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August 8, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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August 8, 2001
 

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Residents Win Their Battle To Keep Gelson Supermarket Out Of The City - For Now By Amanda Michne ' One of the most heated issues in Beverly Hills came to a dra- against other neighbors who supported the project. matic close last Thursday night when the City Council rejected The vote came well after 11pm and unanimously upheld the an appeal that hoped to make way for a Gelson's supermarket planning commission's decision, which ruled, essentially, that to be built on Wilshire and Crescent Drive. the project would create too much traffic near a residential During the four-hour meeting that preceded the vote, 150 res- neighborhood and was not an appropriate use for what is suP" idents crammed into the city council chambers flooding the posed to be a "transitional" zone between business and reef public comment period with eleventh hour pleas against the dential areas. project. "There is a responsibility to what is here to protect the reSi" As a fire marshall zealously enforced the maximum capacity dential district. It isn't a transitional use," said Councilmembef rule, neighbors united in their cause against Gelson's actually MeraLee Goldman. "The primary issue was a land use issue. fought with each other over seating in the chambers. [Building] a very busy market there seemed a poor choice to The council heard almost two hours of remarks from rest- me." dents, mostly against the project and sometimes peppered with angry words. Some of the most vicious attacks launched by residents were not against the developer they opposed, but The Thrill of Victory Residents who have been crusading against the project hailed the decision as a major victory. "I think what made the diflerenc is [the Council] saw the overwhelming passion of the people. Even if they voted for it. we weren't going away," said Victor Bardack, president of the Beverly Hills North Homeowners Association. "! wasn't necessarily surprised, 1 think that MeraLee [Goldman] got it right. [ think tbe others followed wisely," said Ken Goldman. (no relation) who lives on Crescent Drive, directly across the street from the site of the proposed project. "1 think they realized dull a supermarket and office space is not really transitional I think they realized il brought more traffic to residential streets." But +.~ther residents, like Anise-Yvonne Palladino, said she was "very surprised" by the decision. Although various versions of the project had been discussed since 1998, the developers submitted an application for the latest version on July 25, 2000, just a year and a day before the project met its death in the City Council chambers. The development would have occupied the swath of land stretching north from Wdshire to Clifton and east from Crescent to Canon inn lot that is considered a "transitional" zone, an area meant to provide a buffer between commercial and residential neighborhoods. The Gelson's project, which included parking, office and retail space, would have required zoning changes and General Plan amendments. In a previous ruling, tile planning commission determined that the proposal would "nol provide an adequate desirable transition between the business dislriet and the nearby les- idential uses." They further lbund that the project would have "'substantial adverse Iraffic impacts" in nearby neighborhoods. If approved, the Gelson's project= also called the Triangle Gateway Project, woutd nut have been "covenanted" only for Gelson's, thereby opening the door for other types of markets or uses in the future, a fact that caused concern among sonic residents and MeraLee Goldman. "1 think the council nlade a wise decision I think evei3]body likes Gelson's and tl~ developer but I think they just picked the wrong place and the wrong scope for their prO" joel," said Rudy Cole, a lesident who had spoken hCIoIc the Council. The Agony of Defeat There h:we been some grunlb[ings that Gelson's and Ibe devoir Snyder Company, bad been given mixed signals by the city throughout ly process necessary for project application and review, According to figures provided by the planning department. Snyder has paid the city least $232,355 since August at 1998, though the initial $35,0(X) fee was for a different ject that planned Ior only a Gclson's market. On February 17, 1999, Snyder paid $147.3~'+~' for city administrative lees and E[R consultants when the project changed to incorpOr otlice and retail elements. He was then charged an additional $50,000 Ior the revised ject on May 2, 2000. As the four-hour meeting drew to a close, Mayor Mark Egerlnan suggested a study 1~ done to determine ways to streamline the process. "I think the cdy could have handled the project a lot better," Egerman said. Jerry Snyder did not return phone calls from the Weekly. What's In A Name? It's impossible to know if the City Council voted purely on the land use issues or /~ swayed by Ihe emotional outcry of the residents, but if the Council was rhc final judg~t, was the couri of public opinion where resident activists and the Gelson's developerS I~ ded it out In the monlhs leading up to the hearing, both sides swamped residents nladers and look out ads in local papers debating traffic counts, parking allowane5 other details of Ihe project. A few members of the audience 'it Thursday night's meetin~ did st>oak in favor of projecl One senior citizen pginted out the convenience ol the market IOl people 12 Beverly Hills Weekly