The Latest in the Ponte Vista Development Plans

Latest in long line of Ponte Vista development plans caps home number at 700

Developers roll out yet another “new-and-improved” Ponte Vista plan, this one featuring a reduced 700 homes. Some residents still want another 200 homes removed from the plans, but this could be the final round as the numbers now are in line with what L.A. City Planning Commissioners suggested would be appropriate several years ago. File photo. (Chuck Bennett / Staff Photographer)
By Donna Littlejohn, The Daily Breeze
The 61.5-acre property — at 26900 S. Western Ave., across the street and to the south of Green Hills Memorial Park — is a former Navy housing site that has been vacant since 1997.

In 2009 — when the proposal stood at 1,950 homes — the Planning Commission staff recommended reducing the number of homes to between 775 and 886.

“We’ve now fallen below the numbers that the city recommended,” said Eric Shabsis, a project spokesman.

The new numbers also fall below the per-acre density in The Gardens, a nearby San Pedro condominium project often used for comparison in discussions about Ponte Vista.

The new plans represent a 15 percent cut in size from the most recent 830-home proposal, project representative Sarojini Lall told members of a San Pedro Chamber of Commerce committee at a Tuesday morning meeting. Members of the chamber’s Economic Policy Committee voted to support the plan after the presentation.

According to the Ponte Vista website, the new plan — drawn to reflect 676 homes with the additional 24 units allowable but not formally included — reflects 70 percent fewer units than the original project proposed by former developer Bob Bisno eight years ago.

“We’ve kept our word; we’ve done one final revision that’s responded to all the concerns that have been raised and we think we’ve done it very well,” Shabsis said.

There remains, however, a strong sentiment in favor of bringing the numbers down even further — in the mid-500 range — to comply with the property’s current R1 zoning designation.

“This is it,” Shabsis said of the current revision. “(Property owner) iStar is not going to go any smaller in terms of the numbers of units. … This is a really good project.”

While Lall said the previous 830-home plan garnered significant support, the newer, downsized version — done at the urging of Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino — has also addressed issues brought up by members of the community over the past several months.

Among the new plan’s features, including some changes:

• An unpopular component that would have put rental apartments at the southern end of the property has been dropped in favor of new for-sale “condominium flats,” with ground-level parking. “So (Ponte Vista) will be a completely for-sale project,” Lall said. “There are no rental units in the plan.” Each four-story building would encompass several single-story stacked “flats” aimed at either older home buyers looking to downsize or entry-level home buyers. It is this component that could potentially be increased by 24 — to the cap of 700 homes overall — but that would require planning approvals.

• A 2.4-acre park along Western Avenue will be open to the public from dawn to dusk, she said, as will additional open space on the eastern border. The park — with uses not yet determined — would be the subject of a covenant drawn up between the developers and the city of Los Angeles to ensure that it will remain public open space, Lall said.

• A road from Western Avenue along Avenida Aprenda will lead to the Mary Star of the Sea High School campus to the east of Ponte Vista. Street parking will be available on that street for the park.

• Pocket parks will be included that also will be open to the public. There will be pedestrian access throughout the project but vehicle access will be gated.

Under the new plan, 49 percent of the project site will be set aside for 208 single-family homes.

The plan was presented to members of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council on Saturday; the council will take up the issue again at its regular meeting on Monday.

There remains criticism, but much of it centered on technical and engineering issues.

Al Sattler, vice chairman of the Palos Verdes-South Bay Sierra Club, expressed disappointment at plans to channel a runoff creek at the southern end of the site into an underground storm drain.

“(The project) certainly is (smaller), which presumably means less traffic impact, but that’s not the big issue” for the club, he said.

“I’m disappointed that they’re going to eradicate the small stream that’s been there for decades,” he said. “Old-timers remember as kids going down there catching tadpoles.”

Should the project get final approval by the Los Angeles City Council early next year, a groundbreaking could occur in the first half of 2014, Shabsis said, with demolition of the long-vacant Navy houses scheduled first followed by construction of the infrastructure.

“We’re hopeful,” Shabsis said of the anticipated community response. “I think we’ve gotten beyond the framework.”

2005: Century City developer Bob Bisno pays $125 million to buy surplus Navy land on Western Avenue in San Pedro, announcing plans to build 2,300 homes. While some business interests and residents offer support, the plan largely draws opposition from those who say it is much too big.

• 2006: Then-City Councilwoman Janice Hahn appoints a citizen task force to study the issue.

• 2007: In the face of growing opposition and concern about traffic impacts, Bisno reduces the housing number to 1,950.

• 2008: Los Angeles city planners give a thumbs-down to the plan for 1,950 homes, saying a possible alternative might be between 775 and 886 homes. Bisno stands firm and, in December, is ousted from the project’s development team. A division of Credit Suisse bank, Bisno’s top investor, assumes control of the project.

• 2009: A downsized project suggests lowering home numbers to between 1,375 and 1,475.

• 2010: The project is turned back over to its chief investor, iStar Financial Inc., which announces it will re-evaluate building and density plans. Later that year, developers announce a new plan featuring 1,135 homes. By now, however, opposition has deep roots in the community sparked by a group demanding that the property remain zoned R1 — limiting housing numbers to the mid-500 range.

• 2012: Developers signal that they’re ready to go lower and release a plan for 830 homes.

• 2013: Ponte Vista is further downsized to between 676 and 700 homes, with a new Planning Commission date now set for Nov. 14. After years of trial and error — mostly error — regular roll outs of revised Ponte Vista housing plans have become as predictable as Christmas advertisements in October.The latest revision — bringing housing numbers down from the 830 plan shopped to the community just a few months ago to 676 (and no more than 700) — is being presented over the next couple of weeks by developers who say they’re now confident the project may finally move forward.The Los Angeles City Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the most recent plans at its Nov. 14 meeting in downtown Los Angeles. What began in 2005 as a proposed 2,300-home development on former Navy property in San Pedro has gone through a series of revisions as developers try to satisfy community concerns about traffic, density and aesthetics.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s