Whittier apartment passes appeal, loses a floor

A pending Whittier apartment building that was narrowly approved by planning commissioners last month is a floor shorter after passing through an appeal process.

A Whittier resident, Thomas Tulien, appealed a recent Planning Commission decision to approve a six-story, 146-unit apartment building at 26th & Blaisdell on the grounds that the project was not in line with present or future zoning ordinances, that it had failed to receive the consent of neighboring properties and that the Planning Commission lacked authority to approve a conditional use permit allowing height above 56 feet, among other concerns.

“What is currently being proposed is simply not appropriate to the particular site,” Tulien, who has lived in Whittier for 30 years, told the City Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee on Aug. 1.

Current zoning in the area allows for four story buildings, while the yet-to-be officially implemented 2040 Comprehensive Plan calls for a maximum of three stories on the site.

The building will now be five stories with 124 units, according to plans submitted to the city. The project will have 83 parking stalls and 90 bicycle parking spaces.

The project, being developed by Yellow Tree with the Goldstein Law Firm and Gold Group and being designed by DJR Architecture, will include office space for the Whittier Alliance at below market rate and a shared bike lounge space that will be open to the public on certain days. The Whittier Alliance would manage the space and a renter rebate program at the building, which would give renters a discount if they volunteered with an area nonprofit.

Council Member Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) said she was concerned about the close connection the neighborhood association had to the development.

“It feels uncomfortable with me, almost like a bribe,” she said.

Stephanie Brown, chair of the Whittier Alliance housing issues committee, said they were also concerned about conflicts of interest but noted the neighborhood organization manages the renter rebate program and volunteers would work with other nonprofits.

“We have gone to great lengths to ensure there are benefits to the community,” Brown said.

Council President Lisa Bender (Ward 10), who represents the project area, moved to deny the appeal. She said the City Council shouldn’t be involved in arrangements between nonprofits and private companies and that the building could add to affordable housing stock in the neighborhood.

“It is very reflective of what I hear from my constituents,” Bender said.

The appeal was denied on a 4-2 vote.