Rendering of the 3-story proposed building spreading out from the corner of Ave 64 and Garvanza Street in the Garvanza section of Highland Park. Rendering supplied by the SKYA Ventures.

Garvanza development faces heated opposition as builder seeks to move the project forward

2021 Editions February Real Estate

The proposal to construct an imposing, three-story, apartment building at Avenue 64 and Garvanza Street hit a wall of community opposition this week.

On Monday, 22 community members spoke out against the proposed development at a meeting of the Land Use Committee of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council. On Tuesday, 30 stakeholders objected to the proposal at a meeting of the Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), which monitors historic preservation and land-use in the area.

The main objection raised at the Land Use Committee meeting is that the development — with 33 large, mostly market rate apartments — is the opposite of the affordable housing that Highland Park so desperately needs. 

Close-in view of the SKYA development proposal showing the newly added brick façade and other details of the revised proposal.

The developer, Gelena Skya-Wasserman of Skya Ventures, did not really have an answer to that objection.

When pressed, Skya-Wasserman suggested that apartments in the development would potentially rent at a “low $3 per square foot.” With most of the proposed units ranging in size from 1,155 square feet to 1,700 square feet, that comes to $3,500 a month to $5,100 a month. 

“Who will live there who lives in Highland Park?,” asked Gemma Marquez, a Highland Park resident. Skya-Wasserman had no comment. 

But it’s an important question. When the development was originally proposed back in June, 2020, some people speculated that the development’s three- to five-bedroom apartments would be marketed for “co-living,” in which generally young adults band together to rent multi-bedroom apartments while pursuing their careers and creative projects. 

That prospect didn’t get a warm reception in Highland Park. On Monday, Skya-Wasserman attempted to rebrand the proposed development. “Co-living is dead” she announced, adding that the development’s large, multi-bedroom apartments would be ideal for “extended families.” Highland Park certainly has a number of crowded, multi-generational households, but suffice it to say that no one at Land Use committee meeting seemed persuaded that those families are who Skya-Wasserman had in mind. 

Then again, trust is an issue in Highland Park when it comes to Skya Ventures. In 2016, Skya Ventures purchased the 60-unit Marmion Royal Apartments and subsequently forced out most of the tenants, mainly working-class Latino/a families as well as several Section 8 tenants.

The people who attended the Land Use Committee meeting also pointed out that a large new apartment complex would stress the area’s already stressed infrastructure. They criticized the proposed building as too large and misshapen, and were largely silent on upgrades that Skya Ventures had made to the exterior of the building. Originally, the building was depicted as a concrete monolith. In drawings presented on Monday evening, the façade of the building was shown with balconies and “real brick” and decorative wood facing. 

On Tuesday evening, at the meeting of the HPOZ, attendees objected to the size, scale, look and feel of the building. Emma Howard, a senior planner for City Councilmember Kevin de Leon, said that the councilmember has “deep concerns” about the proposed development.

The public comment at the HPOZ meeting ran for more than two hours. As a result, the Board of the HPOZ did not have time to discuss and deliberate on the proposed development and will do so at the next meeting on Feb. 23. At that meeting, the Board will make a determination as to whether the proposal conforms to the guidelines established in the HPOZ.

To be notified of the Feb. 23 meeting, including instructions for participating via Zoom, email 


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Bill Hendrickson, MBA, publisher of the Boulevard Sentinel, has extensive small business management, marketing and sales experience in corporate finance and real estate development and plays a not terrible game of golf.

Bill Hendrickson
Bill Hendrickson, MBA, publisher of the Boulevard Sentinel, has extensive small business management, marketing and sales experience in corporate finance and real estate development and plays a not terrible game of golf.

6 thoughts on “Garvanza development faces heated opposition as builder seeks to move the project forward

  1. I absolutely agree with the Highland Park Community. This is an ill-advised, opportunistic development that fails to follow the NELA Community Plan and offers absolutely no benefit to the community of Highland Park. Thank goodness the voice of the community is being heard by the new, active Council District #14 office. Land-use issues in the NELA area needs greater evaluation and consideration. What is BEST for the community?!

  2. Not realistic for Highland Park community!!!!! Why not build a much smaller building as the tenants that will live there will NEED PARKING Does not make any sense also RENT CONTROL needed for this new building they want to build with much lower rents than what they project. Are we not in a Pandemic? Who has the cash to pay for this rent 3k to 5k

  3. The inspiration for this architecture is rooted in the Bronx. You would think that a southern California design would enhance the prospects of approval. In short, it’s ugly red brick. Spend some money and build something attractive and affordable. Back to the drawing board.

  4. This is another build and run NELA developer that is trying to make as much money as they can by attracting rich outsiders to move into the up and coming Highland Park. HP is like the rest of NELA, a great neighborhood that needs a lot of infrastructure improvements. There is nothing wrong with building luxury housing but when we allow affordable housing units to be replaced by them and do not demand affordable housing units, our homeless problem is only going to get worse. We do not have to deal with Huizar’s corruption anymore and now is the time we can stand strong against developers and demand what we want as a community.

  5. The Skya proposed for Garvanza flys in the face of the purpose of the H.P.O.Z. It is completely out of scale for the residential with some small-scale commercial neighborhood that it is proposed for. It violates the preservation plan which specifically calls for infill development to be in the predominat scale of the existing historic neighborhoods, as stated in Chapter nine of the plan: “New residential structures should harmonize in scale and massing with the existing historic structures in surrounding blocks. For instance, a 2.5 story structure should not be built in a block largely occupied by single-story bungalows.” The three-story building is taller than every other building in the neighborhood. In addition: “When found to be appropriate*, new structures that will be larger than their neighbors should be designed in modules, with the greater part of the mass located away from the main facade to
    minimize the perceived bulk of the structure.” The lack of articulation in the current design is blatant. However *the massive building is not appropriate for the low scale neighborhood for which it is proposed. This development is near but not on York Boulevard in Garvanza, not on Figueroa Street in the center of Highland Park, which was represented several times for examples, but has no historic buildings of the proposed scale or massing of the proposed building. There was also discussion of the lack of a distiquishable residential entrance for the proposed building, to which the plan state: “New residential structures should present their front door and major architectural facades to the primary street and not to the side or rear yard.” There is so much wrong with this proposal that will not be solved with a few tweeks and a brick facade. Keep the brick (on the entire facade) and scale bak the size this project, which wil require bringing the units to the normal one of two bedroom plans that are normal for apartment buildings. this will enable the elimination of the third floor and allow for the articulation of the facades. I was one of the original advocates for the HPOZ and served on the board from 1994 until 2019. During that period the board approved several large apartment projects. These projects have designs that are articulated in order to eliminate the massive type of facade that is proposed here. The massing that we have with the Skya project is exactly the type of overscaled project that was being built in the 1980s that led to the creation of the HPOZ in the 1990s.

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