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Beverly Hills Courier – Planning Commission approves 29-unit apartment building on Maple Drive — Beverly Hills Courier

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BY Matthew Blake November 3, 2022

Beverly Hills City Hall building with foliage overhead.

Reading time: 3 minutes

The Beverly Hills Planning Commission greenlit a six-story, 29-unit building at 149-159 South Maple Drive with six reserved units for one affordable price lodging.

Commissioners unanimously approved the project at a regular committee meeting on October 27 that featured a three-hour long deliberation. The developer is Wilshire Skyline, a Beverly Hills-based company that also owns the Villa Rebecca building at 310 N. Crescent Drive.

The decision to approve is “really tough,” Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said.

Commissioners Theresa Kaplan and Gary Ross focused more on the potential benefits of the project, including adding to the city’s small pool of affordable housing. “The project pays homage to our future”, said Ross.

The Wilshire Skyline project will replace three multi-family buildings each built in the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to housing, the building will have 72 parking spaces. The planned building will be 71 feet tall, exceeding the city’s prescribed 60 feet for the site. In addition to requesting permission to build above 60 feet, Wilshire Skyline requested permission to build a rooftop swimming pool and to build a structure that exceeds the property’s designated density limit.

The city will help determine who is eligible to live in the six affordable units. Generally, someone earning less than $41,700 in Beverly Hills with few assets is considered very low income, while the low income norm is less than $66,750. Each year, the city reassesses residents of affordable housing to ensure they are still below the income cutoff.

By setting aside affordable housing units, the project responds to the State of California’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment which states that Beverly Hills should house more low-income people. Allen Nissel — the third-generation descendant of Wilshire Skyline founders Eugen and Raphy Nissel and now the company’s in-house attorney — pointed out that in providing these affordable units, it’s up to the City of Beverly Hills to explain why they don’t. not benefit from the density bonus.

This observation, which the city attorney concurred with, surprised Commissioner Peter Ostroff, who had asked Nissel to justify the density bonus. Ostroff approved the project. But despite seemingly settled case law, he said that “in the future I want to see an analysis of this density premium” from the project claimant.

A dozen residents spoke out against the project and only a few expressed their support. Some opponents were people who lived in the buildings that were about to be demolished.

Although Nissel agreed that it was “spitting and a shitty situation” for these residents, he pointed out that Wilshire Skyline had hired a relocation expert to help the tenants. In addition, tenants lined up to receive several months of free rent.

Other residents objected to the project because it might increase traffic along Maple or Charleville Drive, or because the buildings to be demolished were charming remnants of the early 20th century. Rich Waldo, former chairman of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, argued that the old buildings “were a potential historic site” whose demolition would “degrade the historic character and ambience of the neighborhood.”

Despite Waldo’s complaint, city officials pointed out that no application had ever been filed to try to grant the buildings historic status.

Commissioners expressed their own concerns.

Wolfe expressed concern about “people creating noise using the roof,” an issue that took up much of the meeting’s time. The roof must close every night at 8 p.m. and the developer has assured that a 5-foot wall of glass will help distribute the noise inside the building.

Additionally, Wolfe and Ostroff dwelt on apartments possibly becoming condos, which they hinted they didn’t want to see happen. Ryan Gohlich, the future deputy city manager, pointed out that the developer must go back to the Planning Commission to get approval for the condo conversion.

Asked by Ostroff for assurances against the condo conversion, Nissel replied that he could not provide a “warm and fuzzy answer” since his priority is to generate a profit for investors. Nissel noted that other Wilshire Skyline properties, including at 310 N. Crescent Drive, are primarily apartments.

Ostroff also expressed concern that despite the planned 72 parking spaces for 29 units, there could be a parking shortage, a common concern for commissioners when evaluating projects. Ostroff presented a hypothetical scenario where residents avoid parking spaces and instead park on the street. The lengthy parking discussion ended in an impasse.

Nissel noted that the project is only required to have 15 parking spaces and that the developer is going above and beyond by providing the additional parking. Additionally, the developer noted that the construction schedule for the project should be consistent with the completion of a Purple Line stop near the site, thereby improving public transport as a viable alternative.

Planning chairwoman Myra Demeter said, with a smile, that moving away from vehicles was “wishful thinking”.

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