The destruction of a hill in Echo Park would make way for four three-story homes. Both PLUM and City Council approved the project despite failure to meet all CEQA requirements and objections of some 50 neighbors. Instead, a developer in San Jose, California is being favored.
Residents of Echo Park are suing the City of LA over approval of a development (four three-story houses) that would entail the demolition of a hill, long known as Kite Hill (located at 2450 Lake Shore Avenue). The community values Kite Hill for being one of the few undeveloped pieces of land in L.A. Red tail hawks are commonly seen in the area (one neighbor has reported seeing mountain lion P-22 there as well). Most significantly (from a legal standpoint), the land features a threatened species, black walnut trees, which is protected under CEQA(1). Yet, the project was approved by PLUM(2) in November.
Neighbors, who have formed a group called Friends of Kite Hill, have other serious objections. The removal of so much rock and dirt (8,109 cubic yards) would necessitate over 800 trips by truck. As it is, Lake Shore Avenue, and nearby Whitmore are difficult to negotiate. Lake Shore is narrow, with no room for two opposing vehicles at the same time, and in recent years traffic has increased due to driving apps and people eager to avoid nearby Glendale Boulevard. Parking is also scarce, and this project would temporarily block off parking.
Also, the projected six-month-long demolition process would be quite noisy as huge quantities of rock is pounded. Dust would also be generated.
Additionally, the city did not give the neighborhood proper advanced notice of this development.
Thus, the PLUM decision was appealed by Friends of Kite Hill, but in December City Council denied it despite the CEQA violation and other objections by 50+ neighbors. That same month Friends sued the City of Los Angeles.
Residents have contacted Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell’s office, but thus far there’s been no follow-up from him.
There are indications that the proposed development hasn’t been sufficiently thought through. An example of this is the addition of four driveways on such a narrow and crowded street. One neighbor told City Council in December:
I asked the developer how the residents of this new development will be able to turn out of the four driveways that are planned. There is no room for this. He looked puzzled and asked how the present residents across the street turn out (obviously no one is thinking too far ahead)? I pointed out that they all park on the street. So if we are unsuccessful in our fight against this, will Lake Shore’s curb be painted red? So the new residents will be allowed to use their driveways? What about the existing residents? Don’t we have a right to be respected by our city government? We all pay a lot in taxes and vote.
Another neighbor made a similar observation:
[…T]he developers have not gone through proper channels of planning and testing to get their permits. After meeting with therm, not only did I not get reassured, but I got the feeling they have not planned into the future regarding what they will encounter or how they will effect the street in the long run.
The statement by another neighbor reflected people’s concerns about the character of the neighborhood.
I would also like to voice some more general concerns I have regarding the proposed development and it’s impact on the character and aesthetics of the immediate neighborhood. The stretch of Lake Shore Ave between Cerro Gordo and Whitmore has a very rustic and secluded character. It bears much more resemblance to areas such as Topanga Canyon than it does to the area of Echo Park to the south of Cerro Gordo. Most of the residences are small single-story cottages that date back many decades, some to the early years of the 20th century. The few 2-story homes blend very discretely into the surrounding terrain and foliage. If a person were dropped on the block they would likely have no idea that they were within 10 minutes of downtown or 15 minutes of the heart of Hollywood. I have lived here since 1985, and I cherish this secluded and rustic atmosphere.
We in the neighborhood have been provided no information about the proposed development other than that concerning the haul route hearing, however I have every reason to believe that it will have a dramatic and irreversible impact on the surrounding neighborhood. I expect, due to the economics of real estate development and the amount of earth to be removed, that the proposed residences will be very large, perhaps even in the “McMansion” category. This, combined with the likely alteration of the terrain on the proposed site will cause detrimental changes in the character and aesthetics of the immediate area which will be impossible to ignore.
On February 2, Friends of Kite Hill was unable to instigate a restraining order against the developer. However, if work on the project begins, and Friends wins its legal suit, the property would be deemed uninhabitable.
If opposition to the development is successful, Friends of Kite Hill would like to see the area reserved as a public park, perhaps featuring native plants via the Theodore Payne Foundation.
(1)CEQA is City of Los Angeles Environmental Quality Act.
(2)PLUM is the Planning and Land Use Management committee.
Part of Kite Hill as seen on Lake Shore
Kite Hill with Lake Shore below
Kite Hill as seen from Lake Shore
Vehicle making its way down Lake Shore
The next two pictures were presented at City Council to illustrate how tight Lake Shore Ave. is and why all this construction and new driveways will be problematic. (As usual, most City Council members were looking down at their hand-held devices during our comments and swiftly favored the San Jose-based developer without addressing the legal issues raised by the community.)