Flower Drive Historic District
The mixed-use Fig Project, which calls for the demolition of nearly half of the Flower Drive California Register Historic District, is advancing through the development approval process following the release of the Final environmental impact report in October 2018. The project is being developed by Ventus Group (formerly Spectrum Group Real Estate).
The Conservancy spoke at the Advisory Agency meeting for the project on December 5. The City Planning Commission will review the project next on January 10, to consider the Vesting Zone Change and other entitlements.
The project proposes the construction of four structures: a hotel component, a student housing component, a mixed-income housing component, and a parking structure. The 4.4 acre project site, located on the 3900 block of Flower Drive, contains eight of the historic district’s nineteen fourplexes. These eight fourplexes occupy roughly one-third of the project site, with surface parking covering the remaining two thirds.
The Conservancy, along with local advocates including West Adams Heritage Association, have been actively participating in the environmental review for the project and advocating for a win-win solution that retains the historic buildings as part of the project since the Notice of Preparation and Initial Study were released in July 2016.
The first phase of the Fig Project’s environmental review, the Notice of Preparation and Initial Study, was released in July 2016. The project originally proposed a 21-story hotel as one of the components, while calling for the complete removal of all the historic fourplexes in the project area, which is nearly half of the Flower Drive California Register Historic District.
The developer and project team reached out to advocates and held early meetings in 2017 to get community input and discuss possible preservation alternatives for inclusion in the draft environmental impact report (EIR). Given that two thirds of the project site is surface parking and the remaining third contains eight structures that are part of the historic district, one of the potential alternatives suggested by advocates was the need for a preservation alternative that could retain the historic structures through a reorganized site plan of the proposed components.
However, when the draft environmental impact report was released in October 2017, the 21-story hotel tower had been scaled down to seven stories and no alternative pairing high density new construction with the retention of the historic fourplexes on the site was evaluated for consideration.
The full preservation alternative, which was identified as the environmentally superior alternative, contained low-scale new construction and was deemed infeasible for not meeting some of the projective objectives or quantities of units envisioned by the proposed project.
The location of the project also falls within the jurisdiction of the Exposition Park/University Park Redevelopment Plan and Southeast Los Angeles Community Plan areas, which both provide goals that encourage the protection and reuse of historic properties. Yet the EIR concluded that the project was still in compliance with these plans despite calling for the complete demolition of the historic structures, as it met numerous other goals outlined in them.
A further concern among the community has been the loss of affordable housing units in these historic structures and the displacement that will bring to a tight-knit community of residents in these Flower Drive fourplexes that has evolved over the past several decades.
• With the Fig Project located in both the Exposition Park/University Park Redevelopment Plan and Southeast Los Angeles Community Plan areas, which both provide goals that encourage the protection and reuse of historic properties, we are disappointed that a greater priority has not been placed on retaining and adapting the historic buildings of the Flower Drive California Register Historic District.
• The Conservancy has previously commented on both the project’s NOP and Draft EIR and has consistently raised concerns about this project, which calls for the demolition of nearly half of the Historic District.
• Despite our pressing for meaningful consideration of potentially feasible preservation alternatives to demolition, we believe the EIR has not adequately addressed this fundamental concern and requirement of CEQA.
• We disagree that Alternative 2 is considered to be infeasible because it fails to achieve two projects objectives. Even with these uses deleted, Alternative 2 is able to meet the majority of the seven project objectives.
• We are also disappointed that a higher density alternative that may have been able to reduce impacts and meet additional project objectives was prematurely dismissed from consideration in the EIR, when elsewhere the EIR states that the City supports redevelopment of the Project Site with high density uses and has utilized various planning tools to maximize developable area on the site.
• The Conservancy, along with local neighborhood advocates, believes a win-win opportunity combining new construction with the adaptive reuse of the historic structures on the site could easily have been achieved. We do not support the project as proposed.