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Casitas Ave “Mega” Housing Project Presentation at AVNC Meeting (12.14.2006)

On December 14th the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council (AVNC) held its general board meeting. Mr. Marcello Spina (the principal architect hired by land developer Avo Tavitian) made a presentation on the Casitas Housing Project proposal covering the properties from 3234-3274 Casitas Avenue. The proposed housing project consists of a 4 story building with approximately 90 units/apartments ranging in size from 550 to 2,200 sq. ft. on 10 lots (5,300 sq. ft. each).

The architectural design, a collaborative effort by Patterns and LRG Architects, gives a metallic “sci-fi” feel (see above picture).  Mr. Marcello Spina gave a detail explanation about the philosophical aspect of his architectural design which he refereed to as “intelligent urban design” and “natural urban growth”.

Mr. Avo Tavitian (the land developer), who was not present at the meeting, had previously requested that the AVNC issue a “letter of support” for a zone change or “density variance” that would increase the permitted population density for that area at the AVNC Environmental Land Use (ELU) Committee on December 6th, 2006. His request received unanimous support from the AVNC ELU Committee without first eliciting community reaction to his proposed housing project.  (See ELU committee meeting DRAFT minutes, 12.06.2006).

During the Q&A session Mr. Spina stated that the property lots are currently zoned as RD3-1; which means that the lots are zoned for small apartment dwellings. He also stated that under the current RD3-1 zoning only 30 units/apartments would be the maximum permitted for any housing project at 3234-3274 Casitas Ave. The developer is seeking a zone change or variance from the original RD3-1 zoning to increase the permitted units to 90 -- a 60 unit or 200% increase. 1

3234-3274 Casitas Ave is currently owned by the Renman Trust, which is operated by the The Renman Group / Kathi Renman.  Mr. Spina confirmed during the Q&A session that that the property has not yet been purchased by Mr. Tavitian. He gave no further information as to the status of the purchase, the purchase price, or if final purchase is contingent on securing an AVNC “letter of support” for the proposed housing project.

After a lengthy presentation and public “Q&A” session, Atwater Village stakeholders in attendance and many AVNC Board Members began to express their concerns about the housing project and manner in which it was expedited thru the AVNC.

The overwhelming sentiment from Atwater Village stakeholders was of total disapproval of the overall proposed housing project, a summary of comments:

  • Increase Population Density: Atwater Village is a community of mostly single family homes. The existing apartment buildings under the existing zoning do not intrude on the neighborhoods or their neighbors.  High population density results in higher crime rates, increased noise, traffic and garbage pollution.
  • Building Design & Scale: The planned four-story building is totally out of sync in both design and scale with the surrounding residential buildings and with the overall ambiance of Atwater Village.
  • Parking: 3234-3274 Casitas Ave is currently used for vehicle parking by employees at various businesses. When the employees leave at the end of the day, their cars leave until the next day.  The cars that will become a part of the neighborhood should the project go through will be coming and going 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  In addition, entrance and egress to and from Casitas is limited on both the Fletcher Drive and Glendale Boulevard sides as cars must use other streets in the immediate neighborhood to access either street and will increase vehicular traffic on other streets nearby. Eliminating this very useful existing parking lot with a 90 unit complex will exacerbate street parking problems for both residents and businesses.

While the comments expressed about the proposed housing project were overwhelmingly against the project, there were two individuals who expressed support:

  • Mr. Jeff Gardner (AVNC Co-Chair / Business Representative): who introduced the motion at the ELU meeting on 12.06.2006 recommending that the full Board issue a “letter of support”, expressed his opinion that this housing project would be “positive” for Atwater Village. Mr. Gardner did not elaborate on why he believed that an almost 100 unit apartment complex would be “positive” for an area that is mostly single family homes. Mr. Gardner does not live in Atwater Village and his only tie to the community is one commercial building on Glendale Blvd.
  • Ms. Sung Lim Lee (a recent electee to the AVNC Board as Business Representative): who stated that Casitas Ave looks like a “dump” and expressed her opinion that long time residents on Casitas would be grateful for the improvement this project would bring. Ms. Lee does not live in Atwater Village and her tie to the community is a small duplex on Madera Ave.

In addition to concerns and opposition expressed about the project itself many in attendance expressed outrage about the expedited manner in which Mr. Avo Tavitian’s request for a “letter of support” was placed on the AVNC Board Agenda.  The process took less then two weeks from beginning to end and totally bypassed any outreach to the various community stakeholders (Business and Residents) that would be impacted by the proposed housing development  -- and the entire community would be impacted, not just the immediate homes.  Changing the zoning, development and ambiance of Atwater Village is a community issue.   The normal procedure would have been to elicit community reaction and response prior to any action by the AVNC.

No explanation was given at the meeting was to why Mr. Tavitian’s request was expedited and why no community outreach was done.

There was no action taken to issue a “letter of support” by the AVNC Board. As a result of the public outrage at the Board meeting regarding the lack of community outreach the AVNC Board has called for a Town Hall meeting on this matter for some time in January 2007. For more information about the Town Hall meeting on the Casitas Housing Project please contact Chris Coyle at ccoyle@atwatervillage.org or email the AVNC Board at board@atwatervillage.org.

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