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Opposition persists against plans for 420 apartments, beer garden at LA River

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But the New York-based developer, which owns at least one other parcel along the river, doesn’t show signs of budging

A sidewalk path along a riverbed. There are buildings in the distance.
The project is located along the LA River at the 2 freeway.
Liz Kuball

More than 60 residents of riverside neighborhoods and river enthusiasts spilled into an event space near the Los Angeles River on Wednesday night to learn about a development that would bring of hundreds of apartments and a restaurant to an industrial site near the 2 Freeway and the waterway.

The project would bring 385 non-rent restricted apartments, 35 affordable units for very low income tenants, a restaurant with a beer garden, 19,000 square feet of office space, an urban farm, and parking for more than 700 cars to a lonely corner of Glassell Park, near Fletcher Drive, at the southern portion of Atwater Village.

Milli Macen-Moore has lived in the Glassell Park area for about 25 years and said as developers have gravitated toward the neighborhood lately, she’s observed a change.

“I’m losing my neighbors,” she said on Wednesday night.

Macen-Moore said she sees a connection between long-time neighbors leaving and money and development coming into the area. She shares a concern with the groups that organized the night’s event: There’s not enough affordable housing.

The program had been advertised as an opposition event, and was organized by a collective of environmental groups, including the Friends of the Los Angeles River, a coalition that is staunchly opposed to the development at 2800 Casitas Avenue.

For decades, the groups have been working to improve and restore the oft-overlooked concrete flood control channel as a public amenity. One of FOLAR’s greatest fears is that the Casitas development would limit access to the river.

As the project nears the end of the draft environmental impact report comment period, when public input and feedback is gathered, project opponents have been organizing events like Wednesday’s to share information about the project and generate letters for the open public feedback process.

FOLAR has been working for at least two years to organize opposition to the project. But the project hasn’t changed, and developer PanAm Equities, a New York-based company that owns at least one other parcel along the river, doesn’t show signs of budging on elements that have been key to those groups.

Meanwhile, attention to potential development along the river’s 51-mile route through the region has only ramped up, especially as the city moves forward with plans to transform the nearby G2 parcel into a giant, riverfront park. (Another park space, the Bowtie Project, is a neighbor of 2800 Casitas.)

Along the lower 19 miles of the river, between Long Beach and Vernon, there are plans for new parks, affordable housing, and bridges over the river. In the Arts District, architect Bjarke Ingels has designed a glass-walled mixed-use development that would rise 30 stories tall at its peak.

Los Angeles County, which is currently leading an effort to update the master plan for the river, is looking into investing $41 million into these neighborhoods for a variety of measures aimed at assuaging those fears.

A rendering of a low-rise residential building with landscaping and people milling around.
A rendering by RCH Studios of the project planned at 2800 Casitas Avenue.
Via Department of City Planning

Although the Casitas project site is in Glassell Park, the one existing road onto and off of the property, Casitas Avenue, goes through the southern part of Atwater Village.

Gavin Brennan lives a few blocks away from that ingress point, and his issue with the project has more to with the volume of cars that are expected to use that road.

Brennan said he’s supportive of development and density in general, but for this property, he’d be much more likely to support it on a smaller scale.

Among his primary issues is the amount of car trips from people coming and going from the isolated site. Though the project would have 419 residences total, the environmental review estimates that about 1,000 people will actually live there (based on the citywide average population of 2.6 people per household).

“If it were half as big, I’d be behind it,” he said

The period for public comment ends on March 30. The development team will then evaluate all the input.

“If at that point in time project design and programming changes are warranted, the team will evaluate all options and project modifications in an effort to design the best project for the community,” said project representative Dana Sayles.