A transformative project that would redevelop the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall with the addition of a hotel, housing, and offices cleared a key hurdle Thursday, winning unanimous approval from the city’s Planning Commission at a packed meeting.
Commission president David Ambroz noted that “hundreds” of supporters and dissenters turned out, filling the meeting room and spilling into an overflow room.
The overwhelming theme of comments in support of the makeover was the demand for affordable housing. Many long-time community members are hopeful the project will bring jobs to the neighborhood, but some said they feared the redevelopment would displace residents, a theme cropping up in many discussions about development in communities across the city.
Their concerns were not lost on the commission. It voted to increase the share of non-market-rate residential units. Previous plans had called for 5 percent of the for-sale and for-rent units to be designated workforce housing, meaning that they would be available to people making 150 percent of the area median income (AMI)—not totally attainable in a neighborhood where the median household income is under $37,000.
The commission is asking that that both the for-rent and for-sale housing in the project be increased so that 5 percent of the units be workforce housing and 5 percent be reserved to very low-income households.
In addition to building 410 apartments and 551 condos, the redevelopment would involve bringing 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a 10-story office building, and a 400-room hotel to the 43-acre site.
Some neighbors have reservations about the height of some of the new buildings and the traffic impacts of adding so many new housing units. But supporters and local officials are taking an it’s-about-time attitude about the investment into this central fixture in the neighborhood.
Joanne Kim, head of capital projects for the office of Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, noted that the project will serve as “a catalyst that's much deserved and long overdue in a region that's endured over half a century of underinvestment and neglect from the private and public sector.”
The commission also asked that the project’s commitment to hiring 10 percent of its workers locally be increased to 25 percent.
Its vote is a strong recommendation, but the project still needs final approval from the City Council.