La Cienega Tower War: Developer Caruso and Councilman Koretz Make a Deal ... BWHA Pres Calls It a Joke

LOS ANGELES

DEEGAN ON LA---"This compromise is a joke!" exclaimed Diana Plotkin, president of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, responding to CD5 Councilmeber Paul Koretz’ announcement to the the city council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee that he had reached what he called a “reasonable compromise for a middle ground” where developer Rick Caruso would reduce the height of his proposed 333 La Cienega tower by almost 25% (from 245 feet to 185 feet), and contribute a half-million dollars to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund that creates affordable rental housing for low and very low income households. (Photo above: Developer Rick Caruso in front of La Cienega tower, Councilman Paul Koretz-inset.) 

Caruso, who told the committee that he agreed to the height reduction and was “happy to provide $500,000 to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund”, and Koretz had settled their differences, but one very interested party was left out in the cold and was steaming hot about what had just happened: Diana Plotkin who said “we need affordable housing, not luxury housing. It’s pay to play and we ask you (PLUM) to say no.” In a hallway interview with CityWatch, Plotkin amplified her distress charging that “Paul Koretz’ statement that he supports the community is a lie. The fact is that he never supported this community on this issue, all the way through. Our community is being crushed by this pay to play. They want a monument to their ego. Paul Koretz is out of touch with the residential community of people who vote”. 

Other stakeholders---dozens of them made pro or con public statements at the hearing-- had mixed feelings about the impact this building will have in an area currently zoned for 45 feet high. 

An overflow crowd had assembled in council chambers at City Hall to learn what’s next for developer Rick Caruso’s dream project at 333 S. La Cienega Boulevard. Leading up to the hearing, Caruso was accepting compliments from some in the community, including the Mid City West Community Council and the residential tenants of the Westbury tower adjacent to the proposed building site, but he was also fending off complaints from the homeowners association and the local Councilmember. 

At back to back press conferences two weeks ago, Diana Plotkin and Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) publicly announced opposition to the project. Plotkin presented Koretz with 1,000 signatures on a petition to block the project, because it was 240 feet in a 45 foot zone, and that was enough for Koretz to say the tower would be “too tall. 

Leading up to the PLUM hearing was the expectation that Caruso and Plotkin would have reached a state of detente. It turned out that it was Koretz and Plotkin that never made it to the alter. 

The neighborhood council (Mid City West Community Council) voted 22-6 to support the original 240 foot height of 333 La Cienega, and was touted by themselves and other project supporters as one of the crucial stakeholders able to influence the project. But it, too, was showing signs of disunion, through divergent takes on the value of the 333 project. “The reduction is a disappointment”, said Planning and Land Use chair Ravi Bhatia, who continued “the fund amount is only 1.4 units at MCW market price. City council does not understand the cost or importance of inclusionary zoning. Mom and pops must continue to bear the burden. It’s a land acquisition cost of well over $500,000 for mom and pops. They would still have to pay to build. That is one unit”. 

It raises the question if this is really affordable housing coming into the community. That was answered obliquely by his colleague’s public statement when MCW chair Scott Epstein said that “We are very concerned about affordable housing. A project like this will not displace affordable housing. It has the strong support of the Mid City West Community Council”. While not “displacing” affordable housing, because no housing units are being torn down to make room for the tower, this project is not creating significant affordable housing in the community either, as Bhatia points out. 

A guy that initially was the focus of community opprobrium seemed to walk out of the chamber in Teflon armor, a happy warrior in this battle that now shifts to being an almost certain done deal when the full city council meets as soon as next week to vote approval of his project, while a Councilmember and some of his constituency are at serious odds. Building a tower may be much easier than mending fences.

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.)

-cw

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