The Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE) along with several groups within the Crenshaw community recently filed a petition with the Los Angeles City Council, to appeal an approval by the South Central Area Planning Council, granting Fresh & Easy Markets several exceptions to the Crenshaw Specific Plan for a proposed store on the southwest corner of 52nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard.

The issue appears to be dividing the Crenshaw community and puts the coalition at odd with Councilman Bernard Parks and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).

“We fought long and hard to get this Specific Plan in place, not to have companies like Fresh & Easy show up and not have to comply with our plan,” said Winni Jackson, president of HOPE.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are not against Fresh & Easy, we just want them to comply with the plan.”

The Specific Plan, adopted by the city in 2004, is a set of land-use regulations designed to create standards for new development projects along the Crenshaw Corridor. One of the goals of the plan is to encourage pedestrian oriented development.

“We have hopes and aspirations for a better looking community, a more livable place to raise our families,” said Asata Umoja, a resident activist.

The Coalition contends that Fresh & Easy is proposing to build a typical auto-related, strip-mall development which is contrary to the intent of the Specific Plan for a Pedestrian Oriented Commercial Area. “We specifically wrote in the plan that projects done in this area would be walkable and pedestrian friendly. Fresh & Easy knows this, CRA knows this, and Councilman Parks knows this, but they all chose to ignore the plan,” said York Knowlton of the Windsor Hills Village Extended Block Club.

The exceptions that were requested and approved are as follows:
a. To permit two wall signs along the facade facing Crenshaw Boulevard and one pedestrian sign (three total) along the facade facing 52nd Street in lieu of the maximum of one wall sign and one Pedestrian Sign (two total) which is otherwise permitted for each business establishment located on a street corner.

b. To permit a sign along the east elevation of the proposed project (Crenshaw Corridor frontage) to have 184.6 square feet of sign area, and to also permit a sign along the north elevation (52nd Street frontage) to have 124.7 square feet of sign area, both of which exceed the maximum 75 feet of sign area otherwise permitted.

c. To permit the northern facing ground floor facade (facing 52nd Street) to have 20 percent transparent building elements in lieu of the otherwise required 50 percent.

d. To permit a surface parking lot for the proposed Fresh & Easy Market to be located at the side of the structure instead of the rear of the building as is otherwise required.

The only exception rejected was permission to have a 19-foot setback along the first floor street frontage (Crenshaw Boulevard) instead of the required zero-foot setback, or permitted 5-foot setback for projects that include pedestrian amenities.

“Councilman Parks’ office didn’t give the Design Review Board the right information (about the Specific Plan) originally, and therefore (the exceptions) should be null and void. They gave the board misinformation from the beginning,” said Jackson. “At a meeting discussing the project, a Park’s office staff member was heard telling Fresh & Easy staff, ‘don’t worry, they will gripe and complain about it, but you will get it approved, it’s a done deal.”

The next step in the controversy is a public hearing, in the next few weeks, conducted by the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which will then accept or deny the exception and send the project to the full city council for final vote.

The Coalition is interested in hearing from other neighbors. If you have any questions, contact HOPE at (323) 291-2684.