Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council Lambasts IMT Icon Project on Sunkist

The IMT, ICON Project Dog and Pony Show made another stop – with different results!

Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC), Land Use Committee Meeting 10/8/2014  (October 8, 2014)

Members of the Committe Ronald Ziff – Chair, Alicia Bartley, Tom Capps, Jackie Diamond, Art Fields, Jeff Kalban, Mikie Maloney, Rick Mayer, Sue Steinberg

The IMT, ICON Project Dog and Pony Show made another stop – with different results!

The representatives of IMT were out again in an attempt to demonstrate what a wonderful project they are proposing on the Sunkist Building Site. About 100 people showed to participate in the democratic process.  The pretty renderings came out and the spin doctors did their best to whitewash the effects of the project.

IMT spent about 20 minutes presenting the project and then the public was allowed about 2 minutes each to express their opinions, concerns and thoughts about the project.  About 25 people spoke in total.  Only 1 person had positive comments.

The energized public brought up a wide range of concerns including traffic, parking, density, safety, water usage, waste disposal, construction concerns, height, historical destruction, aesthetics, setbacks, pedestrian access and not the least of which destruction of open space.  (all of these concerns are outlined clearly in other posts on this site).

It was then time for the committee to direct questions about the project to IMT.  It became apparent very quickly that the committee has serious concerns about the project.  Questions had to do with unmitigatable increase in traffic, excessive density, destruction of mature trees, elimination of open space, lack of setback, and the lack of concern the project has for the community.

The committee members all seemed to have done their homework and were familiar with many of the aspects of the project in advance.   It was obvious that they have traveled this road before.

After a round of questions from each member they started making statements. Art Fields started by directly stating that there was absolutely no way that this committee was going to be supporting this project in its current design.  He explained that there were just too many serious problems that do not fit the site and surround community.  Various members of the committee agreed with Mr. Fields stance.

Jeff Kalban made a well thought out and engaging request to IMT to put their renderings and plans away and rethink the whole concept.  He pointed out that it was obvious from this meeting that they did not enlist the community to help formulate this project.  His thoughts echoed earlier comments that the project looked like so many other formulaic contemporary projects that have nothing to do with what is needed or appropriate for the community.  He encouraged IMT to think out of the box and while it is clear that this parcel of land is going to be developed it appeared that little thought was put into creatively making the most of this opportunity for IMT and the community.

Mr. Kalban was able to refocus the discussion from merely pointing out the glaring problems and deficiencies of the proposed design to possibilities.  The IMT representatives listened quietly and addressed his requests with dumbfounded silence instead retreating to answering the easy questions.

The committee chair, Ronald Ziff, lent his expertise to the discussion and pointed out the extreme lack of deep thought IMT team has put into this design.  With almost 300 units the simple logistics of move in and move out are huge.  This design has absolutely no effective allowances for moving trucks, elevator usage and the needs of new and old tenants.  Based on very conservative numbers it is clear that tenants will be moving in or out 2-3 times a week.  This means that moving vans will be blocking traffic on the super over congested Riverside Drive, the public elevators will be overburdened with movers and belongings going up and down the 5 floors of residences and the tenants will be stuck paying exorbitant fees to movers due to the poor design of long halls.  In his estimation this poor design will cost tenants approximately $250,000 in unnecessary costs.

While on the surface this would seem to be a minor detail, it clearly points out the shortcomings of the plan.  The devil indeed is in the details.   Such a massive, dense development of this sort requires careful thought and planning.  IMT has done little to address these types of concerns in so many areas.  Mr. Ziff also pointed out similar concerns having to do with the shared retail loading dock.   Everyone in retail knows that this arrangement is fraught with unsolvable problems.

The committee took a vote on a motion that formalizes their recommendation to Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council not to support the project in the current design.  SONC only has the power to make recommendations to Council person but they are instrumental in forming the ultimate opinion of our representatives.  This is a positive step forward for Sherman Oaks at large as well as those that live close to the site who will be affected on a daily basis.

One can only hope that IMT takes the comments and concerns to heart and rethinks this project.  The overwhelming feeling was that this project did not need just minor tweaks but a major overhaul.  The phrase, “back to the drawing board” needs to be applied.   As was pointed out by both sides, this swath of land is unique in the Sherman Oaks Area.  The existence of open parking lots and a unique Community Plan Designation demand that IMT makes the best use of this opportunity to develop this project to be an asset to the community as well as IMT.  Mere platitudes of open space, access to a “Riverwalk Park”, filling a community need, and providing (according to IMT) needed housing must be more than just window dressing.  As one committee member pointed out, “This project is Smack in the middle of Sherman Oaks”.  It will impact every member of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood in one way or another.  What is planned here today, and built over the next 33 months of construction will be here for the next 75-100 years.  We as well as our kids and their families living here in the future will be saddled with any mistakes made indefinitely.  The community and IMT only have this one chance to create a good plan that fits well.

Thank you to Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) Land Use committee for your dedication to this project last night as well as in the future.   I am excited to see if IMT takes up the charge to put together a progressive, well thought out plan rather than try to shove this thru with lawyers, money and brutal bully tactics.

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