La Brea and Willoughby Development Approved

A development that will result in 219 apartments and retail shops along the border of Los Angeles and West Hollywood was approved today by the Los Angeles City Council over the opposition of residents and following a verbal lashing from a departing councilman.

The La Brea Gateway mixed-use project at La Brea and Willoughby avenues will be built on about two acres and include 35,000 square feet of retail space.

After residents spoke out against the project during the city council meeting, the developer agreed to set aside 10 percent of the apartments for senior citizens who are classified as low-income.

Critics of the project said it would change the nature of the neighborhood.

Lucille Saunders with the La Brea-Willoughby Coalition, who has lived in the neighborhood for 38 years, said developers pushed the project on uninterested constituents.

"We have tried to work with these developers. They have repeatedly through the years shoved this project down our throats," Saunders said. "We have felt steamrolled, we have felt whitewashed, and ... if this project goes through, it is the tipping point to this industry zone because they're talking about changing the whole industrial block to residential."

The project, however, was supported by Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents the area, and members of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Weiss, who will leave office on June 30, objected to his colleagues' questions about the project and demand for an affordable housing component despite the vetting that had already taken place in public hearings and committee meetings.

"When this becomes a food fight in here, you might feel good about yourselves, you might like the quote that you utter at that moment. But you demean the public policy process in this city, and so for that reason, I ask for and appreciate your support of the PLUM report," Weiss said.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn was the subject of some of Weiss' comments and took exception to his speech.

"The fact of the matter is we're 15 council members. We have the public responsibility to make policy up until the very last minute. Frankly, I don't need to hear a lecture from you on how to make public policy," Hahn said, prompting residents sitting in council chamber to erupt into applause and cheers.

In the end, the development was approved on a 13-0 vote. Hahn sought to change her vote to "no," but as today was the last day for council approval, doing so would have allowed the planning committee's decision to go forward without any apartments being set aside for low-income seniors.

"For the sake of affordable housing, I'm OK with how it stands," Hahn said.

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