Rexford gets controversial site on LA River

Acquisition from NY developer gives industrial outfit site of Casitas Lofts, appears to end fight over gentrification

Rendering of the proposed project at 2800 Casitas Avenue (Department of City Planning)
Rendering of the proposed project at 2800 Casitas Avenue (Department of City Planning)

Rexford Industrial Realty has paid $43 million for a 117,000-square-foot industrial building along the Los Angeles River in the Glassell Park, ending a bitter fight over a proposed housing project.

The Sawtelle-based real estate investment trust purchased the property at 2800 Casitas Ave. in the northeast L.A. neighborhood from Pan Am Equities of New York, Bisnow reported.

The off-market deal kills a four-year effort by Pan Am to replace the industrial building with Casitas Lofts, a 419-unit apartment complex with a restaurant with a beer garden, 19,000 square feet of office space, an urban farm, and parking for 700 cars. It would have included 35 units of affordable housing.

All applications related to the project have been withdrawn. Pan Am paid $22 million for the industrial site in 2016, property records show.

The Casitas Lofts project proposed at the juncture of the Glendale Freeway and the Los Angeles River, was fought by neighborhood residents and a coalition of environmental groups, including Friends of the Los Angeles River.

Opponents to the project said it lacked sufficient affordable housing, would gentrify the area, and ultimately limit public access to the river.

River advocates have worked for decades to reintroduce nature to portions of the concrete flood-control channel as a public resource.

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The National Resources Defense Council and its environmental coalition partners said the project’s demise was a “win for the LA River,” Bisnow reported.

“We have seen a familiar pattern in our city that when green space is fought for by community members and then developed, the real estate hawks then swoop in for a land grab to develop luxury housing adjacent to a new park,” Julia Meltzer, who runs an Elysian Valley-based arts nonprofit, told the NRDC.

“Our coalition has successfully blocked this trajectory, at least for the moment,” she said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to restore the ecosystem along 11 miles of the Los Angeles River – including the area around Casitas Avenue next to Atwater Village and across from Elysian Valley.

Rexford Industrial sees great potential in the property, and plans to keep it industrial, Patrick Schlehuber, executive vice president of investments, told Bisnow in an email. He said its 24-foot clearance and overall functionality is rare to find in the dense, infill San Fernando Valley/Downtown adjacent location.

At most, the property might get some upgrades, Schlehuber said. The two-story building is occupied by two tenants. If they vacate after their leases are up, he said Rexford plans “a modest repositioning of the property to bring it up to modern standards.”

[Bisnow] – Dana Bartholomew

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