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Press Release: Historic Garvanza Coalition & Community Members Appeal Proposed Skya Development

THE HISTORIC GARVANZA COALITION and GARVANZA COMMUNITY MEMBERS APPEAL THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT AT 141 N. AVE. 64 (6312, 6314-6328 E. GARVANZA AVE.)

October 4, 2021…LOS ANGELES, CA / GARVANZA NEIGHBORHOOD – Upon receiving news of the approval of Case No. DIR-2020-3912-TOC-CCMP-VHCA, ENV-2020-3913-EAF Proposed Development at 141 N. Avenue 64 (6312, 6314-6328 Garvanza Avenue), the Historic Garvanza Coalition has filed a Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) appeal. The appellants are: The Historic Garvanza Coalition and abutting neighbors Brad Chambers, Isidro Aguilar, Kesley Davis, Vincent McKelvie, and Amanda Schulz. The appellants are represented by Amy C. Minteer of Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer LLP.

The project applicant is Skya Highland Park Partners II, LLC, led by Gelena Skya-Wasserman. Following their 2016 purchase of the 60-unit Marmion Royal Apartments in Highland Park, many longtime residents, including a number of working class Latino families, faced rent increases of 50% and 57 tenants were ultimately evicted and displaced. The applicant is not new to Northeast LA, and Skya’s recent history has been painful for the community.

The project at issue in the appeal is a mixed-use development of 59,029 square feet including 33 units, 149 bedrooms, 122 bathrooms, and one commercial unit consisting of 1910 square feet of commercial floor area (“Project”) located at 141 North Avenue 64, 6312, 6314-6328 E Garvanza Avenue (“Site”). The approvals being appealed are: the granting, with conditions, of a Transit Oriented Communities (“TOC”) affordable housing incentive program compliance review density bonus and the issuance of a Certificate of Compatibility in the Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (“HPOZ”). The building will be marketed as a co-living community; at this time there is no ordinance in Los Angeles to regulate this type of housing. Fewer than 7% of the units will be affordable. The rest will be rented at market rate.

The project has documented opposition from numerous organizations including the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Highland Park Heritage Trust, Garvanza Improvement Association, San Pasqual Arroyo Seco Wildlife Preservation, as well as many community members.

The project is located within the Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. However, the project received approval despite the recommendation by the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ Board’s recommendation to deny a Certificate of Compatibility. None of the design iterations presented to the HPOZ Board were in compliance with the Preservation Plan for the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ. On February 23, 2021, more than 100 community members attended the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ meeting to voice their opposition to the project.

“This is not what our HPOZ looks like. We decided to create an HPOZ to preserve what we have in our community,” said Rosa Rivas, a longtime Garvanza resident, in reference to the proposed project’s incompatibility with the guidelines of the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ Preservation Plan.

Concerning evidence has also been submitted indicating that the project’s Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) designation was granted in error. “We are against developers being held to different standards from the everyday people who live in the community and follow HPOZ Guidelines when improving their properties and adding housing units,” said Jamie Tijerina, President of the Highland Park Heritage Trust and a Garvanza resident. “The evidence clearly shows that the project does not meet the criteria for a TOC designation.”

Serious environmental concerns are also cited, including the real possibility of contamination of the parcel due to the presence of underground storage containers on adjacent parcels. Past use of these nearby parcels includes a gasoline station and a dry cleaning facility.

“My quality of life will be ruined,” appellant Isidro Aguilar stated. He lives in close proximity to the project and is concerned about the environmental hazards stemming from it.

A statement from Councilmember Kevin de Leon at a February 2021 HPOZ Hearing indicated his concerns with the project: “The thoughts of the community are very important to me in any development and especially considered where the project will impact a historic area. It is crucial that developers work well with the community and that is my expectation for Ms. Wasserman and her team. At this time I have deep concerns regarding these plans.”

Any inquiries should be directed to HPHT President Jamie Tijerina at Jamie.hpht@gmail.com.

HPHT