Project bubbling at Beverly Hot Springs

| August 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

OXFORD APARTMENTS development is proposed on Beverly Boulevard about one mile east of Larchmont Boulevard.

Artesian well to be capped after 113 years?

BREAKING  NEWS! Just as this September issue was being readied for the printer, the City of Los Angeles Director of Planning terminated all proceedings relating to the project described here, in response to the developer’s August 22 letter requesting withdrawal of its application.

Teresa Burkett Bourgoise, a leading opponent of the proposal to demolish the Beverly Hot Springs, told us in an e-mail: “For now, the springs are safe and hopefully a devoted coalition of patrons can work with the owners to redevelop the spa and preserve it for generations to come. There is no explanation given [for the developers dropping the project], but to say we are grateful would be an understatement.”

What follows is the original story, telling of community concerns when the Beverly Hot Springs was being threatened.

By Suzan Filipek

A seven-story, 101-unit multi-family apartment building proposed at the site of the Beverly Hot Springs has many devoted spa-goers on edge.

NATURAL SPRINGS at the Beverly Hot Springs are the only remaining mineral baths in the city.

The natural springs — the last one of its kind in the city — will be capped under the development — proposed by Century City-based Manhattan West Real Estate LLC. The project, called Oxford Apartments, is at 308-320 N. Oxford Ave. and 311-321 N. Serrano Ave. on Beverly Boulevard, about one mile east of Larchmont Village.

Warm alkaline waters that bubble up from an artesian well deep underground have refreshed and relaxed area residents and celebrities here for decades.  (Madonna reportedly once rented the entire facility.)

Many spa guests were caught off guard about the pending closure to make way for the proposed development, including Teresa Burkett Bourgoise, who became a “reluctant activist” upon hearing the news.

“It’s a remarkable place. It’s been a sanctuary. I’m such an ardent fan.”

Burkett Bourgoise occasionally has a scrub or a massage at the spa, but it’s the soothing waters that have beckoned her to the spa twice weekly for years. These days, she visits more frequently, mostly to get the word out. One positive note is “my skin is looking very good,” she says.

Others, including an architect who has visited the site since it opened 40 years ago, are equally distressed, Burkett Bourgoise told us.

Some nearby residents and passersby are unaware of the natural springs. “I think the spa was under the radar. People weren’t familiar there was a springs.” Burkett Bourgoise enjoyed her “well-kept secret,” the quiet surroundings and kitsch décor of a faux rock grotto and dark interiors.

But most everyone is against the size of the proposed multi-story development on an already busy corner, she says.

That was the consensus of a recent canvas of area homes by Anna Lindstrom Constable, a former Hancock Park resident and spa afficionado. She carried flyers and gathered signatures for a petition to help save the 100-year-old hot springs.

“The spring has always been very important to the Korean community as well as many Hancock Park residents,” Lindstrom Constable of Save Beverly Hot Springs told us.

“Of course it is without saying how the traffic in and out of the community will be impacted. We are not opposed to a building that includes the spring, but this building would be over 50 feet taller than allowed.”

It is odd that the developer didn’t include the mineral springs in its proposal, said attorney Jamie Hall of Channel Law Group, LLP. “You would think [the mineral spa] would be a really cool amenity.”

Burkett Bourgoise only heard about the development on July 3 from a woman who has a lifetime membership at the spa. She told Burkett Bourgoise of a City Planning Commission public hearing May 11, which she attended after receiving a notice. (Spa customers claim there weren’t any flyers posted notifying of the meeting.)

Burkett Bourgoise reached out to a land use attorney who learned the spa was slated for demotion unless an appeal was filed in two days, by July 5.

“If nothing is filed, there’s no recourse,” she was told.

Attorney Hall filed the appeal in record time, on July 5, arguing the proposal is “wildly out of scale with the surrounding community and streetscape.”

The appeal further states, “the City has failed to meaningfully analyze the cultural significance of the hot springs — especially for the Asian American community. Public baths are an integral part of Korean culture and the last remaining hot springs is being eliminated.” While the project was approved by the City Planning Commission at the May  hearing, pending the outcome of the appeal it next heads to a public hearing with the Planning and Land Use Management Committee of the City Council.

The appeal is expected to be heard in late August in time for a Sept. 15 deadline for the City Council to vote on the project.

Density bonus

The developer seeks a density bonus to almost double the allowable 59 units to 101 units by setting aside 15 units for very low income residents. The project would also double the height of the existing 45-foot limit to 89 feet.

The project, designed by M3 Architects, includes studio and one- and two-bedroom units and features balconies, glass railings and metal siding and painted metal screens. An elevated pool is on the rooftop deck with a fire pit seating area, according to the 21-page plan submitted to the City Planning Dept.

The new development will include 159 parking spaces above and below ground.

If approved, it would replace an existing triplex, the retail spa and a surface parking lot.

When reaching out to the developers, we were told they do not comment on projects with pending applications.

Historic site

The Beverly Hot Springs is the only remaining of the many mineral baths that once dotted the city landscape, according to a Dec. 28, 2015, Los Angeles Times article by Patt Morrison included in the appeal.

The hot springs was discovered by oil drillers in the late 19th century, and it supplied water to residents before water mains were installed in this part of the city in 1915.

A May, 14, 1972, Los Angeles Times article by Terence M. Green recounts how the water was bottled and sold until World War II. In a 1972 interview with Grant K. MacCoon, a descendant of the 1910 land purchaser whose family still owned the property in the 1970s, MacCoon said the well then produced about 250,000 gallons of fresh water a day.

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