Plans to build mixed-income housing and commercial space are moving forward at three Metro-owned sites in Boyle Heights, East Hollywood, and Westlake.

Yesterday, the Metro Board's Planning and Programming Committee voted to support a one-year extension of an exclusive negotiating agreement with East L.A. Community Corp. (ELACC) for the development of land flanking the Mariachi Plaza subway station.

ELACC, which was selected to develop the property in January 2018, has proposed the construction of a five-story, 60-unit low-income apartment building with 6,340 square feet of ground-floor retail space, a Mariachi cultural center, and a community garden.

The developer must finalize its agreement with Metro and secure entitlements from the City of Los Angeles prior to breaking ground on the apartment building.  The project may require a general plan amendment and a zone change.

ELACC's project would be the second Metro joint development at Mariachi Plaza, following the Santa Cecilia Apartments built at 1st Street and Boyle Avenue in 2017.  A third affordable housing project is slated for a former redevelopment agency property across the street from the subway station.

In a separate action, the committee voted to authorize Metro's chief executive officer to initiate the sale of property flanking the Vermont/Santa Monica subway station to Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) for approximately $7.1 million.  The vote also permits the agency to apply for up to $5 million in state funding for improvements to the station plaza.

LTSC's plans for the site would couple the Metro-owned property with adjacent land owned by the non-profit service provider, allowing for the construction of a six-story structure featuring 185 affordable housing units and 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

The apartments would serve a mix of low- and very low-income households, while also providing space for on-site services, a food court, and a health clinic.

According to a staff presentation, LTSC expects to secure financing for the project by the end of 2020 and break ground in Spring 2021.  Completion is expected in mid-2023.

The committee also voted to initiate an exclusive negotiation agreement with the Walter J. Company for the construction of a large mixed-use project adjacent to the Westlake/MacArthur Park subway station. 

The proposed agreement - which would run for an initial 18-month term with an optional 12-month extension - would allow the developer to pursue the construction of a multi-building complex consisting of 668 apartments - including 234 deed-restricted affordable units - with a 300-room hotel, 124,000 square feet of commercial space, and a 775-car garage.  Th project would combine Metro-owned property above the station with two adjacent sites owned by the developer.

The Walter J. Company's current plan is a revision of an earlier iteration of the project which was rejected by the Planning and Programming Committee in February 2020, citing an insufficient amount of on-site affordable housing.  The updated plan nearly doubles the amount of below market-rate housing from 120 to 234, while also setting aside units for a larger range of affordability levels.

Additionally, a staff report states that the developer has agreed to the establishment of a task force to guide community engagement for the project, and has partnered with New Economic for Women toe expand an existing street vendor pilot program at the station plaza.

Committee members regarded the revised plan as an improvement upon the prior iteration presented in February, but requested an increase in the amount of on-site affordable housing, and language in the proposed ground-lease which would ensure that the hotel would employ prevailing-wage labor.

The Walter J. Company, which is led by physician and real estate investor Walter Jayasinghe, controls numerous properties in the Westlake community.  One block west of the station, the developer has secured entitlements to build a high-rise apartment tower at Wilshire Boulevard and Bonnie Brae Avenue and convert an adjoining medical office building into a hotel.