On October 25, 2023, the City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning held a public Zoom meeting regarding the proposed construction of a large mixed-use development on 3100 Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown. The 34-story project on Wilshire and Westmoreland is being built by Miami-based real estate developer Crescent Heights. The proposal for the new mixed-use development, dubbed 3100 Wilshire, will be built above a designated historical landmark, the Bullocks Wilshire building.
Crescent Heights proposes building nearly 300 apartments along with more than 7,000 square feet of commercial space, some of which the city planning documents say will be devoted to outdoor dining. 3100 Wilshire applied for Tier 4 of the City’s Transit-Oriented Communities incentive program (TOC) for developers by designating 11% of the apartments for extremely low-income households.
Given the building’s proximity to the Wilshire Vermont transit hub with so much dining and shopping nearby that’s easily accessible without a car, the site is certainly an excellent spot for a transit-oriented development.
3100 Wilshire Hearing: No Opposition from Neighbors
Since 3100 Wilshire is a project with much higher housing density than what is normally seen in Los Angeles, a majority of the agenda items contended with environmental reviews and cooperation with the City and owners of neighboring buildings.
The City requires a site plan review for developments that create 50 or more residential dwelling units. Crescent Heights proposed reducing the number of required parking spaces to 110, down from more than 400 parking spaces in the original proposal. They also wish to reduce the open space requirement by 25%, given the density of Koreatown and this specific block, and utilize RAS3 commercial zoning for the yard requirements.
At the public hearing held over Zoom, no opposition was made to the proposed construction during the public comment period.
Crescent Heights has won the support of the Wilshire Center neighborhood council. Most of the obstruction they are facing with this development mostly pertains to adjusting the proposal for various urban planning policies and the TOC incentive program rather than opposition from residents.
The council wants to see the development move forward. A representative from Southwestern Law School raised concerns regarding construction disrupting law students’ exams. The temporary closure of the building equates to the closure of the law library, but the campus is directly behind the proposed construction site.
The owner of the five-story building at 3131 Wilshire Boulevard also expressed concern regarding the construction timeline so they would have adequate time to prepare their commercial tenants for disruption to their businesses.
There were no other public comments for the City to consider before moving Crescent Heights’ proposal to the next steps.
Bullocks Wilshire and Transit-Oriented Urban Planning
Formerly a three-story luxury department store until Southwestern Law School purchased it in 1994, the Art Deco landmark was built in 1929. Per the LA Conservancy, Bullocks Wilshire was an unwitting harbinger of the excess and car culture that future generations would associate with Los Angeles.
The majestic tower that was separate from the three floors comprising 230,000 square feet of opulence noticeably jutted from a then-unoccupied skyline. It was designed to be a “cathedral of commerce” that beckoned drivers and pedestrians. When LA was still a streetcar city, Bullocks Department Store became the first department store specifically designed to accommodate cars: you entered through the back after slinking through a cavernous parking lot.
Crescent Heights plans to maintain the historic building and integrate it into 3100 Wilshire in collaboration with Southwestern Law School. Currently, their law library occupies it.
But in a fascinating twist of fate for the site of a department store that catered to wealthy car owners when it was rare at the time, Los Angeles went from gradually finding its way back to its streetcar roots to going full speed ahead. Metro ridership is approaching pre-pandemic levels of nearly 1 million riders per day amid drops in crime, new routes, and increases in safety measures.
The city’s surprisingly vast transit network is also gradually expanding, with the introduction of the K line along Crenshaw Boulevard in 2022 and the completion of the regional connector project in 2023 that created three new DTLA stations and the longest light rail line in the world, the Metro A line spanning nearly 50 miles from Long Beach to Azusa. This coincides with a stronger demand for mixed-use development and higher-density housing as younger generations move away from the traditional model of single-family homes detached from amenities and socialization opportunities.
With more mixed-use projects proposed in Koreatown, especially along the Wilshire and Vermont corridors that see dense Metro ridership, transit-oriented mixed-use projects like 3100 Wilshire are certainly indicating a future version of Los Angeles that’s shed more of its car dependence than most people expected.