Construction will start this year at the location of what was once the Philippine Village community center for a 38-unit multifamily residential development at 4515 Eagle Rock Boulevard. Los Angeles’ zoning administrator approved the project, which was designed by architecture firm Rachel Allen Architecture and led by real estate investment and development firm Encore Capital in October 2016. The development will be a change of pace for the area that Filipino community leaders designated as the Philippine Village community center in 2002.
The Philippine Village, a one-building mall for specifically Filipino-owned businesses, housed restaurants, shops and fish markets before the building fell into disrepair. Matthew Herrera, an Eagle Rock resident since 1998, described the state of the Philippine Village before it was demolished to make way for the current housing development plans.
“I’m sure it had its clientele, I’m sure it had its customer base, but it was run down. Probably not at its highest and best use, as far as property use. It was a property where, whoever owned it, whether it was an individual or an entity, just sort of collected rent and didn’t really feel like they had to improve the property or make it pedestrian friendly,” Herrera said.
Ken Walsh, an Eagle Rock resident since 2001, whose home is adjacent to the lot that once was the Philippine Village, talked about the property’s condition before its demolition.
“We were having homeless activity non-stop. I had to work with the local police, Senior Lead Fernando Ochoa of LAPD and the city attorney’s office to secure the building, but the effort to secure the building didn’t work,” Walsh said.
According to Donald Poveing, property manager of Encore Capital, the property investment firm heading the lot’s development, the 38-unit small lot project is as much a community building effort as it is a housing project.
“We focus on building communities. We’ll look at raw land; we’ll look at older run-down facilities or buildings that aren’t being used to their highest and best use. So, we’ll focus on those types of assets, and we’ll look to bring housing onto those sites,” Poveing said. “Eagle Rock is one of the hidden gems of Los Angeles, where you’re 15 minutes away from Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, downtown LA — basically all the employment centers of this part of town, you’re just a quick 15-minute jump.”
Poveing said that Encore Capital and the project faced multiple obstacles to gain community support. According to Poveing, before Encore Capital purchased the lot, they attended three meetings in 2015 — with the Council District Office June 8, with the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) June 16 and lastly with the Eagle Rock Association (TERA) June 17.
After Encore Capital purchased the property in August 2015, they presented and received approval from TERA. It wasn’t until Encore Capital formally presented to ERNC that some community resistance to the development became apparent.
In response to the project, Walsh created a petition against its continuation that received 200 signatures from community members. Walsh spoke about his worries and frustrations with the project.
“The density will cause added traffic that the area doesn’t really have the means to support. They want to make this a walking community, they want people to ditch their cars, but they’ve increased the residential supply,” Walsh said. “The zoning laws and the planning laws are the one thing that needs to be improved … The communication, planning, everything has to be improved because I don’t think we’re going to stop development [due to] city laws that are in effect.”
Herrera said that he thinks the multifamily residential development will be beneficial for the community.
“You’re going to have a lot more pedestrian activity, and that’s going to invite more businesses into some of those retail spaces on those ground floor areas,” Herrera said. “I think we need it because we need more housing. I don’t think you can complain about high rent and high housing prices and be against greater supply. If you restrict the supply of new housing and new development, that’s invariably going to lead to higher prices.”
According to Poveing, Encore Capital returned to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee around a month after receiving initial community pushback, looking for feedback and approval. They then formally submitted their plan to the city of Los Angeles and were heard in front of the zoning administrator, receiving approval in October 2016.
Rachel Allen, the founder of Rachel Allen Architecture, said that the development (which includes seven live-work units designed for commercial and retail use) would fit into existing architecture trends in the Eagle Rock area. According to Allen, the firm hopes for increased pedestrian activity instead of car dependence.
“In the homes along Eagle Rock Boulevard, the housing piece is on the upper floors, and the ground floor is retail or commercial space, and that’s because the city wants Eagle Rock Boulevard to be activated by pedestrian foot traffic because it’s a boulevard. So, we don’t want just houses slamming down on the ground; we want stuff happening on the ground floor that activates the sidewalk.”
A revision was added to clarify which governing bodies approved the project. A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that ERNC approved the project — ERNC denied a proposal made by Encore Capital at a May 2016 meeting.