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West Adams to Get Its First Skyscraper: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It looks like the West Adams area may be moving up: literally. The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has released an Environmental Impact Report for a planned 30-story development project. A move some say will open the door to further hi-rise projects that will negatively transform the area’s landscape while displacing the existing community.

Carmel Partners, a San Francisco-based multifamily development firm is aiming to revitalize an eleven-acre block located at the intersection of Jefferson and La Cienega. An intersection local Crenshaw residents claim already suffers gridlock as motorists’ use the shortcut to commute to LAX each day.

Gridlock, however, is not the only concern for local community organizers who believe this project violates several state and local laws. Some area residents are concerned that this is a first step towards gentrification and will force current, lower-income residents to relocate.

The Good

Carmel Partners say the proposed venture will mark the beginning of a fresh start for an area that has been neglected by the business community since the riots of 1992.

Currently, the block is occupied by a communications facility housing two local radio stations. The new construction would be the beginning of a long-haul revitalization project in the area, and that is what has some residents worried.

Included in the 1.9 million sqft. “Cumulus Project” as it is known, will be over 1,200 residential units. Below, residents would have access to 300,000 sqft. of commercial space that would be divided to include retail, and office spaces. There would also be 20,000 sqft. provided for restaurant space, and a 50,000 sqft. grocery store.

Proponents of the project say it will provide many amenities to the local community that it does not currently have easy access to. Supporters also believe that the project is just what the community needs to get it thriving again after decades of decay.

The Bad

Residents and community leaders are not so optimistic about the new project that they say causes more issues than it solves. Two organizations that oppose the project are the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Both groups fear that this type of project will be the beginning of the end for their neighborhood, and its current residents.

Detractors point out that the intersection is already a shortcut to LAX which keeps it in gridlock most of the day. A project of this size would only exacerbate the situation and provides no solution for the increased traffic.

Concerned residents also see the project as a form of gentrification. An urban development process that has come under criticism by many who see it as a way for wealthy investors to profit while increasing property values and displacing low-income families.

Both organizations say they support sensible development in the area. Community leaders say that new development is welcomed, but it must defer to the wants and needs of the existing community, while avoiding land-use violations.

The Ugly

Despite being approved by the city council on May 25th, it looks as though the debate will continue to rage on. A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of both the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. The lawsuit cites multiple cases of abuses to the city charter by developers as well as city planners. It also claims that there have been gross violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the city council.

The project is expected to take roughly 35 months to complete, with an anticipated ribbon cutting coming sometime in 2018. Between now and then there seems to be quite a bit more work to do to bring the two sides together.

Much of the local community seems to embrace the idea of revitalization and growth for the area. Many, like Crenshaw Subway Coalition member Clint Simmons, point to the effects of rapid upgrades on other communities around the nation.

Speaking for many local interests, Simmons states, “I’m not opposed to development, but we can have a grocery store and a sit-down restaurant without a skyscraper.”

Only time will tell if the two parties can come to an amicable agreement that allows the project to move forward without further delays from a concerned public.

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