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Planning Commission backs big Westlake development, but asks for more affordable housing

The Los Angeles Planning Commission on Thursday backed plans for a major development next to MacArthur Park that would include converting a 14-story office building into a hotel and building a multi-cultural center and 41-story apartment tower.

Commissioner Samantha Millman said it’s the “first major project” the commission has vetted for Westlake, a neighborhood just south of Downtown that’s starting to attract the attention of developers.

“As a whole, I think this is an excellent project,” she said.

Dubbed The Lake on Wilshire, the complex is slated for the prominent intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Bonnie Brae Street.

Not only is that corner right next to the park, it’s steps from Metro’s Westlake/MacArthur Park Station. In planning documents, the project is described as being oriented toward pedestrians with ground-floor restaurants and shops below the hotel and a public plaza in front of the multi-cultural center, which will be clad in colorful glass mosaics and fronted by a big buddha statue.

City planner Jenna Monterrosa described the project as “thoughtfully designed,” noting that it would “activate” Wilshire and “bring much-needed housing to Westlake.”

Aerial view of Lake on WilshireAerial view of Lake on Wilshire

But some neighbors oppose the project, fearing it will drive up housing costs in the area.

The property owner and developer, Dr. Walter Jayasinghe, has proposed making 39 of the 478 apartments affordable to tenants with very low incomes in exchange for being allowed to build a project that’s denser than what city zoning codes allow. (He’s also agreed to give $2 million to New Economics for Women to rehab La Posada, a 60-unit SRO that serves single women and their children.)

Sandra Villalobos, president of the Westlake Neighborhood Council, told the planning commission that the income limits needed to qualify for those affordable units—$40,550 for a family of three—would be too high for the neighborhood. According to U.S. Census Data, the median household income in that zip code is $27,890.

The commission’s vote includes a provision recommending that the City Council—which will decide whether to give final approval of the project—require Jayasinghe to bump up the number of affordable housing units to 49.

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