LFNC Trades Height for Affordable Housing

A controversial new 96-unit mixed-use apartment complex planned for the corner of Franklin and Western avenues.

LOS FELIZ—After several months of deliberation, the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council (LFNC) voted to support the development of a five-story mixed-use project at the corner of Franklin and Western avenues, called “the 1860,” provided the project include more affordable units than currently proposed.

The 9-to-7 vote by the LFNC came with the condition the developer, Dynamic Development, increase the project’s affordable units from 16 to 22.

The LFNC had previously voted to oppose the project in April over traffic and safety concerns, the project’s five-story height and the precedent an approval might set for other potential developers in the immediate area.

The vote came June 6th after Dynamic, in response to community concerns, offered to reduce the building’s height to four stories and the number of apartments from 96 to 75 in an effort to reach a “consensus” among the neighborhood.

But such a consensus proved elusive, as those opposed to the original project said the revised version was still too large, while those in favor balked at the lower number of affordable units in the new version, which would need to be reduced from 16 to 7 for the smaller building to be profitable, according to developer spokesperson Aaron Green.

Developers often offer affordable housing units in market rate developments in exchange for the city’s relaxation of zoning codes. In the case of the 1860, the land is zoned for a maximum height of just over 50 feet, about four stories.

However, even with a reduction in height, the project would still require several other zoning exemptions.

“I’m mystified as to why, when we’re facing an affordable housing crisis … the nitpickers and sticklers are trying to make this project smaller,” said housing advocate Marcel Cote who spoke during public comment in June.

LFNC Boardmember Dan McNamara suggested that if the developer was willing to lose out on profit by reducing the size of the building, they could afford to increase the number of affordable units in a taller version of the building. Ultimately, the board agreed, with a majority voting that the need for affordable housing outweighed height concerns.

Neighborhood council votes are advisory only, but carry much weight when issues, such as developments seeking zoning code exemptions, are brought before the Los Angeles City Council.

It’s not clear when the project will be voted on, as a Los Angeles City Planning Dept. hearing, originally scheduled for April, was postponed at the developer’s request, and a new date has not yet been set.

A spokesperson would not comment on whether the developer would be amenable to increasing the number of affordable units, but offered this written statement: “Dynamic Development is committed to providing much-needed low income housing in Los Feliz. We greatly appreciate the [n]eighborhood [c]ouncil’s support for [t]he 1860 and for low income housing. We’re actively looking for ways to get a win-win solution that provides as much low income housing as possible while addressing the concerns that some of our neighbors have expressed.”

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