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185-foot tower near Beverly Center gets LA City Council approval

An artist's conception shows a newly approved mixed-use project near the Beverly Center in Los Angeles that will include some affordable housing units and a ground-level market.
Courtesy of Caruso
An artist's conception shows a newly approved mixed-use project near the Beverly Center in Los Angeles that will include some affordable housing units and a ground-level market.

Plans for a 185-foot-tall residential tower near the Beverly Center can go forward after the city of Los Angeles gave its formal approval for a zone change Tuesday, over the objections of some residents.

The L.A. City Council voted 14–0 to approve a new mixed-use project, with its height somewhat reduced, at 333 La Cienega Boulevard — just south of the Beverly Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The developer behind the project is Rick Caruso, famous for iconic outdoor shopping centers like The Grove and The Americana at Brand.

After some residents criticized the project for being too tall, out of character with the neighborhood and a potential contributor to traffic in an already congested area, Caruso agreed to make some changes, including shaving off 55 feet to bring it down below the height of some of its taller neighbors. The city's original plan for that space called for a maximum height of 45 feet, well below both the original and the revised proposals — but the council's vote clears the way to rezone the site to allow for the taller building and greater density.

“In general, I think this will be a big plus for the area,” Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the area, said just before the vote. “I think once it’s built and functioning, a lot of the folks that are complaining about it now will actually recognize that this is a plus and will make a much better neighborhood.”

Caruso’s plan originally called for a 240-foot mixed-use space with 145 residential units — with 10 percent set aside for low-income or very low-income renters — and a ground-level grocery store. Concept art shows increased walkable space, trees and a fountain where the existing building pushes all the way up to the sidewalk.

The Beverly Wilshire Housing Association said it gathered more than 1,000 signatures from local residents opposed to the project.

“Councilman Koretz disappointed us by supporting a 185-foot building. We would have been happy to accept something lesser that was more compatible with the neighborhood,” Rosalie Wayne, who said she circulated the petition, told the council.

But Koretz downplayed concerns over the height.

“I don’t believe this will set any kind of precedent for the surrounding area. It’s a tiny building in an island of large buildings,” Koretz said, noting that Cedars-Sinai was already higher at 188 feet and that the neighborhood was home to several other tall buildings, including Hotel Sofitel, the Beverly Center and several buildings to the south.

A group called Concerned Citizens of Beverly Hills/Beverly Grove also submitted a last-minute appeal to the council, arguing that the project as laid out would not be in compliance with Measure JJJ. That measure, recently approved by voters, aims to increase the amount of affordable housing set aside in new developments.

But Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said projects like this one are important to ensure units for lower-income residents get built, because “those people don’t go away, that market doesn’t disappear. That market moves to another neighborhood that we now call ‘affordable,’ and that neighborhood becomes unaffordable.”

Other groups representing local residents turned out to support the project, including the Westbury Terrace Homeowner Association and the Mid-City West Neighborhood Council.

In comments to the council Tuesday, Caruso said the project had “overwhelming community support and input.”

The development is expected to open in 2020.