Controversial Lincoln Heights housing project discussed after leaders bicker

One resident called the quarrel “an absolute ridiculous display”

Developers+imagine+the+proposed+Avenue+34+project+in+Lincoln+Heights+as+a+lively%2C+mixed-use+development.+%28Illustration+courtesy+of+Lincoln+Heights+Neighborhood+Council%29

Developers imagine the proposed Avenue 34 project in Lincoln Heights as a lively, mixed-use development. (Illustration courtesy of Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council)

Kenya Romero, Community News Reporter

A Lincoln Heights neighborhood meeting on Oct. 14 about planning and land use — including a proposed 468-unit housing complex in Lincoln Heights — had a slow and messy start.

The committee members were arguing and talking over each other, instead of addressing issues on the agenda. Some residents of the community in attendance said they were not happy with the display. 

“With all due respect, why are you here?” said Armida Marrufo, the sub-area 3 representative of the council, to Tameka Flowers — the host of the Zoom — at the beginning of the meeting.

Flowers is on the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council, but apparently not on its planning and land use committee.

“Someone in the committee should be the host,” chimed in another committee member.

“I don’t have to be here,” Flowers retorted. Despite an email, neither Flowers nor Marrufo could be reached for context about the disagreement.

Amid the tension, Richard Larsen, the sub-area 1 representative, stepped in: “Let’s settle down. We’re looking foolish having conversations like this.”

When the floor opened up for public comments, some community members were aghast, one calling the outburst “an absolute ridiculous display” while another said they were “very confused about the meeting” and “disappointed in the leadership.” Two other residents chipped in, saying “the members were a bit sloppy today” and that there was a “lack of professionalism.”

Committee members listened to the comments patiently. After most responses, Larsen said “thank you very much” before calling on the next community member who wanted to speak up.

Once the drama fizzled, committee members tackled the main item on the agenda: whether or not they should recommend approval of two proposed structures for the area, “Casa Carlos,” an 8,463 square foot, 3-story single-family home, and the “141 Avenue 34 Project,” a 486-unit apartment complex that has already generated some controversy.

The Casa Carlos project is depicted in an illustration. (Courtesy of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council)

A 308-foot long retaining wall for Casa Carlos, a proposed “modern” home to be built on a hill in the area, would require a “variance,” or an exception from the city’s zoning laws and the developer would like the project to be exempt from certain California Environmental Quality Act guidelines. That concerned some committee and community members.

“The project is not adequately reviewed. There are unsafe conditions in the foundation of the house,” Larsen said. “I’m not satisfied with it.” 

Peter Shirley, one of the architects behind the project, said there are no reports that state that — a point disputed by Larsen.

A community member chimed in and asked, “Where did you see the report?” Larsen responded, saying he saw something in the Los Angeles Times and he is “not satisfied with it.” 

Ultimately, committee members did not recommend approval and instead asked for the city’s planning department to thoroughly review the application.

The 141 Avenue 34 project had no luck in this meeting either. 

The developers of the project came prepared for the meeting, since they said it was their third time before the group. 

Their proposed project would create “more housing, reduced excavation, reduced height on Ave 34, and reduced environmental impacts,” according to the developers presentation. Currently, the five-acre property is an industrial complex. The plan aims to transform the area to provide 468 apartments, including 66 “very low-income affordable” units, reported by the committee agenda. 

A community member questioned how affordable they would be in reality, and the developers responded that it will depend on the city, not them. 

Only one committee member voted in favor of recommending approval of the project.