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Wyvernwood Project Environmental Study Released

UPDATE: Wyvernwood Garden Apartments Draft EIR Comment Deadline Extended [1]

Plans by the owners of a 70-year-old housing development near downtown Los Angeles to redevelop the urban community, have been met with both praise and suspicion from local residents.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the redevelopment of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, located on nearly 69-acres in Boyle Heights, was released on Oct. 20, and the public can submit comments on the proposed project until Dec. 19.

The $2 billion project to transform Wyvernwood into a mixed-use community has garnered opposition from a group of the apartment tenants, historic preservationists and Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar, who represents the area.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Publican Estudio Ambiental del Proyecto de Wyvernwood [2]

Mark Sanders, co-founder and principal of Fifteen Group, the project developer, said he hopes the Draft EIR will change Huizar’s mind. “We are trying to earn his support; we have a project that we think has a lot of benefit. We’ve worked extremely hard in our community outreach,” Sanders said.

The DEIR comes five years after discussion on the project first began, and has since gained the support of some of the tenants and notable local leaders such as Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church, Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, Father Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church and Jovenes, Inc., and Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, Maria Elena Durazo.

Related EGP Stories: Wyvernwood Project Environmental Study Released [3]Conservancy Praises Opposition to Wyvernwood Demolition [4],Wyvernwood Residents: ‘This Place Matters’ [5]

While the tenants point to nicer housing facilities for their support, the local leaders see the project as an opportunity to create jobs for local residents.

“What I think people should understand is that we could have rushed this through, but we really tried to study the impacts very academically, very thoughtfully, so that we would have a comprehensive document that wouldn’t be under constant attack,” Sanders said.

During an Oct. 22 breakfast meeting with a group of about 100 Wyvernwood tenant supporters bused to the Puente Learning Center, Fifteen Group Executive Vice President Steven Fink and Sanders reviewed the company’s plans for the multi-year, multi-billion dollar project, and were applauded after assuring residents that their commitment to retain residents at the housing complex is legally binding.

“We are thrilled and excited to be moving forward with the project. The release of the Draft EIR marks the milestone toward improving the quality of life for the people of Boyle Heights,” Fink told EGP.

Fifteen Group Executive Vice President Steven Fink (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The Resident Retention Plan is detailed in the DEIR and offers a guarantee to current tenants that they will not pay more in rent for a comparable unit in the new community than they would have paid for their current apartment. The project also designates 15 percent of all units, for the next 30 years, as affordable housing for residents with low and very-low incomes. Some units would also have a rent-to-own option.

Fifteen Group says it is able to offer this promise because their plan calls for increasing the number of housing units from the current 1,200 to 4,400, by adding high-rise structures where two-story structures now stand.

Maria Valencia, a single mother with three children, is one of the many project supporters who hopes she will qualify for an affordable unit. She has lived in Wyvernwood for three years, and currently pays $1,028 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Juan M. Flores, 78, has lived in Wyvernwood since 1978 and only pays $516 a month. Flores and his wife noted that they are getting on in age and might not see the project completed, but they think the plans are “marvelous” and say their daughter is interested in a rent-to-own unit.

Fifty-five-year-old Esperanza Bahena, a 20 year resident of the residential complex, said she supports the project because they, and not just the rich, deserve to live well. The project offers modern conveniences like central air conditioning, cable and Internet connections, and washer and dryer hook-ups.

It also includes plans for 300,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, 25,000 square feet of civic space, and 10.5 acres of community park space. Over 26 additional acres will be devoted to courtyards, paseos and other open space, landscaped pathways for bicycles and pedestrians, twice the number of trees and enhanced sustainability measures and a modernized street grid, according to Fifteen Group’s press release.

The company’s Jobs Collaborative, intended to employ local residents to work on the construction, is also detailed in the DEIR. The redevelopment, to be done in phases over several years, will create more than 10,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 permanent jobs once the construction is complete, and is estimated to generate $25 million in annual tax revenue, according to Fifteen Group.

The DEIR, an analysis required by the California Environmental Quality Act, also outlines a number of “significant and unavoidable impacts” to the aesthetics, air quality, traffic, historic resources, and noise at six locations, mostly during construction, and also includes mitigation measures in those areas.

Fifteen Group plans to hold a series of public presentations about The New Wyvernwood, for more information visit www.wyvernwood.com or call (323) 261-4001.

The full report is available at http://cityplanning.lacity.org/eir/BoyleHeights/DEIR/index.html
Comments on the DEIR should be submitted to Sergio Ibarra, fax (213) 978-1333, or email Sergio.Ibarra@lacity.org. For more information call (213) 482-7077.