A local real estate firm's plan to redevelop an office building in Canoga Park with multifamily housing is faced with an appeal to the South Valley Area Planning Commission.

Street-level view on VanowenSandstone Properties

Sandstone Properties, the firm behind the project at 21515 Vanowen Street, secured entitlements in late 2020 to raze a 1980s office building to make way for a new eight-story edifice containing 193 studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments above a semi-subterranean parking garage with space for 249 vehicles.

The project, which is designed by VTBS Architects, is depicted in renderings as a modern mid-rise structure lined with street-level live/work units.  Proposed on-site amenities include a swimming pool and a club room.

Days after the project was issued a determination letter by the Planning Department, its entitlements were appealed by Gina K. Thornburg, who is identified as the executive director of the Coalition for Valley Neighborhoods.  The appeal argues that the project should be subject to more stringent environmental review, citing potential soil contamination resulting from a shuttered Aerojet Rocketdyne facility on the opposite side of Vanowen Street.  Additionally, Thornburg contends that Sandstone should be required to set aside at least 15 percent of the proposed apartments as deed-restricted affordable housing.

Street-level view on VanowenSandstone Properties

A staff response to the appeal points to a environmental study of the Rocketdyne property conducted as part of the adoption process for the Warner Center 2035 specific plan.  However, staff recommended that the Commission should impose a condition requiring that the apartment building be engineered with a vapor-intrusion layer to prevent soil contaminants from impacting future residents.

A cleanup of the Rocketdyne property is currently in the works.

Additionally, staff argues that the city has no mechanism to compel Sandstone to set aside apartments at below market-rate rents based on zoning rules, as the project does not rely on density bonus or Transit Oriented Communities development incentives.

While city officials have recently discussed introducing an inclusionary housing requirement into the Warner Center specific plan - and other developers seeking discretionary entitlements have been required to set aside units for lower-income households - Sandstone is not required to do so for the Vanowen Street apartment complex.

View of existing building at 21515 Vanowen StreetSandstone Properties

The staff report recommends that the Commission should grant the appeal in part to impose the condition requiring a vapor-intrusion layer, but uphold project entitlements.

The Area Planning Commission will be no stranger to Sandstone.  The Commission previously rejected an appeal seeking to block the company's proposed high-rise apartment tower at 6400 N. Canoga Avenue.

Sandstone, which is based in Sherman Oaks, is also developing housing and hotel projects in Westchester, Culver City, and Pico-Union.

21515 Vanowen StreetGoogle Maps

This article was updated to reflect that the staff report recommended granting the appeal in part.