Block-sized Koreatown development dodges appeal, concerns about displacement dismissed 

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An appeal of plans to build a block-sized apartment complex in Koreatown that would replace a gas station, a medical office, and two existing apartment buildings was denied by the Los Angeles City Council today.

Even though it will bring mostly market-rate apartments to a low-income neighborhood, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who reps the area, has cited the development as an example of “how you change the vitality of the community without having displacement of those who live there.”

According to Cedillo, tenants who live in the threatened units are being offered replacement units of a similar size and price in other properties the developer owns in the same neighborhood.

The appeal, brought by the Coalition for an Equitable Westlake/MacArthur Park, contested the project’s approval on a number of environmental grounds but also stated that the project’s effects on the community—namely that it would demolish 32 existing apartments, 21 of which are rent-stabilized—were not being mitigated.

Speaking at a planning and land use committee meeting in September, Claudia Medina, a rep for the coalition, laid out the group’s main opposition. The project would bring market-rate housing to an area that can’t afford it, she said. The median family income in the area is $33,933, according to Census data.

The developer, OV LLC, has tweaked plans to include 5 percent moderate income housing at the request of the planning commission, but Medina noted that moderate income housing—which would be available to families of four making $87,700—would still be unaffordable for many families in the neighborhood now.

By demolishing the existing apartments and building housing that those tenants and other neighborhood residents cannot afford, she said the project “will lead to direct displacement and indirect displacement.”

The project at 1000 South Vermont, previously discussed as a condo development, would take up the block bounded by Vermont, Olympic, Menlo, and 11th. Buildings and apartments on the site now would be replaced with a seven-story building with 228 apartments and nearly 54,000 square feet of commercial space.

The rent-stabilized units set to be demolished are part of a citywide trend. Between April and June of this year alone, property owners filed applications to decommission 657 rent-controlled units. Those units are only allowed to be taken off the market if the owners plan to demolish the building or if they permanently withdraw it from the rental market, usually to convert to condos or for-sale units.

In 2016—not long after a Los Angeles Timesreport found that evictions from rent-controlled apartments had doubled since 2013—Angelenos voters passed Measure JJJ, which was touted as a way to create jobs and more affordable housing.

ButOV LLC doesn’t have to comply with Measure JJJ because its application for 1000 South Vermont was completed before the measure went into effect. That makes its inclusion of moderate-income housing a “bonus.”

There are more than 50 projects in the pipeline for Koreatown right now, and this one isn’t even the biggest, despite taking up an entire block. The stretch of the neighborhood along Olympic is not quite as busy with development as Wilshire, but there are still six project planned along Olympic between Western and Vermont.

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