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.

"It gives me a foundation to build up on a little later on. It's something I can do on the side, get my feet wet in property ownership and management," he said.

Not that Needleman is any stranger to the real estate business. His grandfather, Jack Needleman, has been an active investor in downtown properties for many years and his father and uncles own and operate Denmarst Ltd., another real estate investment company.

Young Needleman's primary job, which he started in December, is for downtown-based Gilmore Associates. He is a project manager on Gilmore's conversion of historic office buildings in the Old Bank District into market-rate apartments.

As for Needleman's neighborhood center, it has a coin laundry, minimart and office for the state Department of Rehabilitation. He said he was able to assume a loan from Anaheim-based Barker Management, which decided the center is too far away for it to manage.

Both Needleman and Barker Management were represented in that deal by Jack Holly of Marcus & Millichap.

Portfolio acquisition

ING Realty Partners LP, an entrepreneurial real estate firm formed in January 1998, has acquired a portfolio of office and R & D; properties in Southern California for $77 million.

The L.A. County properties in the portfolio are the 175,000-square-foot Gateway Corporate Center in Diamond Bar and the 135,000-square-foot La Mirada Corporate Center. ING acquired the portfolio in partnership with the Muller Co., a real estate firm based in Laguna Hills.

Seller of the portfolio is AEW Capital Management LP.

In other Gateway Corporate Center news, Allstate Insurance has decided to take more space there. Allstate initially leased a 70,000-square-foot office building for its regional offices (a move from Brea) and now has leased a 55,000-square-foot office building. Opus West Corp. is constructing both buildings.

CB on the move

CB Richard Ellis Inc. is in discussions to sell its downtown headquarters to a carpenters union, said CB spokeswoman Christy Ingle.

In the event of a sale, CB is laying plans to sublease other downtown space from Bank of America on Beaudry Street, across the 110 Freeway from CB's Fremont Street headquarters. That sublease would be for 12 to 18 months, until the company decides on a permanent headquarters, said Whitley Collins, a broker with CB.

CB has outgrown its 30-year-old headquarters and has been scouting around for a new location, either downtown or in El Segundo. Collins said some employees would relocate in the short term to Beaudry and others to the tower at 865 S. Figueroa St., where the company already occupies the top two floors.

News & notes

Equity Office Properties Trust has retained Cushman Realty Corp. to explore alternatives for its dormant Media Center site in Burbank, including possibly selling the site. Earlier this year, J.H. Snyder Co. filed a breach-of-contract suit against Equity, its financial partner in the deal to develop an office complex there. It was to have begun construction last year, but instead, the Olive Avenue site sits idle, as a result of a merger between Beacon Properties, the company that first teamed with Snyder, and Equity.

Regent Properties has entered into an agreement with the city of Beverly Hills to jointly develop a $25 million, high-end retail complex in the Golden Triangle district. The site is currently a 60-car parking lot and fronts both Beverly and Canon drives between Santa Monica Boulevard and Brighton Way.

Staff reporter Shelly Garcia contributed to this report. Elizabeth Hayes can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 229.

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