Metro rejects plastic surgeon’s 907-unit development in Westlake

The board cites concerns over affordable housing and gentrification

Feb.February 20, 2020 11:00 AM
Dr. Jayasinghe and a rendering of the project (Credit: Metro via Curbed)
Dr. Jayasinghe and a rendering of the project (Credit: Metro via Curbed)

Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority put the kibosh on a massive development plan atop its Westlake subway station, citing concerns that it did not include enough affordable housing units and would spread gentrification.

The authority’s governing commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to reject a three-year old proposal from plastic surgeon Dr. Walter Jayasinghe to build a development with 655 housing units and a 252-room hotel atop its Westlake subway station and two adjacent parcels he owns on Westlake Avenue.

Metro has struggled for decades to find an appropriate use for the site, but members rejected the latest plan because it included just 120 affordable units, or about 18 percent of the total, according to Curbed. Metro requires that any project built by a private developer contain at least 35 percent affordable units, defined as 60 percent of the area median income ($62,640 for a family of four).

His rejected proposal also would have included 70,000 square feet of open space and a dedicated area for the street vendors, who are a fixture in the area.

Metro director Ara Najarian raised concerns about gentrification during debate of the station proposal, saying she believed the proposed development would be “aiding and abetting” gentrification in the working-class neighborhood.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the Westlake residents deserve a more sensitive proposal and that Jayasinghe “understands that, but they also need to understand (Metro’s) policies and values.”

Jayasinghe was invited by the commission to revise and resubmit his plan for the station.

Commissioners also expressed concern about displacing current Westlake residents, most of whom are poor or working poor Central American immigrants. The neighborhood is one of those on the cusp of gentrification because of its proximity to downtown L.A.

In fact, Jayasinghe, recently obtained city approval to put up a 41-story apartment and hotel tower on Wilshire Blvd. about a block from the Metro station site. [CURBED]TRD STAFF

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