Intense STNC Land Use Committee Meeting discussed the Proposed Project at Old Denny’s Site

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The Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee met on Monday night, January 10, 2022 to discuss the proposed construction of a 46 unit, 42-foot tall multi-family apartment building. The proposed location would be 7577 Foothill Blvd at Plainview Ave; the old Denny’s restaurant site. The meeting was held via zoom and among those present were members of the committee, concerned members of the community, and a representative from the potential developer of this apartment complex. This was an overwhelmingly one sided affair, with most opposing the proposed development of this apartment building. The meeting was less than a cordial greeting and felt more like an outcry from the neighborhood.

The challenge of hosting a community meeting via zoom proved to present some technical difficulties with the size of those in attendance. The names of some speakers were not entirely visible and the pace was fast and the mood far too heated to accurately jot names down. However, the overall tone was quite clear from the start; the community was not happy about the idea of a huge apartment building invading their neighborhood.

The meeting was led by Committee Chair Pati Potter and immediately, there were technical difficulties where people could not see anyone else in the meeting. At times, there were issues with people speaking over one another, and there was an issue getting the representative from the development company on call into the meeting. This caused a bit of a delay to the actual start time of the meeting, however, eventually when the representative, Edgar Khalatian, was able to connect with the meeting, he presented the plans for the apartment building.

Accompanied by blueprints and renderings via powerpoint, Mr. Khalatian was able to share visuals of the aforementioned 46 unit, 42-foot tall multi-family apartment building. Mr. Khalatian made sure to make it clear that these were the dimensions as well as providing 92 parking spaces for residents, 23 guest parking spots, and opportunities for families of all sizes; articulating there would be 13 single bedroom units, 17 double bedroom units, and 16 triple bedroom units. The setup of the building was also described in detail. There would be balconies, the facade of the building would face outwards so residents would be inward, assuring safety, presumably. There would be removal of two oak trees that currently inhabit the area to make room, plus the planting of smaller trees to lend to the environment and the overall presentation of the new establishment. In short, Mr. Khalatian, assured the committee that this would draw more people in, which in turn would draw more businesses in the future. With his presentation complete, the floor was then opened to anyone who had questions or concerns. The floor erupted with an overwhelming amount of concerns rather than questions.

The attendees that vocalized their opinion of this new apartment building were singing in the same key; they did not want it. An array of representatives from the community ranging from older generations that have lived in the neighborhood for almost twenty years to one youth exclaiming it would negatively affect the high school aged population as well. There were representatives of those raising their families in the area. There were members of the community that owned businesses in the area. They all had similar complaints to the proposed apartment building. There was an issue with the size of the building being too large and taking up space during construction. There was the logistics of how much water and energy was this complex really going to take up. There were issues of where neighboring residents would park during construction and in that same vein, the issue of the area already being difficult to park in to begin with. There was the issue of streets being too narrow and there being a couple of one way streets being difficult to maneuver around. There were multiple issues with the building ruining any type of scenic views that are already in place. There was even a member of the community who did not enjoy the proposed color of the apartment building.

There was one voice who seemed to support the plan, who admittedly stated that there should be more representation in the committee for youth who are trying to move the neighborhood forward rather than keep “stuck”, however his voice was quickly overturned by the rest of the community who participated in this meeting exclaiming that this apartment building would not work and did not benefit the neighborhood. When asked how much rent may be in this new building, Mr. Khalatian did not know. If there were any logistical questions asked, Mr. Khalatian did not have an answer either. This only united the community in pursuing the narrative that this idea does not have the neighborhood’s best interest at heart. The community proposed other suggestions that they feel could fit that vacant lot much more, such as another restaurant, or even a park. With the voices of the community heard, a motion was made to bring the agenda to a close.

The committee all agreed to one thing; they did not think the apartment building was in the best interest of the neighborhood. After a very quick cast of the votes, One by one, each member stated their vote and ended with a unanimous vote to decline supporting the proposal of the apartment building. The next step is to compose a letter to submit to the city stating this outcome. With that, there were no other orders of business for the night and the meeting was adjourned.

Through heated discussions and a community voicing their grievances, the planned proposal for the new apartment building at the vacant site of the old Denny’s restaurant will not go ahead. The neighborhood came together and came to an agreement that what may be best for their neighborhood and community may not be a huge apartment complex. The neighborhood wants to maintain their small community and keep it intact. It remains to be seen what may take the place of the vacant lot at this time, but when plans are proposed, this community has shown, it will keep in mind, first and foremost, above all, what will benefit the neighborhood and bring long term growth to it’s community of family oriented residents and businesses.

The next Land Use Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, February, 7, 2022. The STNC holds its General Board meeting on Wednesday, January 12, where the Land Use Committee will officially present its decision to the council.

This article was updated with multiple corrections, including the name of the representative for the proposed construction, the number of proposed parking spaces. Two sentences were adjusted for clarity regarding the meeting.

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