Later this month, the South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission is scheduled to consider two appeals seeking to block the construction of a large mixed-use project near Metro's Expo/Crenshaw light rail station.
District Square, slated for a vacant property at the intersection of Crenshaw and Obama Boulevards, was approved in June 2019 by the City of Los Angeles. The Charles Company, the West Hollywood-based real estate investment firm which owns the 6.5-acre site, intends to construct a six-story complex featuring 577 apartments, more than 90,000 square feet of retail space, and 934 parking stalls.
El Segundo-based Bijan & Associates is designing District Square, which would be arranged as five parallel apartment blocks divided by common open spaces. Plans call for a mix of studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, in addition to amenities such as recreation rooms and a swimming pool.
The two appellants - the Loretta Higgins Mueller Trust and the Crenshaw Subway Coalition - both seek to overturn project approvals.
The Mueller Trust argues that The Charles Company failed to comply with noticing requirements for District Square, and that the project has changed substantially since 2010, when it was pitched as an all-retail development.
A staff response notes that The Charles Company applied for new entitlements last year, and that none of the approvals needed for the project triggered a public hearing.
The Crenshaw Subway Coalition argues that District Square fails to comply with an array of local, state, and federal laws, including the Los Angeles General Plan, The West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Community Plan, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the California Civil Rights Act.
A staff response argues that the project is in compliance with local zoning rules and state environmental laws, and finds no evidence indicating that it is in violation of the federal laws cited by the Coalition.
The staff report recommends that the Area Planning Commission should deny the appeal - sustaining project approvals - and determine that District Square is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act. The decision of the Area Planning Commission cannot be appealed.
Regardless of how the Commission rules, other existential threats remain for the project. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Charles Company has defaulted on more than $6 million in federal loans for District Square. The developer has obtained $26 million in local and federal assistance for the project since first proposing it as a two-story retail complex in 2010.
Additionally, Charles Company principal Arman Gabay is currently facing federal charges for allegedly bribing a Los Angeles County employee while seeking a government lease for a different project in Hawthorne.
- District Square (Urbanize LA)