The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) held a specially scheduled, one-issue meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23 to discuss the potential development of a StorQuest self-storage facility in Eagle Rock. The site of the proposed four-story, 85,000 square foot development is 2803 W Broadway, formerly the site of Ernie Jr.’s Taco House, a Mexican restaurant that served Eagle Rock residents from 1973 until its closure in 2014. The proposed construction of the new facility generated widespread concern from Eagle Rock residents and local leaders.
Lisa Kable-Blanchard, president of the ERNC, said that the council decided to hold a special meeting after receiving several letters and comments from community members who opposed the project.
“The council really didn’t feel confident that we had received solid community input,” Kable-Blanchard said.
There were approximately 40 community members in attendance at the ERNC meeting. Greg Merideth, president of The Eagle Rock Association, said that the meeting was full of people with concerns about the project.
“The people who attended were significantly not in favor of this project,” Merideth said. “A lot of people had concerns about the size, the scope and the use itself.”
The potential buyer of Ernie Jr.’s Taco House is The William Warren Group, a firm based out of Santa Monica that specializes in the management and acquisition of self-storage facilities. The William Warren Group has proposed the construction of a StorQuest facility which would require several zoning variances, sparking community discussion around whether the project is a good fit for the land. The requested variances include exemption from the Colorado Boulevard specific planning procedures and conditional-use permits that are required for the space to be used for storage. Kable-Blanchard also said that the numerous zoning requests made a special ERNC session necessary.
“They are asking for a great many things, and as a result of that it is important to the members of the council that we get good stakeholder feedback,” Kable-Blanchard said. “In order to justify the general plan amendment that they are asking for, they have to show that it will add to community welfare.”
While the ERNC cannot make final decisions regarding zoning and land-use issues, Kable-Blanchard said that the council can make recommendations to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. Following the Jan. 23 special session, the ERNC board wrote a letter advising that the city deny the William Warren Group’s zoning requests on the grounds that the project does not provide adequate public benefit and fails to meet good zoning practices.
The Eagle Rock Association (TERA), an organization of volunteers that participate in land-use planning, also received feedback from Eagle Rock residents and had a closed meeting with representatives of the developer. According to TERA president Greg Merideth, the TERA board had no issue with the self-storage use but was concerned with the requested zoning variances and the lack of public utility from the project.
“There should be something that the public receives, whatever that might be,” Merideth said. “It should make the community better in some way or provide a community space.”
Following this meeting, the TERA board wrote a letter of opposition to the project to Lee Consulting Group, the firm that has been advocating for the developer at neighborhood council and city planning meetings. According to Merideth, the developer was receptive to their criticism and proposed the construction of a 600-square-foot community room and a mural on the property to provide community value. Merideth said that this was a nice gesture, but not what residents were looking for.
According to Merideth, the William Warren Group first proposed turning Ernie Jr.’s Taco House into a StorQuest Facility in 2016. Robert Gotham, who was president of TERA at the time, polled residents in the immediate vicinity of the property and found that they favored the construction of a storage facility.
“When we looked at [StorQuest], we put our primary focus on the people who would be immediately impacted,” Gotham said. “We asked them what they thought about the plan. They had no issues with it.”
According to Gotham, the residents who lived adjacent to the proposed site of the StorQuest preferred self-storage to a restaurant or office. He said that residents believed a storage facility would create less traffic around their homes and would lead to fewer people parking on their street. Gotham said that, as a result of their poll findings, TERA was in support of the project when it initially came up in 2016. Gotham also said he believes that a self-storage facility is something that Eagle Rock needs, especially as a neighborhood with a college.
“There is a demand for self-storage facilities,” said Gotham. “The one that TERA used was more than 90% occupied, and when Oxy lets out for the summer they become even more occupied.”
Kable-Blanchard praised the level of involvement from Eagle Rock residents in making their voices heard on this issue. She also said that community participation makes it easier for the council to firmly convey the needs of residents.
According to Kable-Blanchard, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning meeting to discuss the StorQuest zoning requests was scheduled for Feb. 7 but was canceled. She said that the issue will most likely not be resolved until March or April, and encouraged residents with additional feedback to reach out to the ERNC.