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Councilmember wants new rules for ‘dense’ developments in Echo Park, Silver Lake

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Mitch O’Farrell says recent projects have affected the character of both neighborhoods

Small lot development in Silver Lake
A representative for Councilmember O’Farrell says that certain small lot subdivisions have affected the character of historic neighborhoods
Michael Locke | Curbed LA Flickr Pool

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday asked city staff to prepare reports on potential zoning and land use strategies to discourage “dense” development in Silver Lake and Echo Park, while preserving historic properties.

As Urbanize LA reports, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who represents both neighborhoods, submitted two separate motions calling for new studies of each neighborhood.

In the motion relating to Echo Park, O’Farrell says the neighborhood’s streets, “are not appropriate for large commercial development and high-density residential uses because of the area’s topography, inadequate infrastructure such as roads and unique historic identity.”

He asked planning staff to recommend ways, “to ensure that any potential future development complements, and is consistent with, the scale and character of the existing lower density built environment.”

Tony Arranaga, a spokeman for O’Farrell, tells Curbed that the motions were inspired by a recently proposed development project on Echo Park Avenue that would replace a group of seven 1920s-era bungalows with a dozen three-story homes.

Arranaga says that similar small lot subdivisions, including the recently-completed COVO development near the border of Silver Lake, have affected the character of the historic neighborhoods around them.

O’Farrell recently spoke out against anti-density ballot initiative Measure S, and Arranaga says that the councilmember is not opposed to dense development in general.

O’Farrell, he says, merely “wants to keep high density development on transit oriented and neighborhood-serving commercial corridors, not hillside or substandard residential streets”

The councilmember is a bit vague on what constitutes high-density development, but in his motion pertaining to Silver Lake, O’Farrell asks planning staffers to research how parcels zoned for multifamily use “impact the character” of “lower-density” neighborhoods.

O’Farrell also notes that the Silver Lake-Echo Park-Elysian Valley Community Plan, which sets guidelines for development in the area, was adopted in 2004 and isn’t yet due for an update. Now, however, planning staffers will be tasked with amending the land use plan to limit the scale of new projects and to “protect community defining features.”

The motions have been referred to the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.