Stalled Sunset Junction project looking for community support

File: The Sunset Junction sign in Silver Lake.
File: The Sunset Junction sign in Silver Lake.
Photo by killerfemme via Flickr Creative Commons

After four years, the developers behind a proposed mixed use development near Sunset Junction believe they finally have a plan that could fly in the community.

The set of three trendy retail and residential developments at 4000, 4100, and 4311 Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake was first proposed in 2012, but Frost/Chaddock, the company behind the proposal has had a tough time getting the neighborhood on board.

The saga is not completely unusual—developers often complain of red tape and delays in getting projects approved in Los Angeles—but four years is longer than average. The non-partisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office studied building in L.A. and the average approval process took about a year.

In this case, the developer says the lengthy back-and-forth is a product of wanting to make sure neighbors are comfortable with the final product. 

“We have tried very very hard to listen to and to respond to the community, which is probably why it has taken so long,” said Glenn Gritzner, managing director at public strategy firm Mercury LLC, speaking on behalf of the developer Frost/Chaddock.

The original proposal met with significant local opposition.

Silver Lake Neighborhood Council co-chair Anne-Marie Johnson said the council received many letters from concerned neighbors.

Neighborhood councils don't have a formal role in approving projects, but the city is much more favorable to proposals that do get a sign-off from the council. 

"We don't automatically say no,” Johnson said. “But what we do say is 'um, we believe you can do better. Come again next month,'" Johnson explained.

Frost/Chaddock came back, time after time, conceding various aspects of the original design.

"He doesn't want to come in and impose buildings on communities," Glitnzer said of the developer, James Frost of Frost/Chaddock. "He wants these buildings to really fit into these communities and from a logistical perspective, these projects obviously have to go through a public process to get approved, and if you have the community united in opposition to your project, it’s gonna be tough to get it approved."

Initially pitched as three apartment buildings with retail spaces on the ground floor, the developer is now drafting a plan for two residential buildings with retail spaces, and one hotel. While all the lower spaces were originally intended for commercial purposes, they have now added public art exhibits and a community meeting space. The developer also drew public parking spaces into the plan.

One major ongoing hurdle remains: the buildings are still proposed as four and five stories tall, exceeding the development limit in the area.

"The emails that I've received and that the board has received has overwhelmingly not in favor of the project as it is," Johnson said. "The consensus is this development is just too large in scale and does not fit the character of the traditional Silver Lake."

Gritzner, said concerned neighbors are often more vocal than supporters.

“Opponents are always loud and they’re always motivated and they’re always passionate and I understand that,” he said. “But projects like this certainly bring a lot of benefit and have a lot of people who recognize that benefit.”

So far, the neighborhood council has not taken a position on the draft environmental impact report. Community members can submit comments on the project until August 11.

Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a bill that could shorten the development process by incentivizing developers who meet certain criteria like adhering to zoning standards and setting aside certain percentages of affordable units to build by-right, potentially shortening the local process for some projects.

That bill would not impact the Silver Lake proposal.