By Bill Hendrickson
A recent public hearing on the eldercare facility proposed at 4900 Eagle Rock Boulevard drew 10 comments from Eagle Rocker stakeholders. Five commenters were against the development, four were in favor and one was neutral.
When all was said and done, the hearing examiner, Fernando Tovar, an Associate Zoning Administrator at the Los Angeles City Planning Department, said he would take until September 13 to make a judgement: He can recommend the project, not recommend the project, or recommend it with changes.
In the meantime, Tovar said that the public comment period on the project would remain open. Public comments and/or requests to be added to the list of interested parties and therefore informed of Tovar’s decision can be emailed to Fernando.firstname.lastname@example.org.
In size and scale, the proposed facility would be one of the largest developments in Eagle Rock. The plan is for two, five-story buildings totaling 79,970 square feet on the block between Yosemite Drive and Fair Park Avenue on Eagle Rock Boulevard. The facility would have 109 rooms — 87 rooms for assisted-living residents and 22 for Alzheimer’s/dementia care residents. The project would also include a subterranean parking level with 50 parking spaces.
At the hearing, representatives for the developer, Panorama Group, spoke first. They gave an overview of the proposal and then cited research showing a need for 600 to 650 new beds for assisted living and memory care by 2024 in the area extending from Burbank to Pasadena.
They also highlighted changes that Panorama had made to the building design in response to requests by the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council and The Eagle Rock Association (TERA), a private improvement group.
The changes included minimizing the proposal’s monolithic look by creating a complete separation of the north and south buildings and adding color, a cornice and articulation to each tower.
Public comments followed the presentation, with Michael MacDonald, a board director at TERA, speaking first. MacDonald said that the design changes made by the developer did not meet TERA’s objections. Among the insufficiencies, he said, the design was not pedestrian friendly, had no space for small businesses and would not complement forthcoming improvements to Eagle Rock Boulevard. MacDonald also pointed out the articulation proposed by the developer was done with paint, not building materials.
About half of the remaining commenters echoed MacDonald’s concerns, objecting to the size and look of the development, the absence of retail space and zoning waivers that they believe the project may require.
The commenters in favor of the development cited the need for assisted living and memory care for seniors, confidence in the developer and new jobs that the facility would bring to Eagle Rock.
(Disclosure: This reporter spoke up to say that providing housing and care for the elderly would be a good thing for Eagle Rock and that the architecture in this project was better than other big projects that have been put forth in the past for Eagle Rock, i.e. Pillarhenge and the StorQuest facility.)
Though Tovar is withholding judgement until September 13, he made several observations that would seem to favor the developer.
He said that to meet the need for senior housing, the City of L.A. lets senior-housing developments override local zoning rules that otherwise apply to commercial and residential development. He said that retail or other third-party commercial space would be approved in an eldercare facility only if it benefited the elderly people living there. He referred to the Panorama Group as a “genuine qualified operator.” And while he acknowledged that the size of the facility is “pushing the envelope,” he said he cannot compel a smaller size.