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Brentwood Testifies on Green Hollow Square

Brentwood residents endured hours in a crowded, over-heated hearing room to participate in testimony on the Green Hollow Square development May 14. The Zoning Administration hearing was part of the process that will decide the fate of the project, reflecting the differences between a very divided community, the owner and developer billionaire Charles Munger and the City of Los Angeles planning department. Residents crowded the hearing room to make their positions known to hearing officer Greg Shoop.

Issues include traffic congestion, the preservation of the Barry Building, the effect of the development on the Saltair neighbors, whose residences abut the property, future development at the site and the protected coral trees in the San Vicente median.

The community sentiment ranges from total support for the project as planned to absolute opposition. One plan is to include some of the features of the Barry Building in the final plan. Some residents would like to see the Barry Building restored, brought up to code for modern standards and re-tenanted. Others would like to see the entire building included in any development. Still others would like to see the entire project downsized with the old building preserved in it. And then there are those who think the building should be completely razed to make room for something new.

Charles Munger said, “Anyone who would do this at 88 would have to be a little nuts.†He envisions Green Hollow Square as a “second Brentwood Country Mart with all the virtues repeated and the problems eliminated,†because there will be sufficient parking. “Local serving retail designed with parking is counter-intuitive, and that is what we are willing to do. It’s a sub-par investment. It’s way worse than something we could do with a lot less trouble. But if the Mungers cannot behave reasonably, who can?â€

Despite a plethora of meetings leading up to it, the Area Planning Commission meeting still produced a few surprises when Senior Field Deputy Joaquin Macias read a letter from Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl that gave a boost to the opposition. The letter supports an alternative that Mr. Munger has repeatedly rejected, which would be to preserve the Barry Building.

The letter states:

“The choice is really between a new shopping center and a new shopping center that incorporates and reuses the Barry Building as part of the project. The Preservation Alternative is preferable because it alone can achieve both the goal of creating a unique shopping center and protecting an historically-designated landmark . . . I cannot in good conscience and will not vote at City Council to allow this designated Cultural-Historic Landmark to be demolished, especially when the building can be preserved and reused as part of the project.â€

Following that bombshell, Brentwood Community Council Land Use Co-Chair Bryan Gordon explained that the divisive nature of the project had prompted the BCC to adopt a neutral stance. However, he said, the BCC had developed a of list of conditions and CUB conditions jointly agreed upon with the Saltair Neighbors, the South Brentwood Residents Association and the Brentwood Homeowners Association.

Gordon stated that Charles Munger has agreed to all of the conditions that were presented to him by the Brentwood Community Council (BCC) and voted on at their meeting on May 10. Those conditions represent a coalition of neighborhood groups that includes the South Brentwood Residents Association (SBRA) the Brentwood Homeowners Association (BHA) Saltair Residents and the BCC. The conditions include hours of service, noise control, parking and traffic mitigation, types of businesses and an $800,000 bond for the coral tree median, in addition to a similar bond already in place.

Munger is being accused of planning a cut into the median that would remove a coral tree or trees to mitigate traffic. This bond is specifically to address that issue. The possibility was addressed in the Environmental Impact Report. Hearing Officer Shoop confirmed that. “ I want to reiterate that there is no proposal before me to cut into the median or to remove coral trees. The EIR addressed the potential, but there is nothing in front of me regarding modifying the median or removing the coral trees.â€

After testimony, GHS representative Joel Miller of PSOMIS addressed some of the testimony, disputing again that a cut into the median was planned. He stated that such a cut would be troublesome to the development, rather than helpful. He reiterated Mr. Munger’s concern that preserving the Barry Building is not a consideration. He explained that the structural soundness of the building is questionable. The mechanics of repurposing in order to integrate the structure would be difficult because of the ceiling height, which is too low for current retail standards.

Miller also explained that reducing the size was not an economic reality. The current plan is 1/3 less capacity than allowed already; “the proposed downsizing would make it 50% less, reducing even more an already sub-par investment . . . . The differences have a real-life effect on the cost.â€

Field Deputy Macias explained that Councilman Rosendahl believes that the developer, Charles Munger, and the City will arrive at an agreeable alternative. Munger said, “the Councilman is just doing what he has to do.â€

After the meeting Lauren Cole of the SBRA sent an email to constituents expressing disappointment about the Councilman’s position. It said:

“Imagine our surprise to hear one of Rosendahl’s staff members read a statement from the Councilman that he would not support any project that does not leave the existing Barry Building in place. Attached is his letter to the City Planning Department.

“The Councilman has spoken to the Saltair residents and other groups numerous times about this project but has yet to have a single meeting with South Brentwood residents, and clearly ignored our written input.

“We have contacted the Councilman’s office to arrange a meeting as soon as possible for South Brentwood residents to voice their opinions about this project to the Councilman and to let him know that South Brentwood residents should not be ignored. The Saltair Neighborhood Association has about 100 homes— South Brentwood has over 5,000 homes south of San Vicente.â€

Such a meeting could be the next chapter in the Green Hollow Square saga.

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