Eagle Rock’s ‘Pillarhenge’ will finally disappear. In its place, a giant boat?

Los Angeles, CA – June 13: A set of pillars that locals call Pillarhenge stand at property in Eagle Rock is being developed into a multi-family, mixed-use complex on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times) Eagle Rocks Pillarhenge will finally disappear. In its place, a giant boat? Jack Flemming June 22, 2023If P-22, the late great mountain lion, was the unofficial mascot of L.A., then Pinky the papier-mch bird was the decidedly less majestic mascot of Eagle Rock, the small, hilly neighborhood tucked on the citys northeast boundary.

No ones quite sure how Pinky popped up, and the mystery only adds to its local lore. Around 2014, the bird appeared in a nest atop “Pillarhenge,” a famous (or infamous) series of columns built as the foundation of a would-be Great Recession-era housing development on Colorado Boulevard.

The development was never finished; in fact, it ended with the pillars. Abandoned since the 2008 housing crisis in 2008, the property has served at times as a homeless encampment, dumping ground or and playground for graffiti artists. The pillars became a white elephant of the recession, an eyesore that locals have come to either love, or hate or begrudgingly accept. While Stonehenge evokes mysticism and Wiccans, Pillarhenge evokes confusion and dysfunction, while serving as a concrete reminder of L.A.s inability to deal with its housing woes.

The bird had a deeper fan base, becoming an Eagle Rock celebrity with its own a line of T-shirts and tapestries. For the last eight years, Pinky watched over a city that couldnt quite figure out how to house itself.Then in April, Pinky was gone, stripped from its pillar-top nest. A sign perhaps? Was Pillarhenge coming down too?

Eagle Rockians Residents wondered what would rise in its place on 1332 Colorado Blvd., a long, narrow property that has never been developed.Before the pillars, the property was known among locals as the place where an LAPD officer shot 18-year-old Mark Moser to death in 1978 after Mosers pick-up truck collided with an undercover police car at the end of a stakeout and subsequent car chase. Resident Kevin Grace, Mosers classmate at Eagle Rock High School, said that since the tragic death, the property has carried a bizarre mystique since the killing.

In March 2015, Grace co-founded Friends of Pillarhenge Park, a Facebook group tracking the propertys development and advocating for its potential use as a park. To date, the group has 82 43 members.

CQ as of 6/16/23Several dDevelopers have attempted to build something on the property over the last two decades, but never a park. Jay Vanos of Vanos Architects has been involved with the siteproperty since 2003, when he worked with a developer envisioning a 17-unit live-work space there on the property. It didn’t come to fruition and eventually sold to another developer, who got as far as erecting erected the now-famous pillars before going bankrupt. The banklender took control for a few years before the property was it eventually sold to Imad Boukai, who bought it for $1.9 million in 2016.Boukai, who serves as chairman of the vaguely named Anaheim-based company General Procurement, Inc., envisioned a four-story mixed-use development complete with 31 apartments above two levels of parking and commercial space.

He tapped Vanos for the design, who drew up plans for planned a sizable structure that would take up the vast majority of the relatively small lot, which covers just over half an acre. The plans became public in 2017, and due to its ship-like look, residents started calling it the Love Boat, a nod to the 1970s sitcom set on a cruise.”Let their imaginations take them where they will,” Vanos said.

Like As with most small towns subsumed by a big city, Eagle Rock locals residents felt protective of the community and wary of potential developers., so t They voiced strong opinions on both sides. Months of discourse and meetings with council members ensued, with some locals jeering at the nautical design and others expressing relief that the site would finally be developed.

Id rather suck it up and see it developed into a functional property, said Grace, who was born in Eagle Rock and still lives there. Right now, it looks like something from a forgotten town. Thats worst-case scenario.The Eagle Rock Association., a volunteer group founded in the 1980s aiming to guide the communitys growth in a sustainable way, published a letter in 2017 pointing out the significance of the sites location. The property parallels a freeway off-ramp leading into Eagle Rock, so the Love Boat would be the first thing people see when entering the neighborhood.

The letter said the board was split on the design, but they still decided to members support the development becausesince the property had been blighted and abandoned for so many years.But just like previous efforts, pProgress stalled once again, and Boukai eventually sold the unfinished property in 2022. He declined a request for comment. A source familiar with the deal suggested that building costs became too expensive since the lot is located on a steep hill that requires significant grading and maintenance.

Next up was Ara Tchaghlassian, founder of American Tire Depot, a Vernon-based retailer with more than 100 locations. Tchaghlassian sold the tire company in 2021 and bought the Pillarhenge lot from Boukai a few months later for $2.765 million, real estate records show.It appears the Love Boat will set sail after all, as Tchaghlassian is picking up where Boukai left off. He declined a request for comment, but a construction permit posted at the site shows the same plans mapped out by Boukai: a four-story development with 31 apartments, including three extremely low-income units, above two levels of parking and commercial space.

Grading began late last year, and Pinky was removed in the spring. The source said the complex will probably likely be completed in roughly two years.

Im sick of looking at it, said Diane Lopez, who walks past Pillarhenge on her daily stroll. Just build something. Anything.The pillars will remain, though they won’t be visible once the structure is completed, Vanos said.

As for why a developer would take on the headache of Pillarhenge, the answer is simple: the Transit-Oriented Communities Incentive Program.L.A. has a housing shortage, and it needs a multifaceted approach to address it. As part of its housing element plan, the city is required to zone for a quarter-million homes by 2024.

To reach that goal, the city has introduced various incentives to encourage multi-family development as part of its Housing Element Rezoning Program, and the Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) incentive has been one its most successful tools so far.

The program encourages the development of affordable housing near bus and train stations by offering developers more density and less parking requirements for their projects if they build near transit centers.

According to the citys planning department, over the last six years, 36% of new multi-family developments have take n advantage of TOC the incentives, and the Pillarhenge project is one of them. It qualifies for the second tier of incentives, meaning it gets a 60% increase in the maximum number of units, an increase in floor-area ratio and a reduction in the number of required parking spaces.

We need responsible, robust development thats affordable and successful for Angelenos. Right now, we dont have enough, said Greg Good, a senior advisor on policy and external affairs for the Los Angeles Housing Department. The Housing Department and the rest of the city are working relentlessly to facilitate and expedite that process, and we do that by creating programs that work.

There are myriad reasons why developers abandon a project: running out of money, permitting problems, pandemics. During a housing crisis, its the citys job to make multi-family housing a viable option for developers.

For Pillarhenges latest developer, the TOC benefits incentives may be enough to finally bring housing to the long-abandoned lot. Time will tell, but fFor now, residents wait to see whether a Love Boat will really be better than a Pillarhenge.