Silverlake in Crisis: Acute Boutique Hotel Shortage

Town hall meeting on proposed Junction Gateway project.

Town hall meeting on proposed Junction Gateway project.

On Wednesday night the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (SLNC) hosted a town hall meeting where the topic was the proposed Junction Gateway project. For those of you who haven’t been following this story, developer Frost Chaddock wants to build three structures on three sites along Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake. Two of the buildings are mixed-use, including residential, restaurant and retail space. The third is a boutique hotel. Predictably, the developer is asking for a number of entitlements, among them increases height and Floor Area Ratio (FAR). And predictably, a lot of the locals are ticked off.

By my count, the town hall drew about fifty area residents. The developer was there, along with the project architect, and a very smooth land use attorney from a high-powered law firm. They kicked the meeting off with a presentation on the project, emphasizing the ways they felt it would be beneficial to the community. Then two board members from the SLNC took turns reading questions that had been submitted by audience members. I want to say in passing that the SLNC board members handled the whole thing very well. The tension in the air was palpable, but they did an excellent job of minimizing disruption and keeping things on track.

A land use attorney explains why his client's project will be a boon to the community.

A land use attorney explains why his client’s project will be a boon to the community.

I have to admit I left early since I was taking the bus to Burbank and didn’t want to get started too late. But as I listened to the questions being read, it all sounded very familiar. While the developer claimed that Junction Gateway was absolutely right for the neighborhood, the tone of the questions made it clear that there was intense opposition in the community. The land use lawyer kept saying they had met with residents and made changes based on their input. But the changes mentioned were mostly cosmetic, and it was clear that the developer intended to build the project regardless of neighborhood oppostion. For me, the funniest moment was when the developer’s land used attorney insisted that in talking to the community, “We heard over and over again that Silverlake is lacking in boutique hotels.” That was a surprise to me. I know people who live in Silverlake, and I’ve never heard any of them complain about a shortage of boutique hotels.

The audience is skeptical.

The audience is skeptical.

But to my mind, the most crucial questions that were raised shouldn’t have been addressed to the developer. They should have been addressed to Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes Silverlake.

First, why are developers continually encouraged to build projects that violate the existing community plan for Silverlake and Echo Park?  According to the Department of City Planning web site, “the 35 Community Plans provide the specific, neighborhood-level detail, relevant policies, and implementation strategies necessary to achieve the General Plan objectives.”  When our City Council reps routinely allow developers to build beyond what the existing framework allows, they make planning meaningless.  Why do we have community plans if our elected officials are happy to toss them out for any developer with deep pockets?

Second, what about doing a meaningful assessment of all projects currently being considered for the area?  The developer’s team pointed out that Junction Gateway has been in process for years, and they argue that their assessment of cumulative impacts included everything that was happening when they started out.  Even if we accept this argument, there are a number of other projects that are coming through the pipeline and there hasn’t been any serious attempt to gauge their impacts on the community.  Infrastructure is already strained, air quality is deteriorating, and the streets are more congested than ever.  And yet O’Farrell keeps pushing new projects forward as though none of these problems existed.

The City of LA’s refusal to respect the planning process shows that our elected officials are far more interested in serving developers than in serving the citizens. Instead of creating a rational planning framework that starts with a genuine effort to engage the community, we get an avalanche of projects being dumped haphazardly on neighborhoods all over LA.

It’s no wonder the people at the meeting were ticked off. Affordable housing in Silverlake is fast becoming a distant memory, small-lot subdivisions are a plague sweeping the community, traffic keeps getting worse, the number of homeless is increasing. And still Mitch O’Farrell continues to back one project after another, blithely insisting that this onslaught of reckless overdevelopment will lead to a better and brighter future for his constituents.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people aren’t buying it. A number of those who attended the meeting belong to a group called Save Sunset Junction. If you’d like to connect with them, here’s the link.

Save Sunset Junction

TH Crwd Cls

6 thoughts on “Silverlake in Crisis: Acute Boutique Hotel Shortage

  1. First off it is Silver Lake, not Silverlake dear friend from Burbank.
    Second there had been a earlier meeting a few days before with the Silver Lake Improvement Association. Thirty neighbors from the southern area of Silver Lake who live in the Sunset Junction were present. There was unanimous consent for the project.
    The SLNC is currently controlled by a group of persons who oppose bike lanes, density in housing, any street safety imptovements that may slow traffic and obviously prefer desolate empty lots, and an abandoned derelict hotel to 28 very low income homes, would be for families of four earning less $24,500 a year, that the Frost Chaddock project includes. Plus the Leadership of the SLNC opposes creating a park at the publicly owned Silver Lake Reservoir Complex on the grounds that parking and traffic may be impaired.

    • Thanks for the additional information. Actually, I know the area well, as I lived there in the early eighties and again during the early nineties. I’m not against development, but development must be sensitive to the needs of the community. I still say that promoting a project of this size, in addition to other projects currently being considered, without an updated community plan, shows a shocking disregard for commonly accepted planning principles. And the fact that the EIR fails to address the cumulative impacts of all projects being considered for the area shows that neither the developer nor City Planning have any interest in creating a project that really benefits the community. As for the proximity to transit stops, in Hollywood we’ve been hearing for years that high-density projects at transit stops will induce people to take the train. In reality, ridership on the Red Line is declining, traffic is more of a problem than ever, and air quality is getting worse. Aside from the families living in the low-income units, the demographic that can afford these residences is much more likely to drive a car than take a train.

  2. Dear Sir, You are sadly misled about the Sunset Junction. It is currently surrounded by devil to empty lots. A hideous Jiffy Lube facility in the center of it on its Plaza. Frost Chaddocks project includes 28 homes for very low income families making less than $24,500 a year or less. It will also provide 45 sorely needed public parking spaces and will included public seating areas and 12 foot sidewalks, a 10 minute walk from the Red Line station at Sunset and Santa Monica and the Red line station at Sunset and Vermont. The project is on 5 bus routes. If you have anymore questions or a interested in a free guided walk of the area let me know. Oh and it’s spelled Silver Lake. Names do matter. Sincerely, Bobby Peppey

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. The intersection at Santa Monica and Manzanita, where two of these buildings would be placed, is already getting more traffic than it can handle. That might not be the developers problem, they’re businessmen, but it is someones problem, maybe the city. Additionally, the variances this developer is asking for would give them two extra stories in exchange for 11^ low income housing. It doesnt seem right that a building that is too large for the site given the traffic situation, should be made even bigger in exchange for only 30 low income units? The city desperately needs low income housing, but at the expense of the city as a whole, which is what this equates to. Sure, you can build structures that from a city planning perspective are unsound, and in exchange you build 30 low income apartments. Thats ridiculous. You cant run a city like that and expect it to function well. If the buildings like this are to be constructed, there needs to be a traffic plan. There needs to be improved public transportation in place before they build it. Maybe an inducement for people who don’t own private cars? But as it stands now the variances shouldnt be permitted.

    • I agree with your concerns about traffic. While the City and the developers always claim that the residents of these new buildings will take public transit, we really haven’t seen that happen. At least not to the degree where it’s reducing traffic. Traffic is worse than ever, and the quality of our air is getting worse, too. As for the affordable units, I’m all for affordable housing, but the number of units produced by these projects is paltry. By my reckoning, it doesn’t come anywhere near replacing the number of units lost through Ellis Act evictions.

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