Controversial plans to construct two high-rise towers, a hotel, and lots of restaurants and shops on two city blocks in South Los Angeles cleared an important hurdle Tuesday, winning unanimous support from the city’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
In endorsing the project, the committee rejected two appeals that had been filed against it over its size and lack of affordable housing. The plans now move to the City Council for final approval.
The Reef would consist of 1,444 condos and apartments, a grocery store, a gallery, a hotel with 208 rooms, outdoor plazas, and more than 67,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. The buildings would range in height from 77 to 420 feet, and they would rise from the site of a parking lot and warehouse at South Broadway and Washington Boulevard, southeast of the 110 and 10 freeway interchange, not far from Los Angeles Trade Technical College.
Developers Avedis and Ara Tavitian—described by KCRW as “a pair of medical doctor-turned-real-estate-investor brothers”—pitched the project without offering to build any affordable housing on site. But both the Planning and Land Use Management Committee and Planning Commission have approved the project on the condition that 5 percent of the 549 apartments be set aside for tenants earning very low incomes. (None of the condos would be designated affordable).
Joe Donlin, of the nonprofit Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, said that percentage is “far too low for a development in this neighborhood.”
The developers have also agreed to give the city $15 million for affordable housing off-site but within City Council District 9, which encompasses South LA.
The project is championed by Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, who reps District 9. He says it would add much-needed housing along Metro’s Blue Line, the light rail which runs from Downtown LA to Long Beach via South LA: It “was the first mass transit line constructed in our great city. But there were several missed opportunities when the line was first ... passengers found incredibly narrow sidewalks, lack of trees, solid warehouse fronts, and vast parking lots. Today many of those warehouses still sit vacant and unoccupied, attracting crime and vandalism.”
Passion and emotion over the development bubbled up at Tuesday’s hearing, with some residents praising the councilman and others cursing him.
While some residents side with Price, saying they believe the development will reinvigorate their neighborhood, the project has divided the community. Many fear it will gentrify one of the last affordable places to live in increasingly-pricey Los Angeles. They question where they will live if the development drives up the cost of rent in the area. Riverside? Moreno Valley?
A study sponsored by United Neighbors In Defense Against Displacement found The Reef has the potential to put 43,000 residents at risk of “financial strain” or displacement. City planners have questioned the methodology of that study.