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Freeway-hugging apartments in Glassell Park have the planning commission’s blessing

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370 apartments and parking for nearly 600 cars, just off the 2 Freeway

A rendering of a boxy five-story apartment building with trees around the street level.
A rendering of the project at 2900 San Fernando Road.
Via Department of City Planning

A generic Glassell Park development that would bring hundreds of new apartments to about 5 acres of industrial land next to the 2 Freeway received a clutch approval Thursday from a city commission.

The 6-1 vote was nearly unanimous, but it raised questions about whether the city should get rid of a chunk of industrially-zoned land and whether it was appropriate to build homes so close to a freeway.

“I don’t want to set this up as housing versus industrial,” said commissioner David Ambroz, who cast the dissenting vote. He said the request for such a significant zone change “should give us great pause.”

The project would replace a warehouse and a two-story office building with 370 apartments, 31 of which would be available to very low-income households, plus about 1,900 square feet of coworking space and parking for nearly 600 cars.

Developed by Fairfield Residential and designed by Architects Orange, the five-story building would rise next to the 2 Freeway offramp at San Fernando Road.

The development—a mixed-use residential project—“is the type of project that I think the city envisions for this area over time,” said commission president Samantha Millman.

She noted that in Glassell Park, many industrial buildings are located across the street from residential neighborhoods and single-family homes.

Putting in more housing “right next to the [LA River] and single-family zones” is appropriate, she said, because it’s not desirable to have industrial traffic and uses so close to people’s homes.

Commissioner Vahid Khorsand voted in favor of the plans, but said that while the city’s loss of industrial land is “great for the short term,” it has repercussions. Industrial uses—and the jobs associated with them—are not likely to come back. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.

A rendering of the apartment building right at the end of the offramp.
The project would be built on San Fernando Road next to an offramp for the freeway.

A multi-lane freeway in the foreground with an apartment building’s parking structure in the background.
The view of the project from the freeway.

Developers who build near freeways are required to install special air filtration systems to counteract the pollution that comes with proximity to so many cars, but building near freeways is still largely regarded as a bad idea.

City planner Nicole Sanchez also told the commission that the project’s seven-story parking structure would take up most of the project’s freeway-facing frontage, though a few units would ultimately have no major physical buffer between them and the freeway. (Fairfield is planning a “garden wall” to help block those units from direct exposure to the freeway.)

A few conditions were attached to the commission’s approval, including that the developer put in mature trees between the freeway and those units that would directly face it as a way to create a buffer.