Civic Corruption and a Doomed Duplex

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 5 min read
Image of 1432-1434 South Beverly Drive, a two-story Spanish duplex surrounded by mature landscaping.

Around the corner from Factor's Famous Deli, the clock is ticking for a stunning two-story Spanish-style duplex, and its rent-stabilized units will be lost.

1432-1434 South Beverly Drive, sold in 2018, had one unit kept empty at the time, with the other rented to a friend of the owner.

Less than a year later, the owner submitted plans to build a six-story, 15-unit "luxury" building under TOC guidelines. That plan was initially rejected for the rather obvious reason that it is more than half a mile from a major transit stop.

Mere months later, the owner applied for a conditional use permit because the density bonus could not be approved under the density bonus guidelines.

See, to get the bonus, the owner would have had to reserve three units for very low income renters, and was only willing to reserve two such units.

The application requested one waiver after another - height, setbacks, open space, destruction of mature trees and wildlife habitat, and a lack of both tenant and guest parking. Neighbors expressed concerns, which were dismissed.

Now, I don't know about you, but if I was looking to rent a "luxury" apartment that was nowhere near a major transit stop, I would expect a private garage space for my car. And as I've mentioned before, human beings need green space.

I have questions about who is realistically going to pay to live in this poorly designed project. But there are bigger questions to ask.

For example, why was permission given to build a 13-unit building with two VLI units when no such plans were ever submitted?

The second "corrected" Letter of Determination allowed for 15 units with only two VLI units...and states that a density bonus was approved for 13 units.

Under the Municipal Code, that's not allowed. LAMC requires three VLI units for a 15-unit building.

The Planning Commission rejected the project, but City Planning immediately lied that they had approved it.

City Planning also rubber-stamped an illegal height increase and an illegal setback decrease. Under the Municipal Code, they do not have the authority to do that.

City Planning was caught lying, and people noticed. Here's a public comment with more dirt.

The Council Office apparently has no problem whatsoever with a project that does not comply with the law.

Here's another question: why did the developer fail to give the neighbors proper notice?

Developers are required to send mailers to anyone living within 500 feet of a project. That never happened. The Planning Department knew this and did not care.

The ONLY public notice was a tiny, easy-to-miss sign on Alcott, not on Beverly.

So here's an interesting twist: the duplex's owner, Ben Kohanteb, is not a developer. He's in the gas and oil business. You'd think a guy who owns multiple gas and oil businesses around LA County would WANT parking for future tenants - after all, they're potential gas station customers.

Kohanteb's holdings include the pricey gas station at Pico and Beverly, the pricey car wash across the street, and the pricey gas station at Roxbury and Pico, to name just a few.

It also wasn't hard for me to find a number of properties owned by Kohanteb, including a few as far away as Nevada.

So how did Kohanteb's project, which doesn't comply with the law on several counts, get the all-clear?

Well, I can tell you that Kohanteb has a business arrangement with Alchemy Planning + Land Use, a consulting firm whose client list includes the dreaded Tripalink.

Here's an excerpt from Alchemy's "Services" page:

Alchemy specializes in obtaining entitlement approvals and providing zoning analyses for mixed-use and multifamily residential projects in Los Angeles, with significant experience in managing project development teams, government advocacy and outreach, and advising clients from initial due diligence research through the issuance of final permit approvals.
We have experience in the full range of local approval processes, including, but not limited to:

Transit Oriented Communities (TOC)
Density Bonus
Site Plan Review
Adaptive Reuse
Conditional Use Permits
Variances, Adjustments and Modifications
Plan Amendments
Zone Changes
Alcoholic Beverage Control and Police Permits
Building Permits
Public Works Approvals
Housing Department Approvals

This is a partial list of services offered. Contact us today to discuss your project needs.

I looked into Alchemy and it didn't take long to find out that "Alchemy" is very likely just one person - proprietor Gary Ray Benjamin.

Gary Ray Benjamin is a former City Hall aide who worked with Mitch O’Farrell (he was a Policy Planning intern at the Department of City Planning before that), and has gotten into trouble for lobbying violations.

No wonder he was able to get the duplex's death warrant signed.

1432-1434 South Beverly Drive, Beverlywood.

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C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. is a fourth-generation Angeleno and is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

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