69.8 F
San Fernando
Saturday, Jan 28, 2023
-Advertisement-

Post Office Project Not Delivering

Developer Amcal Multi-Housing Inc. hoped that a courtesy presentation before a community group would guarantee smooth sailing for its planned 335-unit luxury apartment complex on the site of the current Woodland Hills post office. Instead, the Agoura Hills developer got sucked into a whirlpool of criticism that swamped its Jan. 15 talk with the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Warner Center-Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council. Over the course of about 90 minutes, council members grilled Amcal representatives on the impact that yet another multi-family residential project would have on traffic congestion and quality of life in the West Valley. The developers defended the plan. “We’re very confident that the proposal we’re sharing with you today is workable, and we’d love for you guys to be on board with us,” said Eric Lieberman, chief executive of QES Inc., Amcal’s Van Nuys land use consultant. But vocal committee members were far from enthusiastic about the proposed 4.2-acre, 408,000-square-foot project, designed by Orange County architect Michael Heinrich of Architects Orange. “There is tremendous opposition to this project from the folks who live near there,” declared Marty Lipkin, the committee’s vice chairman. The early-stage project was first announced late last year when investor James Gortikov of Encino, who owns the parcel at 22055-22131 Clarendon St., informed the U.S. Postal Service of his intent to redevelop the property once its lease expires in May 2017. Postal officials said they plan to relocate the Woodland Hills facility to a nearby site before the expiration date. The property has been leased by the postal service for 37 years. The land would require a zone change to allow for residential development. It was acquired by Gortikov for about $5 million in 2004 from an investor who held it for a short time. It had been owned previously by the trust of the late L.A. Councilman John Ferraro, according to real estate data service CoStar Group Inc. Questionable alternatives Amcal Vice President Darin Hansen, along with Lieberman and Heinrich, presented the committee with the findings of a transportation study on three possible development options, including their preferred 335-unit luxury plan that includes open space, two driveways and a multi-level, 556-space parking structure visible from the Ventura freeway. The two other alternatives, an office building with adjacent restaurant and fitness center, and a residential-retail mixed-use site with 210 apartments and 118,000 square feet of commercial space, would generate far more daily car trips than the post office does now, Lieberman explained. About 3,300 trips are generated daily to and from the post office, Lieberman said. The all-residential project would generate about 2,200 daily trips, while the office building option would increase that number to 6,400 cars and the mixed-use option to nearly 8,000 car trips per day. Traffic is a concern at the site. Clarendon Street has only one lane on each side and often bottlenecks leading to Topanga Canyon Boulevard. In all other directions, residents would have to use equally small streets to reach major thoroughfares. In an interview after the meeting, Lipkin of the neighborhood council said his concerns stem from the fact that the project falls just outside the recently adopted Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan that will guide area development for the next several years. That plan, adopted in 2013, divides the 1.5-square-mile neighborhood into eight districts, with varying commercial, residential and retail uses. It allows for significantly larger commercial development and more than 10,000 additional residential units. “We need to look at the bigger picture: A large segment of the property is zoned commercial now,” Lipkin said. “Once that property is gone, it’s gone. With all the residential units already in development, we risk turning the West Valley into a bedroom community where everyone gets in their cars and goes over the hill to Hollywood or the Westside to work.” He and other council members questioned the findings of the traffic study and asked why the developer was opposed to a mixed-use option that would allow residents to work and live on site. They also asked whether AMCAL had considered senior citizen or affordable housing for the project. In fact, Amcal is a major apartment developer founded in 1978 and it has a history of specializing in affordable housing. It has developed more than 50 communities in the state, including the low-income, 55-unit Villas Las Americas in Panorama City, and the 81-unit Cielo Azul senior apartments in Palmdale. Not commercially viable In an interview, Hansen said that while an affordable project could be an option for the Clarendon property, the company prefers to put in market-rate, high-end apartments. The mixed-use option was not judged to be commercially viable, he said, due to the positioning of the property. It is tucked into an isolated parcel immediately south of the freeway and two blocks north of a busy commercial strip of Ventura Boulevard that features a Rite-Aid, Ralph’s, Sprouts and a number of restaurants and retail shops. John DeGrinis, senior executive vice president at Colliers International in Encino, said that a multi-family development makes sense at the Clarendon site from a long-term land-use perspective, given the returns on such projects. But he noted there is a bit of an apartment glut currently that has kept a lid on rents, because the area has been overbuilt with residential complexes that have pushed out prior users, such as business parks, over the past couple of decades. “The challenge is getting them leased up,” DeGrinis said. He agreed more Woodland Hills developers should be considering mixed-use complexes where people can live close to their workplaces – a building trend that has caught on elsewhere in the Valley and Los Angeles. “Those developments appeal to certain people, mainly millennials. I feel developers should be looking at those scenarios, but I haven’t seen too many tangible examples of them doing that,” DeGrinis said. One of the incentives Amcal brought to the committee was the idea that 300-plus apartment units will mean plenty of new customers for local businesses, some of which are struggling. But that argument did not appear to move the members, who will hear another presentation from Amcal in March, before it submits a formal proposal to the city. Generally speaking, proposed developments get hearings before the local planning committee, which can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the full Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council. That body votes on the proposal as well, taking the subcommittee’s recommendation into account, and forwards its recommendations to Los Angeles city planners. Neighborhood councils are advisory-only, meaning that developers do not need their approval to get a green light from the city. But local determinations are often given substantial weight at the municipal level, so a negative vote from the neighborhood planning committee or the board can affect a developer’s chances of approval and determine what conditions are placed on a project by the city.

-Advertisement-

Featured Articles

-Advertisement-
-Advertisement-

Related Articles

-Advertisement-
-Advertisement-