Westchester and Playa del Rey residents turned out by the hundreds for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa’s (NCWP) Community Plan Update Ad Hoc Committee meeting on August 28. The meeting was standing-room-only at the Westchester Senior Center where multiple local TV news stations were there to cover the story. City Planners were the first to address the large crowd to present the most up-to-date draft maps for their zoning plans to the community, and they were met with many upset and concerned residents who sought answers. Other stakeholder groups, including Preserve Westchester; A Better Westchester; and Community
Alliance-Concerned for Westchester/Playa, presented their plans and ideas that opposed or supported various elements of the draft plans. Councilwoman Traci Park and her planning staff were also in attendance and assured the more than a hundred passionate residents, who were not able to enter the meeting facility due to the room being at capacity, that more meetings on this topic would be planned.
In June, the NCWP’s Ad Hoc Committee learned about City Planning’s Draft 2 Residential Map, which proposed residential upzoning to many areas of Westchester. The current Draft 2.0 Map (planning.lacity.org/plans-policies/community-plan-update/westside-events/westside-community-planning-advisory-group) is targeting multiple residential zoning changes to R1 single-family neighborhoods throughout Westchester. In these areas, City Planning is proposing a zoning change in R1 single-family neighborhoods to “Low Medium Residential,” meaning four units with three stories would be allowable per lot, possibly more with specific developer and overlay incentives. A more substantial upzoning is proposed for the Triangle area of Osage from R2 which is currently single-family homes and duplexes to “Medium,” that would allow for three to five stories and up to 10 units per lot (or more with certain developer incentives).
A few weeks after the residential map was released, the committee discovered the Commercial Draft 2.0 Map, which proposes additional upzoning of residential homes to high density commercial mixed-use. This would affect hundreds of homes on residential streets lining every corridor of our community including Sepulveda, La Tijera, Manchester and Lincoln.
Below is an overview of some of the topics and questions brought up at the meeting.
What does the commercial map actually mean for homeowners and renters?
• The City is proposing changing the zoning from single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes etc. that are adjacent to the corridors to commercial mixed-use.
• This would upzone more than 650 homes directly and would impact the homes directly across from the upzoning, approximately another 600 homes. This would mean more than 1,200 residences would be affected on residential streets lining the corridors.
• As one example, in the current draft map, residents living on Naylor Ave. or Arizona Ave., adjacent to Sepulveda to the east and west, would be rezoned from single-family homes to commercial mixed-use for high-rise density. There are many other examples of this type of upzoning along Manchester, La Tijera and Lincoln.
The reality of Westchester corridors now:
• Westchester corridors are designed to distribute traffic to LAX from the 405 and support local resident commutes.
• They are lined with low-rise residential that faces inward and away from the corridors in many areas of our community.
City Planning’s vision for the corridors and the Ad Hoc Committee’s assumptions based on their proposals:
• City Planning’s overarching goal with corridors is to promote new housing in mixed-use projects along major corridors supported by existing transportation infrastructure, and in pedestrian-oriented areas.
• Their vision for the corridors in Westchester/Playa is to have egress and ingress on the residential side (as DOT would not approve curb cuts on the corridor side).
• This will force commercial ground floor entrances/exits and signage to be residential facing on residential streets.
Some community concerns expressed at the meeting about rezoning residential to commercial mixed-use on corridors:
• Places high-density commercial use on airport-impacted corridors and intersections.
• The residential egress and ingress would presumably cause cut-through traffic in all Westchester/Playa del Rey neighborhoods, especially if the corridors are backed up with traffic.
• City Planning’s vision would lead to a parcel-by-parcel approach. Homeowners would have to sell over time to developers leading to a hodgepodge effect as opposed to a planned community such as Playa Vista (with an actual meaningful number of housing units).
• Adversely affects existing RSO (rent stabilization ordinance) and affordable housing.
• Potential for high-density commercial mixed-use projects for up to 15 stories with no gentle transition.
• No added green space, which Westchester/Playa is already lacking.
• LAX modernization and growth will continue to impact our corridors, which are a gateway for Angelenos and travelers across the world to access LAX.
One topic of conversation that was brought up by multiple residents during the comment period at the August meeting was that the bulk of the upzoning being proposed by City Planning is on the east side of the NCWP’s boundary in Osage and along corridors. This is an area most impacted by the poor air quality and traffic impacts of LAX. The upzoning also adversely affects some of Westchester’s most “affordable” areas with RSO units. Questions about the equitable distribution of upzoning in the community were also expressed by residents.
City Planners attempted to calm upset residents by stating the Community Plan Update maps are still in draft form and have the potential to change. They stated that the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) process was designed to identify potential problems as they relate to traffic, infrastructure and the environment, which would cause them to make changes to the plans. They also stated they wanted to hear community feedback. Unfortunately, the Planners left shortly after their presentation and didn’t hear the impassioned presentations given by community members. They are accepting comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay involved in the process and attend the NCWP’s Ad Hoc Community Plan Update meetings held on the fourth Monday of each month. The next meeting will be held on September 25.
Visit the Ad Hoc committee’s page on the NCWP website at ncwpdr.org/community-plan-update-0 to view documents and the agenda for upcoming meetings.
By Cory Birkett, Ad Hoc Community Plan Committee Member and Westchester Resident