DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - It took more than four years, but the developers of a proposed 180-unit live work residential complex in the Arts District notched final approval from the Community Redevelopment Agency last week.

Though the board decision concludes a contentious entitlement process for the proposed AMP Lofts, the project does not yet have financing and there is no timeline for breaking ground.

Developers Scott Spiwak and David Seewack found themselves in the middle of a sharp debate about Downtown industrial land when they initially proposed converting their auto parts factory at 695 S. Santa Fe Ave. into lofts. The factory, American Moving Parts, which occupies eight structures on and around the property, can no longer continue in the outdated facilities, Seewack said.

“The buildings in most cases are in disrepair,” Seewack said. “My business has been prohibited from growing as a result of the process. I’m a business owner and I own the property and I’m not really a developer, but I’m trying to develop the property because I can no longer run my business there.”

The Planning Department and CRA had challenged the project because it would essentially replace a chunk of industrial-zoned land with residential use. But in 2008, the City Council trumped the agencies, adopting 14th District Councilman José Huizar’s effort to expand the Arts District boundaries to include the AMP Lofts property.

The CRA’s April 15 vote followed some unexpected challenges to the project by the board. Some board members were concerned that 35 jobs at American Moving Parts would be lost in the process.

That won’t be the case, as the developers had already pledged to CRA staff that the jobs would be relocated when Seewack and Spiwak move their business to another CRA project area in Los Angeles, said land use consultant Kate Bartolo, who helped the developers through the entitlement process.

The project calls for 180 units, 5% of which would be reserved for low income residents; another 10% would be set aside for moderate income residents. No financing is in place, and it remains unclear whether the units would be for sale or for rent, she said.

“Given the very substantial delays that have been incurred by the CRA staff negotiations, right now it’s probably not a great time to go for financing,” Bartolo said. “So we’re going to be in a holding pattern for a while as we wait for a revival in the real estate market.”

Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at ryan@downtownnews.com.

page 6, 04/19/2010

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