutionary estimated”. The images are also not described as a “potential design for the property”. To look at the Bardas site, you and the agency have already approved the project.

As actors in our neighborhood, we would like to thank you in advance for your attention to this decision. We don’t take you or the work you do for granted. We will never assume that a decision has already been made. Your work is important and we know you take it seriously.

Office building project in Melrose and Seward.

A second image that we would like to highlight comes from the initial application of Bardas to the city. On the last page, Bardas has the possibility to provide the signatures of neighboring owners. There were numerous times during your zoom meeting with Bardas last week when Bardas representatives referenced their thoughtful community outreach to solicit feedback on the project. If a picture is worth 1000 words, we feel like the form below says it all.

With respect to our specific grounds for objection, we would like to express a few arguments as to why the requested rights should be denied:

  • The application asks the zoning administrator to “waive the transition height requirements, in order to allow the development of the project.” We would emphasize the word transitional. The reason these particular lots are limited to their current height is due to their location. They are transient. They provide a buffer zone between the more work-related buildings to the north and the residential area to the south. Waiving the height requirement to construct a 5 story building completely defeats the purpose of the code. These height limits exist for a reason – to create a sense that there is a flow and a plan in our city – and approving Bardas rights would defeat the intent of these zoning codes.
  • The application states that “the height of the project would be compatible with other existing and future developments near the project”. The application then cites the following locations as “similar in size and use to the project”:
    • “The three-story office building currently under construction located at 743 Seward Street”
    • “The two-story Digital Post Services production building located at 712-720 Seward Street.”
    • “The two-story Irwin Entertainment production building located at 706-708 Seward Street.”
    • “Three-story multi-family residential development abutting the southeast corner of Melrose Avenue and Seward Street”
  • Bardas seems to suggest that these 2 and 3 story buildings make it acceptable to build a 5 story building next to a residential area. None of these other buildings have 5 floors. We don’t know how Bardas defines the word ‘compatible’ – but in our opinion these quoted buildings would suggest that their 5 story structure is incompatible
  • The application states that “the project has carefully incorporated design features to ensure compatibility with these residential uses, the John C. Fremont Branch Library and the Hancock Park Historic Preservation Overlay Area, which is located to the south from the site, across Melrose Avenue. “The phrase seems to suggest that the design of the new building takes into account the look and feel of the surrounding area. For the sake of clarity.

Beyond the common design elements of doors, windows, and roofs, we see no “compatibility” between the new building and the surrounding structures. (Again to emphasize: During your zoom with Bardas and stakeholders last week, Bardas continually referenced the outreach he did to the community to gather feedback. As far as we can tell, this outreach was tantamount to zooming in on the project with Hancock Park residents the day before Bardas called with you.)

      1. The application states that “the articulation and structural variance would enliven the streetscape, help minimize the perceived scale of the building facades, and help soften the height and mass of the building.” The reason it is necessary to minimize the perceived scale of the building is that it is 5 stories high. We believe that the best way to minimize the perceived scale of a building is to not make it 5 storeys and to conform to existing height limits.
      2. The application states that “the project will enhance the built environment in the surrounding neighborhood or perform a function or provide a service that is essential or beneficial to the community, city, or region.” Any potential benefit, function or service that the building may provide is in no way related to the height of the building. Unless Bardas has data and/or research showing that redevelopment is only successful when the building is five stories high, these “benefits” can be achieved while staying within existing height limits.
      3. The nominations state that “the project would help ensure the continued growth of city-based industries and help the city and the Hollywood community create and retain employment opportunities.” We strongly support the creation and maintenance of jobs. However, jobs can be created and maintained with a building that respects existing height limits.

(Sidenote: Many of us submitting this letter work in the high-end part of the entertainment industry. In other words, we are the target tenants that Bardas would pursue as tenants, and we can say with authority that there is no size preference in the entertainment industry. No one is looking for space to rent by saying, “First of all – only show me buildings that are five stories or taller.” In fact, (most people who work in industry seek low-key, anonymous office space. A five-story mini-Beverly Center towering over neighboring buildings is neither low-key nor anonymous.)

In conclusion, the issue of approval boils down to the difference between want and need.

Bardas wants to build a five story building because Bardas wants to earn more money. Increased height means more floors to rent. However, Bardas does not need to build a five-story building.

The Bardas may say that they need to make the building five stories in order to make it profitable, and so they need the height requirement to be increased. We would say that Bardas should have thought of that before buying the land. Rules exist for a reason. Bardas cannot raise elephants on the property. Bardas cannot drill for oil on the property, although the Los Angeles Zoo and oil pumps are a few miles away. The zoning does not permit either of these activities. It also does not allow five-story buildings on this property, and we ask that this rule be adhered to.

Bardas wants to build a five-storey building.

And we – the people who signed this letter – need your office to be thoughtful protectors of the rules and ordinances of this city we all love.

Many thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

Better,

Mr. Geoff Shaevitz and Sarah Moses, 640 North June Street
Jack and Susan Blumenthal, 618 North June Street
Bridget and Clark Wells, 628 North June Street
Billy and Sheryl Rosenberg, 634 N June Street
Michael & Kelley, Avery 613 North June Street
Peter Gorelick, 600 North June Street
Tom and Kerri Specker, 608 North June Street
Kelly Shin, 646 N June St.
Adam Sires 617 North June Street
Ilene Bell and Paul Koegel, 626 N Cherokee Ave
Jen and Marc Feinstein-DeVore, 607 North June St.

Note: Listing as of April 12, 2022, more residents continue to send letters and comments about this project since that date.

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