An enormous mixed use development that would rise right next to MacArthur Park is moving forward after the city council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved plans for the project Tuesday.
At the same time, the committee rejected a pair of appeals from affordable housing advocates, who argued that the development—called the Lake on Wilshire—would lead to displacement of longtime residents.
“These new projects are pushing our community to the margins,” Jose Felix Cabrera told the committee in Spanish. Cabrera filed one of the two appeals on behalf of the Coalition for an Equitable Westlake-Macarthur Park.
The objections raised in both appeals deal with the project’s height and impact on traffic in the area, but Cabrera and other neighborhood residents primarily complained Tuesday about its unaffordability to members of the community.
The project would convert a 14-story office building into a hotel and cultural center, flanking it with a 41-story apartment tower with 478 units. At least 39 of the apartments would be set aside for very low-income tenants.
The project’s developer, plastic surgeon Walter Jayasinghe (who goes by Dr. J), has also agreed to contribute $2 million to La Posada, a 60-unit SRO in Westlake that serves single women and their children.
But residents at the meeting argued these efforts wouldn’t be enough to counter the development’s potentially transformative impact on the neighborhood.
“We are concerned that this project is going to affect our community,” said Margarita Lopez, president of the MacArthur Park Neighborhood Council. She argued that even the affordable units would be too high-priced for many area residents pressured by rising rental costs.
Other residents pointed out that the office building set to become a hotel is now home to several nonprofits that serve members of the community. One of those organizations, Inquilinos Unidos, filed the second of the two appeals against the development.
But Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who represents the area, suggested that those protesting the project were simply fearful of change.
“Everybody wants affordability, but the minute you suggest building ... community members come out and oppose the project,” he said.
Cedillo argued that opponents were ignoring the development’s potentially positive impacts.
“We are making perfection the enemy of the great,” he said. “This is an incredible project [with] extraordinary resources for the community.”
The committee unanimously approved the project, but amended a recommendation from the planning commission that an additional 10 units of very low-income units be added to the project. Instead, the committee recommended 10 units of housing for middle-income earners.
The project will now go back to the planning commission for approval of those changes.