Planning Commission approves Koreatown hotel over community objections

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In a meeting Thursday, the Los Angeles Planning Commission approved a contentious Koreatown hotel project that neighbors argued should have been reconfigured as housing.

The project, planned for a parcel on Harvard Boulevard, just south of Wilshire, would rise seven stories and would bring 110 hotel rooms to the area, along with an 1,840-sqaure-foot restaurant on the ground floor.

Planning Commissioner Veronica Padilla-Campos joined community members and activists in opposing the project, questioning whether a hotel was the best use of the site, which is currently zoned for multifamily development. “I really cannot get behind this project and take away potential housing of any kind,” Padilla-Campos said.

Jan Breidenbach, an adjunct professor of urban planning at USC, spoke at the meeting, encouraging the commissioners to remember the “dearth of housing” in Los Angeles as they made their decision. She noted that the amount of land in the city zoned for multifamily housing has declined by about 60 percent since the 1960s.

Jordan Beroukhim, planning deputy for Councilmember Herb Wesson (who represents the area), argued that it was not the city’s responsibility to decide what the developer could do with the site. He noted that the project would not displace existing residents, and would, in fact, replace a surface-level parking lot.

Several community members suggested that the project was designed to skirt the affordable housing requirements mandated by Proposition JJJ, which Los Angeles voters approved in November. That measure requires developers to build affordable units in residential projects that require a zoning change to allow greater density.

The project seeks a zoning change of this kind, but the affordable housing mandate does not apply because it is a hotel.

Commissioner Dana Pearlman pointed out that the project could still be built without the zoning change—it would simply be smaller and could not include the proposed restaurant, which he argued would benefit the community. “I think this project makes sense,” he said. “I really do.”

The commissioners approved the project in a 5-1 vote, with a recommendation that it include additional bicycle parking. It will now go before the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee and the full City Council for final approval.

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