Our Mission

900 Hilgard Avenue High-Rise Proposal

NEW 2/1/19 SIGN THE PETITION OF OPPOSITION 


Hilgard LLC submitted plans to LA City to build a 16- story, high-priced-per-bed dorm, The Agora, at 900 Hilgard Avenue in Westwood Village. The proposal is over 4x the height that is allowed on this site and over 3x the amount of square footage.


The developers, who are Beverly Hills surgeons Ted Khalili and Eraj Basseri, hired political lobbying firm, Afriat Consulting, to try to push through support for this 194-foot-tall high rise. 


Check out these critical articles by the Daily Bruin:

Editorial 2/3/19: The Agora is an overwhelming mirage with an underwhelming delivery

Story 1/30/19: Westwood groups oppose student high-rise project, cite planning discrepancies

Story 2/6/19: ....the Agora, a 16-story housing development, at the same location where PodShare is located

Story 2/14/19: Westwood Neighborhood Council opposes The Agora plans amid building controversy

Story 3/4/19: Agora ...should be unnecessary... disrupt and disregard zoning laws


Who we are:

Save Hilgard Avenue was formed in response to this ridiculous proposal and one-sided political lobbying tactics. We are a growing group of homeowners, renters, students, businesses and other stakeholders who have one goal: decline both the 16 story and 8 story proposals for the Agora, which is too tall for its location.


The Agora's proposed height is egregiously incompatible with the property’s current zoning and would leave residents with adverse impacts such as loss of property value and privacy, shade-shadow impacts, more traffic and more demand for our already inadequate emergency services and infrastructure. The Westwood Multi-Family Specific Plan was enacted to prevent this very type of incompatible development. We support current zoning law for this site which is 45 ft tall and 20-foot rear yards.

 

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Our Concerns

Not suited for Hilgard

The scale of this high-rise, high-priced dorm is not appropriate for this location, which has very specific zoning restrictions regarding height, density, bulk, and rear yards.


UCLA chose to not outbid these doctors during the sale of this property. We assume UCLA knows it isn't the ideal location for students since it didn't buy this property. UCLA sold off student housing near Hilgard due to low residency.


Even the Wilshire Golden Mile is capped now to 6 stories. 

"Student housing" is false

The developers are trying to get support by playing the 

"this-is-for-students" card.  


But, private owners can’t discriminate. This is housing for anyone. 


UCLA was contacted by the developer to support the project. UCLA declined. 


 Their pricing is $1100+ per bed/room is impossible with $100M+ construction costs.  After the developer realized that their math was unrealistic, they doubled the occupancy but kept the $1100 per bed cost the same. 

True affordable rates should be $500 to $840 per bed without added upcharges (assumes no meal plan). The math does not work for qualifying affordable income households.

"Health and wellness" and "we're fixing a student homeless problem"
is a lobbying sham

Ignoring the allowable height in the interests of financial gain by wealthy developers in the name of "health and wellness of students" and "we're saving homeless students" is a sham. 

 

The owners' consulting firm, Afriat, and their attorney are registered LA lobbyists. They were hired by these developers in Jan of 2017, over two years ago but didn't include stakeholders whatsoever. See this ethics report.


Learn from history: two high-rise dorms already failed

The W hotel was once student housing.  From this archived article, "Cool or not, the dorm had trouble attracting residents and resorted to an ad campaign in the Daily Bruin extolling its virtues. Some spoke out. 'Don't believe all that you read, UCLA students should be advised this is hardly a community of students. It was woefully overpriced.' In 1974, the 'impossible dorm' stopped tilting at windmills and was transformed into its first incarnation as a hotel. The students had left the building."


The other nearby high-rise building on Tiverton was also once private student dorm that failed within a few years and was converted to a senior community.

Aggressive tactics

These doctors covertly purchased the adjacent residential home at 901 Malcolm Avenue in a fast escrow and are trying to buy other Malcolm homes.

Project plans convey UCLA collaboration, even after UCLA stated it declined to support.


 Mis-used citywide homeless data to claim students across Westwood are homeless. Showed a homeless student in paid Facebook ads who is not from UCLA or Westwood.


