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Residents Worry Highland Park Transit Village Will Take Parking

A transit village being proposed for the community of Highland Park will get a public hearing April 24 by the City of Los Angeles Planning Department.

The department is encouraging residents and local stakeholders to attend and to present testimony on the project that has met with mixed reviews by both residents and businesses, many of whom have expressed concerns that the development will increase local density and traffic, and remove public parking which is at a premium in the northeast neighborhood.

The public-private housing development would be spread across three sites adjacent to the Metro Gold Line tracks in Highland Park, which are currently used for public parking to support local businesses, residents and Metro riders.

“Project site 1” is slated for 119 N. Avenue 56, and would create 80 housing units.

“Project site 2” would be located at 5712 E. Marmion Way (123 &125 N. Avenue 57 and 5706, 5708, 5712 E. Marmion Way) and would create 80 units of housing.

“Project site 3” would be located at 124 N. Avenue 59 (124, 128, and 132 N. Avenue 59) and would create 10 housing units.

McCormack Baron and Salazar, the developer, would build the projects in two phases: site 2 and 3 first, then site 1. Each development would have parking set aside for residents, and residents would also receive incentives to use the Metro Gold Line, according to the plans and statements made by company spokespersons at recent community meetings.

The project calls for moving the city’s public parking lots underground, below the housing developments.

There are 221 public parking spaces today and 221 public spaces will be available when the construction is complete, McCormack Baron Salazar Los Angeles Operations Senior Vice President Dan Falcon told a small crowd gathered Tuesday night for a community forum on the topic.

If approved, McCormack Baron Salazar would be responsible for building and managing the housing properties, but L.A.’s transportation department would control the public parking portion of the project, including parking rates.

At Tuesday forum, hosted by The Walls-Las Memorias, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, several residents expressed concern that the added population the transit village would bring would make local parking challenges worse. Some also said that crime in the area is a major concern and the underground parking element of the project is particularly unattractive.

The Wall-Las Memorias Executive Director Richard Zaldivar said he was not happy that Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents the area, did not attend the meeting, and seemed dissatisfied by the councilman’s representative’s seemingly inability to answer his aggressive barrage of questions, particularly those related to safety and street parking concerns. It was pointed out that people living in a two-bedroom apartment might have more than one car, but the project only allocated one parking space per unit, perhaps forcing one of the vehicles to be parked on nearby streets or in the public parking lots.

Zaldivar complained that there has been a lack of community engagement on the issue.

Addressing the safety issues raised, Falcon said the project calls for surveillance cameras in the parking areas with live footage available to LAPD. He also suggested that a parking district on local neighborhood streets could be established to ensure adjacent neighbors are able to continue to park on their neighborhood streets.

(Pictured Left to Right) The Walls Las Memorias’ Executive Director & President Richard Zaldivar put Councilmember Ed Reyes’ Chief Planning Deputy Rebecca Valdez on the spot regarding safety and parking; she deferred the questions to McCormack Baron Salazar’s Dan Falcon. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Other topics discussed at the meeting included selection of affordable housing tenants — two of the three sites would be affordable housing developments — management of the properties, the impact on local utility infrastructure and schools and local businesses would be affected.

Next week’s public hearing will consider approving zoning and tract maps for the transit village. The next step would be consideration by the full Planning Commission which could approve the project. A date for that hearing has not been set.

The April 24th public hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. in Room 1020 at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

The project case numbers are: VTT-72147-CN, AA-2013-222-PMLA, AA-2013-222-PMLA, CPC-2013-226-SPE-CU-ZAA-CCMP-SPP. The CEQA case number is: ENV-2013-221-MND. Project documents can be tracked and viewed at http://planning.lacity.org/cts_internet/

For more information, call L.A. Planning Department representative Christina Toy Lee at (213) 473-9723 or email Christina.toy-lee@lacity.org.