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Council committee rejects appeals from opponents of Downtown’s clock-blocking tower

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Some Historic Core residents say it would overshadow the Eastern Columbia Building

Rendering of the Alexan in front of the Eastern Columbia building Via Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council

Opponents of a 27-story residential tower planned for Downtown Los Angeles suffered a major blow Tuesday when the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee rejected two separate appeals of the project’s approval.

The Alexan, which would occupy the corner of Ninth and Hill streets, drew fierce opposition from neighbors who complain that it would block one side of the nearby Eastern Columbia Building’s iconic clock tower.

The Department of City Planning signed off on the development in July, but appeals of that decision were quickly filed by members of the Eastern Columbia Homeowners Association and a group called the Society for the Preservation of Downtown Los Angles.

The latter organization, which includes many residents of the Eastern Columbia Building, is being represented by high-profile anti-density attorney Robert Silverstein (SP-DTLA has asked condo owners to kick in $1,000 each to pay his fees).

Daniel Wright, a representative of Silverstein’s firm, told the committee that the planned project should be subject to a new environmental review because of a major change in the building’s design. The building was initially proposed in 2007, but the slumping economy put it on hold. It was revived years later with a significantly taller design.

Looking northeast at Ninth and Hill streets.

Wright argued that the project had changed enough to require a new environmental study weighing the effects of the project on surrounding historic properties.

Planning staff, however, argued that the addendum to the original plans submitted by the developer was sufficient and that the changes weren’t enough to create significant new negative effects.

A series of public commenters at the meeting complained mainly that the glassy design would look out of place in Downtown’s Historic Core and would overshadow familiar sights such as the Eastern Columbia Building and the Broadway Trade Center.

One speaker urged the committee not to “allow Los Angeles to be as crass as the rest of the world suspects.” Another demanded to know whether any members of the committee had received money or campaign contributions from the developer of the project.

Yet another commenter went so far as to compare the building’s effect on the Historic Core neighborhood to the recent devastation of the historic Syrian cities of Aleppo and Palmyra.

It wasn’t enough to sway the committee, which voted unanimously to reject the appeals.

“On one hand, there are some impacts to what we consider a historic district,” said Councilman José Huizar, who chairs the committee. “At the same time, what’s before us is only the [environmental] review, and it’s my understanding that the modified project was thoroughly considered.”