The Highland Park Adult Senior Citizen Center was filled to capacity on Thursday evening as community members gathered to learn more details about the proposed Highland Park Transit Village project, which would convert three public parking lots behind North Figueroa Street into mixed use residential properties.
Among the main concerns raised by community members were the reduction of 225 LADOT parking spaces, the height of the structure and the potential impact on local business.
However, while the developers faced their share of criticism and difficult questions from the community, several in attendance said they thought the project's scaled back design would bring much needed affordable housing to Highland Park and raise property values.
According to preliminary designs provided by McCormack, Baron, Salazar on Thursday, the three properties, comprising 80 residential units, would each offer a mix of reserved residential parking and LADOT public parking.
The concern among some of the presentation's attendees was that the public parking provided by the project would not be enough to fit the communities needs.
"My concern, during the construction, and after it's completed, is parking," said Miguel Hernandez, owner of Antigua Bread on 5703 North Figueroa St. "They have three bedroom units, with one parking spot. Where's everybody else going to park? If you multiply 80 units, by two cars, that's 160 parking spots being taken. So, I'm going to be losing customers."
Richard Zaldivar, Executive Director of The Wall Las Memorias, said that the city needs to devise a plan to allow residents of the properties to pay a reduced rate for parking at the on-site LADOT meters, so they would not be forced to park on the along the nearby residential streets.
"You're going to have a lot of parking on the side streets, simply because people don't way to pay," Zaldivar said.
Lisa Duardo, an Echo Street resident, expressed concern about the design of the properties. She noted that, while they were described as being only three stories tall, the 18-and-a-half foot tall fourth story essentially meant the properties would dwarf nearby buildings.
Daniel Falcon Jr., Senior Vice President of McCormack, Baron, Salazar, responded that the structures' A-frame designs, an aesthetic choice made by the designer, extended the height of the third stories.
There were other questions raised by attendees about what McCormack, Baron, Salazar would do to give back to the community in exchange for the potentially negative impact to business caused during the construction period.
Paul Bonsell, a member of the Historic Highland Park Neighorhood Council (HHPNC), asked if a community center could be built. Falcon responded that such a concession would likely be a part of the final project.
HHPNC member Latiffe Amado asked what plans McCormack, Baron, Salazar had plans to invest in local public services.
"We know what we do well, we develop real estate and manage real estate," Falcon said. "We are not a public service provider."
Gigi Szabo, an Avenue 57 resident, was one of meeting's attendees who spoke out in favor of the project, lauding it for bringing in affordable housing and making use of LADOT parking lots she considered a "waste of space."
According to the MacCormack, Baron, Salazar presentation, 20 of the units would be market-rate condos. The remaining units would be designated as affordable, and be priced based on prevailing incomes in the neighborhood.
For example, a household earning $24,800 to $57,500 per-year could rent a three-bedroom unit that houses 4-6 people for between $650 to $1,300 per-year.
"It's smart growth, it's next to transit, it's not high density. 80 units on three different sites is not high density. We could be getting market rate condo-development that's five stories high and costs $2,000 a month and gentrifies the neighborhood. What we're going to get is development that is beautifully designed and help maintains Highland Park as a mixed income community."
Speaking after the meeting, HHPNC Vice President Hector Heuzo said he was pleased that the developers were on hand to provide community members a more concrete plan of the project, which has been nearly five years in the making.
However, he still had some lingering questions about the project's environmental impact and it's impact on parking and traffic.
"There are still a lot of questions left to answer," he said.