When Elizabeth Fischbach opened her Temple Street bar on the south side of Echo Park three years ago, one of her biggest worries was crime, with a murder taking place right across the street. These days, however, Fischbach’s crime concerns have faded and been replaced by a new threat: real estate development. During a lengthy Tuesday night community meeting, Fischbach and many of her neighbors expressed their worries and frustrations about some large, proposed apartment buildings that are poised to change the look and vibe on Temple Street – and not for the better, she and others said.
“This is atrocious to me,” said one woman after looking at renderings for a four-story, 69-unit apartment complex planned for Temple and Union Avenue. “I would not want to live in it. I would not want to look at it.”
The project is one of at least three large residential projects planned for Temple Street in Filipinotown, which overlaps with sections of Echo Park. But more apartments maybe in the works as developers take advantage of zoning that allows for relatively large projects compared to other portions of the neighborhood. The Tuesday night meeting of the Echo Park neighborhood council’s planning committee attracted a large crowd for several developments across the neighborhood, including the 69-unit apartment complex at Temple and Union and a second, 49-unit apartment project less than a block away on Temple between Belmont and Alvarado.
The prospect of nearly 150 additional apartments being constructed in the area found existing neighbors worried about increased density and competition for often hard-to-find street parking. While the developers for both projects said their development exceeded the city’s minimum parking requirements, residents said they would like to see more off-street parking provided. “When I get home at night, there is no parking,” said one Cortez Street resident.
Fischbach, whose 1642 bar sits across the street from the planned, City View apartments on the 1600 block of Temple Street, said she fears the residents and guests of the new developments will soak up what remains of the existing street parking, making it more difficult for her patrons to find a parking spot. “This may kill me, she said.
Others also criticized the City View complex by 4 Site Real Estate of Silver Lake for failing to provide little in the way of retail or commercial space on the street. Instead, a parking garage will occupy most of the ground floor along Temple. Efforts by the developers, Todd Wexman and design director Catherine Lorenz, to disguise the garage with landscaping and decorative metal grates, did little to appease critics. “I think it’s going to be a dead zone,” said Todd Walker, chairman of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council.
Despite requests to add commercial spaces along the street, developer Todd Wexman pointed out that retail and commercial space along Temple appears to be struggling. “There isn’t much support economically” for additional retail space, he said.
The representatives for the second, larger project said they changed their proposal to include a small amount, about 500-square-feet, of commercial space at the northern tip of their triangular-shaped complex. But the 59-foot high building with a large roof top deck turned off many in the audience as too big and its design to modern in a neighborhood of smaller, brick storefronts, two-story apartment buildings and bungalow courts.
“This is really going to have a terrible impact,” said Union Street resident Kelly Martin. “What can we do to stop this? It’s madness.”
Not much if anything can be done, said Walker, chair of the committee. While the committee and neighborhood council can make recommendations and show or deny support for developments, they have no authority to force changes to projects or existing zoning, which was adopted years ago.
“It feels like it’s a done deal,” said Martin. “That’s what’s so frustrating.”