When the doctors bid for the property, the doctors proposed a luxury apartment building.  Now, they say "below market-rents."


Bait and switch: They created a petition about affordable housing generally (no detail on rental costs, no author, no mention of a development) and got 300+ to sign it. Now they are flipping that 300+ number to announce how much support they have for their $100 million+ project. 


The developers are applying for a vesting tracht map so they can sell condos.

Can you trust them?

Real impacts to the Westwood Community

What the developers aren't telling you:

  • This 16-story (or 8-story back up plan) proposal requires massive changes to what is allowed for this lot.  If granted, every property along Hilgard, or across the City of LA, may seek the same height on the basis that the city rules potentially would have already been broken for this project.
  • This spot zoning is unlawful because it undermines compatible development and the integrity of city plans.  It grants entitlements not available to similar properties.
  • The high rise dorm will erode property values as it will be so tall that it will take sunlight and privacy away from countless neighbors.
  • Traffic and congestion will affect all Hilgard- oriented commuters and students. 190 vehicles are included in the project plans.  This corner is already over-burdened on the one-lane street along Hilgard and LeConte, with traffic often gridlocked from the Ralphs parking lot and the W hotel.
  • Safety and noise are additional concerns, especially because the building will not be under UCLA’s control. 

Downloads- Project Proposal & Timeline

Plans were filed with LA City on 11/19/2018.  


The developers have already lobbied City groups including at a 12/5/2018 "North Westwood Neighborhood Council" Meeting at which the developer team (architect, lawyer, lobbyist, doctor) tried to push for a vote of support from the Council. Their Land Use Committee under Michael Skiles approved unanimously (with conditions) although no diverse voices were present.


Opposing:

1/19-Comstock Hills Association- votes to OPPOSE the Agora (unanimous in opposition)

1/19-Holmby Westwood Property Owners Association- votes to OPPOSE the Agora (27 voted to oppose,1 abstain)

1/19 and 2/19-Westwood Neighborhood Council- votes to OPPOSE the Agora (all voted to oppose, less 1 abstain)

2/19- Westwood Homeowners Association- votes to OPPOSE the Agora (unanimous in opposition)

2/19- Westwood Hills Property Owners Association- votes to OPPOSE (all voted to oppose, less 1 abstain)

3/19- Residents of Beverly Glen- votes to OPPOSE the Agora (unanimous in opposition)

5/19- Holmby Hills Homeowners Association- votes to OPPOSE the Agora at is annual meeting


January 16, 2019:

Agora fumbles its numbers and tries to recover. See attached press release. Why do you think a change so soon?  Most unusual.  This is immediately after they released first set of plans.  They are newbies and it shows.  The "flip-flop" Agora. 


The last file attached shows Afriat was hired in January 2017 although Aaron Green told the HWPOA he had only been hired for one year. He only reached out to stakeholders after we made noise at a 12/5/18 meeting.


Jan 23, 2019

UCLA's Graduate Student Association (GSA) Forum met under Michael Skiles leadership and heard the developer team. The opposition was not invited although Michael Skiles knows we exist.  Students spoke out saying the project wouldn't be affordable. One student said, "won’t support this, it doesn’t address the problem. This isn’t what we need right now. All the bells and whistles are nice but I feel misled." Skiles responded to lead the group to approval by saying, "At least they are trying to serve students." 

8 in favor. 7 against. 1 abstain. 


Jan  2019

City Planning issues a Hold Letter asking the Agora to resubmit its application to include current housing and the height district (and other requests) within 30 days. Hold letter is attached below.  As of 5/19, the Agora hasn't resubmitted the application.


Feb 27, 2019

Councilman Koretz takes a stand against high-rise-oriented Senate Bill 50. His resolution is attached below.  Koretz states goal of protecting single family neighborhoods from high rises.


April 26, 2019

LA City Building and Safety begins investigation on legitimacy/ lawfulness of 900 Hilgard use. 


