The community has objected to a developer's plan for a 33-unit, mostly market-rate residential building on this vacant lot in Garvanza. | Photo by T. A. Hendrickson

Highland Park Says “No” to a Big Residential Development, but Actually Stopping It Will Be Tough

2020 August Front Page Real Estate

By Bill Hendrickson

A proposed development at the corner of Avenue 64 and Garvanza Avenue drew emphatic opposition from stakeholders at a recent Zoom meeting of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.

For nearly an hour, 21 stakeholders took turns stating their objections to the proposal, which calls for a three-story, 59,000 square-foot, 33-unit residential building on what is currently an empty lot. No one who spoke was in favor of the development.

Proposed Garvanza-Project-Ave-64-Elevation

Stakeholders objected to the dearth of affordable units in the development, which proposes to set aside three units as affordable – the minimum required by law to build a building of this scale at this location. 

Their opposition had a sharp historical edge. The developer is an affiliate of Skya Ventures, the same Skya Ventures that purchased the 60-unit Marmion Royal Apartments in 2016 and subsequently evicted 57 tenants, mainly working-class Latino/a families as well as several Section 8 tenants.

The proposed development at Avenue 64 and Garvanza Avenue would not throw anyone out, because the location is currently a vacant lot. But one stakeholder noted that in Highland Park, the name Skya Ventures is synonymous with gentrification and displacement.

Stakeholders also objected to the project’s size and look, saying that it was incompatible with the lower-slung, Arts & Craft style of Garvanza. Some stakeholders said that the development’s materials and scale violated the guidelines in the area’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), approved by the city in 1994 to save historic buildings and better regulate land use planning in Highland Park.

Proposed Garvanza-Project-Garvanza-Ave-Elevation

After hearing out the stakeholders, the Board of the HHPNC voted unanimously to send letters opposing the project as currently planned to the City Planning Department and to City Council District 14.

The letters are the start of the process for the community to weigh in. To move forward, Skya Ventures will need a Certificate of Compatibility with the guidelines of the area’s HPOZ, (found in Chapter 8 of the HPOZ document.) The first public meeting, a “consultation”, between the developer and the Board of the HPOZ, will take place via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25. During the meeting, the public will have the chance to engage with the developer and HPOZ Board Members. 

The meeting will be the first public attempt to resolve a fundamental disagreement: Charlie Fisher, a former longtime president of the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ, told the Boulevard Sentinel that the proposal is “out of scale” for Garvanza and therefore too large for the neighborhood.  

Ken Bernstein, Principal City Planner in charge of the Office of Historic Resources for the City of L.A., told the Sentinel that the project’s size would not necessarily be a disqualifier.

Skya Ventures could not be reached for comment as of this posting on August 15.

Details for how to access the public Zoom consultation with the developer on August 25 will be posted on the L.A. City Planning website beginning Friday, August 21. The Sentinel will also publish the meeting information on its Facebook page when it becomes available. 

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