Lead Story West Edition

Skyscraper project gets mixed reviews

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The community could be getting its first skyscraper, but not everyone believes it’s a good thing for the community.

Two groups, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative are suing the projects developers, Carmel Partners, the Los Angeles City Council and the city of Los Angeles in an effort to stop the project.

Last month, the groups jointly filed a lawsuit that cites gross violations of the City Charter and California Environmental Quality Act by the City Council when they approved the project in May.

The development, called the Cumulus Project, is a massive mixed-use property planned near the Expo Line’s La Cienega-Jefferson station. It will be built on the former 11-acre land of radio stations KABC and KLOS.

Developers want to build a 30-story tower complex that includes 1,210 residential units, office space, a supermarket, sit-down restaurants and a park.

Damien Goodmon, the head of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, is among the opponents of the Cumulus Project at La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards. (Courtesy photo)
Damien Goodmon, the head of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, is among the opponents of the Cumulus Project at La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards.
(Courtesy photo)

“They violated the law by exceeding by magnitude the height limit, so they could put the luxury tower in that development,” said Damien Goodmon, head of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

“This should’ve been a citywide conversation, whether a skyscraper should be built in an area where there is nothing else like it.”

Opponents also worry about the gentrification it will bring to the community.

Jill Stewart, campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve L.A., says this has been done many times to drive out the middle and working class, citing several projects in Hollywood.

“It will bring gentrification to the area that can’t withstand three or four years afterwards and the original residents are pushed by the incredible prices,” Stewart said. “Once you have a massive luxury building, that clearly doesn’t fit, the neighborhood comes into terrible pressure.”

City officials and the developers would not comment on the lawsuit, but they were surprised with the opposition because they say there has been an astounding amount of support.

Peter Jackel, the spokesperson for the San Francisco-based developers, Carmel Partners, sent an email with a statement.

“The Jefferson and La Cienega project has been an on-going collaborative partnership with the local community for almost two years,” he said. “The project received overwhelming support during several public hearings attended by hundreds of residents.

Support included stakeholders from the largest homeowners association in the area, the Neighborhood Council, Dorsey High School, local business owners, and the nearby seniors’ center. It is through the collaborative input of so many community members that we have planned a project that will create over 1,700 full-time jobs during construction and up to 1,200 full-time, on-going jobs.”

The area, east of Culver City, is seen as a gateway to Los Angeles International Airport, but unfortunately it is usually characterized as a food desert, so the project is seen as progress to many supporters.

“It’s unfortunate for us to see that members outside of the community are trying to tamper with the economic development going on in Council District 10,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for City Councilman Herb Wesson, who represents the area where the project is located.

“The developer hosted evening community meetings around the project with several neighborhood groups and stakeholders.”

Alita Bernal lives in the community adjacent to the Cumulus Project. She attended the meetings and Planning Commission hearings. Developers even invited her to go on a tour of one of their other buildings in downtown L.A.

“The quality was amazing; it is beautiful. I wish more developers were that transparent,” Bernal said. “We are so excited about the Cumulus Project. I don’t see the issue with it being a high-rise.”

Not only do advocates of the project see it as an opportunity to have more food options in the area, but also a chance to bring in more jobs and even get their local high school students involved.

“We are working with developer to establish some partnerships so our Dorsey High School students will be able to benefit from the connection with the builder and also the businesses coming in there,” said Willard Love, a 55-year community resident of Baldwin Vista.

“We want to have internships and conduct demonstrations at the restaurants through the culinary arts program.”

Clint Simmons, a member of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowner Association lives less than half a mile from the project.  He isn’t opposed to development, but he fears the skyscraper will bring more traffic problems.

“It’s completely out of place for our community and during certain times of the day emergency vehicles won’t be able to use La Cienega for transporting people to Cedars Sinai.”

However, everyone can agree the amenities the project will bring are desperately desired in the area.

“This community wants the sit-down restaurants, grocery stores and economic activity, everyone in South L.A. wants those things, but the skyscraper is solely for luxury housing,” Goodmon said.

“We don’t need a skyscraper to get a grocery store.”