by Connie Acosta
Residential density on Hollywood Blvd. by Vermont Ave. is gaining momentum, perhaps to catch up with the growing density in Hollywood.
Eighteen small lot subdivisions are proposed for the Northeast corner of Hollywood Blvd and Berendo Street, at 4773 Hollywood Blvd. to replace the existing 2-story office building, home to the Center for Free Inquiry (CFI). The site includes three lots totaling 28,508 sq. ft. One of the lots facing Berendo Street is a Residential Density 1.5-1 XL, extra low zone, and the other two lots facing Hollywood Blvd are zoned Commercial 2-1D. The plans show height of homes will vary from 27 to 47 feet.
The proposed project would demolish the existing structure, subdivide the three lots into 18 small lots, and construct a three-story detached residence on each of the 18 lots.
According to Cheryl Getuiza, Public Information Officer, Department of City Planning, the project was placed on hold as the applicant reduced the number of units from 21 to 18 and reconfigured the lots. “The department was also waiting for a Phase I Historic Resource Assessment Report and a report from the Office of Historic Resources. The cases are now deemed complete,” said Getuiza.
The site is located in the vicinity covered by the Vermont Western Station Neighborhood Area Plan (SNAP). The Plan strongly encourages developers to observe the historic design, building materials, façade treatment, layouts of courtyards, and native Southern California landscaping common in Los Angeles during the twenties and thirties. These uses were taken from Mediterranean traditions, Spanish-Moorish, Spanish/Mexican Southwestern, Craftsman and Art Deco styles. Also, this period was when most of the historically significant buildings in Hollywood were built that used these styles.
Before the Department of Building and Safety (DBS) issues a demolition permit in the Vermont Western SNAP, the developer must first have Project Permit Compliance approval, said Getuiza. “The applicant is not requesting a zone variance from the Los Angeles Municipal Code or a deviation from the existing Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.”
In 2005, the City of Los Angeles adopted the small lot ordinance (LAMC Section 12.22-C,27) to allow for the subdivision of land in multi-family residential and commercial zones as well as the construction of fee-simple homes where the buyer has full ownership. This contrasts with condominiums where there’s ownership of the living quarters but not the land.
Jim Underdown, Executive Director of Center for Inquiry of Los Angeles (CFI), identified the new property owner as Pacer Development. “They took ownership of the property in mid-October, several weeks back,” he said. “This was a good move financially for CFI; with the profit from the sale, we were able to pay for the property at our new location, 2535 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles.”
CFI is a nonprofit education organization, a center for communication and a think tank for inquiry. Membership numbers 300 with an additional 6,500 persons on the CFI mailing list, said Mr. Underdown.
Seven months ago, the then prospective property owner held an open house for the neighborhood to explain what the new development would be. This was one of multiple outreach efforts, Underdown said.
The site has an interesting history dating back to 1942, when a 2-story wooden rooming house with eleven rooms and a detached garage sat on these parcels. It had plenty of open space: 60-foot front yards, 20-foot side yards from property line on Berendo Street, 17-foot side yards from adjacent property line, and 83-foot rear yards. Included with these records, DBS also show an application to demolish the rooming house in 1947.
In 1963, the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) submitted an application to construct a new 2-story building. The 4,500 square foot office building, 28 feet high, was situated along Hollywood Blvd. with parking spaces in the rear.
Then, in 1992, CFI bought the property and renovated the building with office spaces, the Steve Allen Theater and a large meeting hall. CFI served theatrical groups, community and nonprofit groups such as, but not limited to, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (self-help recovery groups not AA), Freethinkers Toastmasters Club (a speech and leadership club), and the Los Angeles Press Club.
Lastly, Nicole J. Shahenian, Executive Director of East Hollywood Business Improvement District, stated that its Board of Governors voted to support this project at its March 2017 meeting. Photo above was from the project presentation at EHBID March Meeting. Project revisions may have taken place since then.
Connie Acosta is an independent reporter and co-chair of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council.