ELIZABETH HAYES

Staff Reporter

It's not too often that a 93-home subdivision is built smack in the middle of an urban area, but Irvine-based Granite Homes plans just that for a hillside in Northeast Los Angeles, near South Pasadena.

Granite has approvals to build as many as 142 homes on its 20-acre site off of Avenue 60 and Monterey Road. But the company plans to build only 93, ending up with only about half as many units per acre as the typical in-fill project.

Granite is currently pursuing an adjustment to the lot lines that date back to 1902 and wants to break ground by summer.

"It's a nicer neighborhood with bigger lots and uses more spread-apart than what the entitlement allows," said Dan Kassel, co-president of Granite.

Nonetheless, area residents have several concerns.

"The entire neighborhood has coalesced around this issue," said Anne Ferree, spokeswoman for the Mount Herman Neighborhood Association. "We're fearful of the density and scale in relation to what's already there."

She said the tree-covered hillside is surrounded by homes built as long ago as 1911.

"The character of the neighborhood is very eclectic and it's an incredible pocket in the city. The streets are very narrow and windy. We can't fathom 90 to 100 homes would be built on that hillside," Ferree said.

Kassel countered that the new streets would improve access.

L.A. city staff approved Granite's lot-line adjustment, but Councilman Richard Alatorre's office has appealed on behalf of the neighborhood group, according to Alatorre's planning deputy Fernando Tovar.

"We want to have an opportunity to impose mitigation measures on the proposed development and make sure it's compatible with the surrounding community," Tovar said.

Kassel wants to meet with residents and get their feedback. He said Granite is working toward a plan that complements the area and reflects its diverse architectural styles, including Craftsman- and Spanish-style homes. "We certainly wouldn't want stucco boxes," he said.

Homes have been designed to range in size from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet and be priced from the low-to-high $300,000 range.

"What's exciting to us is this is an infill opportunity that makes use of truly valuable land close to the central business district," Kassel said.

Young investor

Eric Needleman isn't wasting any time in starting his career in real estate investing.

Needleman, who just turned 24 and is a year out of college, recently bought a 12,000-square-foot neighborhood center at 2715-81 Western Ave. in L.A. for $1.2 million.

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