The Echo Park hillside that rises to the west of Echo Park Avenue and Baxter street is packed with decades-old bungalows, steep stairway streets and a canopy of trees. It’s the same hillside where a developer is now preparing to build a cluster of new homes designed by noted Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor. The developer of the Hearth Project said plans have not yet been finalized for the development on five lots located near the southeast corner of Baxter and Vestal Avenue. But the property, which runs from Vestal Street on the west to the Preston Street on the south, can accommodate up to 18 homes under the city’s small lot ordinance, which allows some property owners to pack more homes on to existing lots. News of the project has begun to spread among the neighbors, some of whom are voicing support for the development of a site some consider an eyesore and gang hangout and others who are raising concern about the potential impact on the leafy neighborhood.
Leslie Schwartz, a Preston Avenue resident for a dozen years, said she and her neighbors have been kept in the dark about what may happen, relying on second-hand information. “My biggest, deepest concern is that no one is telling us anything,” said Schwartz, who has contacted the Council District office and attended neighborhood meetings in search of information. “Something is happening and we don’t know.”
Schwartz and others said they were concerned about construction noise and activity as well as the impact additional traffic and cars would have on the narrow streets.
Developer Casey Lynch could not offer many details about how many homes he plans to build on the site, which was purchased last fall from a family trust for $1.725 million. Some of the lots contain a few homes, some more than a century old and others that have been fenced off and empty for years. “We are engaging community members to ensure that we incorporate their interests in our planning process, with the goal of building an architectural asset in Echo Park.”
Douglas Wilson, who has lived Vestal Avenue for nearly 20 years, said he welcomes the new development that he said promises to be more sensitive to its neighbors than the 36-unit condo project now under constructions a few blocks south at Echo Park and Morton avenues.
“This developer asks no special favors or variances from the city but rather utilizes existing zoning & building codes to incorporate smart architecture and individual home ownership while supporting green housing,” Wilson said. “There are a small but vocal minority in this community who oppose change at all costs. Many of them also live in conditions that violate a myriad of city codes. We personally champion this developer for the Vestal Avenue project for putting the community first, ahead of greed, crowding and the profit that comes from it.”