Letter from Councilman Mike Bonin re 74th and La Tijera

Dear Friends,
 
Thank you for contacting my office about the TriCal project proposed for 74th Street & La Tijera Boulevard.  I understand that this issue is important to you and to your neighbors.  As your City Councilmember, I have worked to “put neighborhoods first,” and to listen carefully, weigh the information, and make the best decisions I can to serve my constituents.  These have been my guiding principles in considering this project.
 
During the past several months and especially the past few weeks, I have heard loudly and clearly the voices of you and your neighbors, raising concerns about size, density, traffic, and parking.  I have heard the concerns of long-time residents about the quality and character of the neighborhood they live in, invest in, and love.
 
I want to address those concerns and do the best I can for your neighborhood.  And while it may sound counter-intuitive, that is why I am going to vote for the project.  I know this might not make sense at first, so I’ll explain:
 
Importantly, the property is zoned C2-1VL and R1-1, which means the developers have the legal right, without the need of any approval from me or the community, to build a mixed-use residential and commercial project with exclusive ingress and egress from 74th  Street.  Due to a relatively new state law, SB1818, the project could even add density and height to the development envelope and provide reduced parking – again, without input or approval from the community or my office. It would be a pretty bad project for the neighborhood if the developer were to build this "by right" project.
 
Thankfully, while my predecessor was still in office, the developer agreed to negotiate a better project.  After months of discussions with the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa del Rey, the developer consented to do the following:
 
Reduce the height from 56 feet to 45 feet above sidewalk level, essentially forgoing the SB1818 height bonus by partially submerging first-floor units.
Increase the amount of parking to 241 spaces from the minimum 166 spaces.
Put the parking underground.
Change the proposed traffic circulation of the project by prohibiting left turns from the driveway to keep traffic out of the nearby residential neighborhood.
Institute the following voluntary traffic mitigations to improve the existing conditions at the intersection of 74th & La Tijera by:
Adding a left-hand turn signal from westbound La Tijera to southbound 74th into the Osage neighborhood, and
Adding a phased, 3-way traffic signal at the intersection that would allow traffic traveling along 74th in either direction to have a green light while opposing traffic is stopped at a red light.
Make additional voluntary improvements to the existing traffic situation at 74th & La Tijera by:
Widening 74th to create additional lane width to allow for uninterrupted right turns, and
Restricting parking on 74th along the project’s frontage to improve circulation and traffic flow at the intersection.
Make voluntary improvements in conjunction with the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association to upgrade the streetscape and landscaping along La Tijera.
 
All of those changes and mitigations benefit the community and at least partially address many of the concerns I have heard in recent weeks.  If the City Council rejects this project, we also reject those changes and concessions, and I am thoroughly convinced the developer will come back with a “by-right” project that does not need any approval from the City.   That new project would lack all of those improvements, and you and your neighbors would be saddled with a project that is taller and uglier, with less parking and more traffic impacts.
 
In other words, my voting yes gets your neighborhood much more than my voting no.  If I voted no, I could thump my chest and insist I stood up for you, but I would know that you would eventually get a worse project.  If I vote yes, I might not get a round of applause, but I will have won you a better project than your neighborhood would otherwise get.  As your representative, I feel I owe you that.
 
Some people have urged me to support the decision of the Planning Commission.  They feel the commission properly heard the concerns of the neighborhood and then rejected the project.  On the contrary, the commission rejected the project because some commission members insisted on less parking, wanted changes that would make the building taller, and did not feel the traffic mitigations were necessary.  Commission members, many of whom have since been replaced, were negotiating against you.  The City needs to put neighborhoods first, and that means negotiating for you.
 
I understand many of you still feel frustrated with my decision.  I also understand many of you feel even more frustrated with the laws and rules that got us to this place.  I share that frustration, and my planning staff and I are looking at bigger fixes to some of those problems, including improving the transparency of the planning process and tightening the rules for SB1818, the density bonus law.
 
I hope this explains my decision, my reasoning, and my motivation.   I want the best for our neighborhoods – including yours.  If you have any further questions on this particular planning issue, Tricia Keane, my planning director, can be reached at 213-473-2011 or tricia.keane@lacity.org.  If you have any other neighborhood concerns, my deputy district director and field representative for your community, Nate Kaplan, can be reached at 310-568-8772 or nate.kaplan@lacity.org.
 
Regards,
Mike

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MIKE BONIN
Councilmember, 11th District