May 14, 2019

 Councilmember Koretz tells a group of about 100 homeowners in Little Holmby at the annual HWPOA meeting that he is trying to speak with the Agora developers to either move their project elsewhere or make it the height that the neighborhood will be happy with.


 June 4, 2019 

The Agora and Save Hilgard representatives presented at the monthly meeting of the UC Student-Workers Union UCLA chapter. After a lengthy Q/A session between the Agora representatives and the attendees of the UC Student-Workers Union, the UC Student-Workers Union chose to not endorse the Agora housing project. The UC Student-Workers Union will not endorse the Agora because its members feel that the Agora was not designed for most of the student-workers they represent. Questions were raised about how the Agora is obviously not geared toward most grad students or student workers. The number of affordable beds (just 52 unit out of hundreds) was also seen as quite small to justify the Agora as a student housing project. 


Check out these critical articles by the Daily Bruin:

Editorial 2/3/19: The Agora is an overwhelming mirage with an underwhelming delivery

Story 1/30/19: Westwood groups oppose student high-rise project, cite planning discrepancies

Story 2/6/19: ....the Agora, a 16-story housing development, at the same location where PodShare is located

Story 2/14/19: Westwood Neighborhood Council opposes The Agora plans amid building controversy

Story 3/4/19: "Agora ...should be unnecessary... disrupt and disregard zoning laws."

LA City Zoning Laws and Plans for Westwood

Westwood Community Plan LA CITY (pdf)

Download

Westwood Multi Family Specific Plan LA CITY (PDF)

Download

Latest Drama

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Agora's Paid Facebook Ad Campaign

See images to the left of their paid facebook ads that claim they are solving a student homeless problem in Westwood. Yet, there is no data on student homelessness and their Gensler-designed building will command high priced rents (with building costs of about $100 million). Their social media ads are misusing the City-wide homeless issues by pretending the data defines UCLA students in Westwood. 

La Times article on co-living 1/6/18

Excerpts from latest LA Times article on coliving:

Individual tenants at C1 pay at least $2,000 a month in the nearly $40-million building, which just opened. The notion of co-living is hardly new, housing expert Richard K. Green said, but there may be a market for the upscale version of it emerging now.

Developers such as Kahan are taking the next step: building from the ground up and foreseeing a time when co-living is a new property category...For now, though, co-living is still in its infancy and is considered somewhat experimental.

... it remains to be seen whether the emerging co-living luxury model will generate substantial demand. “Whether people will want to live this way in large numbers, I don’t know,” Green said.

Even Kahan of California Landmark, who funded C1 without institutional money, is taking baby steps. Only about 20% of the 68 units at the Marina del Rey complex are co-living; the rest are traditional singles and multi-bedrooms.

"You’ll share this apartment with a stranger — but don’t dare call it a dorm" By Roger Vincent

more soon!

Financials and Evidence Pro Formas Attached here

The developer submitted plans for both a 16 and 8 story development.

The 16-story pro forma is based upon 

(A) the actual land acquisition costs  of 900 Hilgard of $10.1 million, and (B) a pro forma from a highly comparable multi-family project in Los Angeles in both size and scope that was put together by experienced developers in this market (which  project is scheduled to break ground in 2019).

The  8-story pro forma is adapted from 

the 16-story pro forma, recognizing  that land acquisition costs do not change and many construction, permitting, marketing, etc. costs will not be reduced by 50% because there will still be an additional 3 subterranean floors, and the floorplate size on the 8 story plans are substantially greater than on  the 16-story plans.

The  16-story pro forma points to one relevant conclusion

 A $1,100 per bed (one bed per room) price for the 16-story project will constitute a substantial monetary loss and doubling the price to $2,200 per bed will still likely result in a financially insolvent project.

The 8-story pro forma points to one relevant conclusion:  

This is not student housing and it is not affordable housing.


In a move to show they can put a bandaid on the obvious sham, the developer's representatives issued a press release about how they'll just double the number of students in each bedroom, showing that they were completely fabricating their numbers during City meetings originally and that they will say anything just to get the project approved.

Hilgard 16-Story Pro Forma_public (pdf)

Download

Hilgard 8-Story Pro Forma_public (pdf)

Download