The new Lower Ocean complex would border Roosevelt Terrace to the east and the Pacific Inn to the south.
At a city council meeting that fell on Valentine's Day, some community members raved about a proposed mixed-use development many hope will spice up Lower Ocean Street and make it safer too. But the city council wasn’t exactly showering love on the developer’s handling of the public process.
“I’m sorry to be so blunt," Mayor Don Lane said, "but I think the applicant made this process harder by not getting more input sooner."
Council was scheduled to vote on the four-story project yesterday, Feb. 14, but agreed to come back to the matter on March 14 so the developer can respond to the concerns of some neighbors.
Developer Pacific West Communities has met regularly for several months with members of the Neighbors of Lower Ocean, an organization that supports the project and has spent over 15 years trying to improve public safety in the area. But certain residents living just across the fence off Broadway said they felt blindsided and left out of the process. Pacific West began notifying them of its plans for a mixed-use residential and commercial project in December. It's a mistake the developer has acknowledged. “I’m sorry we didn’t open the dialogue sooner,” said Pacific West representative Owen Lawlor .
The project would include 58 affordable and market-rate housing units, along with 5,200 square feet of commercial space.
The disgruntled neighbors were almost exclusively from Roosevelt Terrace, just behind the 350 Ocean Street property. Few were opposed to the project itself. But the fact that Pacific West waited until December to contact Roosevelt Terrace neighbors irked Nic Brummel and others—especially since the developer had been in such close communication with NOLO.
“This has basically led to all the problems the community now senses with this project,” Brummel said. “It has led to the design of a building that is incongruous with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Roosevelt Terrace neighbors say the proposed four-story building doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood and would increase noise, create traffic and block people’s views.
“We would like you to require the developer to drop this building down a whole story,” said Karen Carlson, another Roosevelt Terrace resident. “It’s too high.”
Architect Jan Hochhauser disputed the claims and brought pictures illustrating how neighbors' views would change, saying any impacts would be minimal.
More than 15 people spoke at yesterday’s meeting, with the majority expressing praise for the plan. “This is an excellent affordable housing project that this neighborhood has needed for many, many, many years. Two decades, really,” NOLA founding member Erik Larsen said.
Previn Patel operates Pacific Inn, which would be on the southern side of the development. He says he expects to lose about $200,000 during a two-year construction phase, but that’s the least of his worries. Hoping desperately to see the neighborhood improve, he’s supporting the project anyway.
"The scary part is, if this project doesn't happen, I lose all hope for Lower Ocean," Patel said.