Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve plans for another Downtown high-rise complex from Vancouver-based Onni Group.
The proposed development, which would rise along the east side of Broadway between 1st and 2nd Streets, calls for the construction of 37- and 53-story buildings featuring 1,127 apartments above 34,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and a 1,700-car garage. Onni also plans to restore two adjacent buildings - formerly home to the Los Angeles Times - as more than 300,000 square feet of office space for rent.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz is designing the project, which is depicted in renderings as two contemporary high-rise buildings wrapped with undulating horizontal fins.
The City Council's vote recommends certification of a final environmental impact conducted for the project, as well as the denial of an appeal by the Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility - or SAFER - which had sought to block construction of the project. The Times reports that project opponents argued that the project's environmental study failed to take into account potential impacts to air quality, as well as the possibility that birds could be killed by colliding with the glass towers.
Although members of the Los Angeles City Council are known for voting in lockstep with one another, the decision on Onni's project represents a rare non-unanimous decision by the body. The Times reports that 11 members voted in favor of development, with Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Mitch O'Farrell, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Paul Krekorian casting "no" votes.
A perceived lack of affordable housing ranked among the primary complaints of the Council and members of the public. Onni had originally planned a fully market-rate development, but later agreed to add 24 moderate-income units and 10 low-income units to the project following negotiations with Downtown Councilmember Kevin de Leon.
4th District Councilmember Nithya Raman, who voted in support, also expressed reservations about the project's affordability component and ties to ex-Councilmember Jose Huizar, who is currently facing federal racketeering charges stemming from his alleged participation in a pay-to-play scheme involving Downtown real estate developments. However, in a statement posted to her Twitter account, she argued that the project was ultimately the product of the Council's own rules.
"The Times Mirror Square project does not have enough affordable housing," writes Raman. "But this is sadly not an aberration from the norm, or an example of a developer getting out of what’s required. It’s the product of the current rules and incentives for affordable housing in Los Angeles. Penalizing this project for following our current set of rules doesn’t change this. And I’m concerned that doing so would only perpetuate a system that encourages more inequality and corruption."
The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters has also announced its opposition to the project, arguing that Onni should not be permitted to move forward with the development without signing an agreement with labor unions.
Onni is one of three firms planning high-rise developments near the intersection of 2nd and Spring Streets, which will be served by a new subway station now being built as part of Metro's Regional Connector.
Across 2nd Street, Tribune Real Estate Holdings is planning a 56-story, 680-unit apartment tower on a property now being used as a construction site for the Metro stop. That project is also being designed by SCB.
On Spring Street, David Lawrence Gray Architects recently submitted plans to the City of Los Angeles to redevelop a small commercial building with a 17-story apartment tower.
- Times Mirror Square (Urbanize LA)