Sherman Oaks neighbors complain about synagogue expansion


/*Chabad of North Hollywood*/ has been in a Sherman Oaks residential neighborhood for more than 30 years. But now it's expanding, and not everyone who lives there is happy about it.

"For them granting a 12,000-square-foot project building on this lot is just totally out of character with the neighborhood," said Mitchell Ramin, a founder of the /*West Chandler Boulevard Neighborhood Association*/. "It just overwhelms the area."

Ramin and some other neighbors formed the West Chandler Blvd. Neighborhood Association to fight the synagogue's expansion. The association says the city council approved the project, even though the city planning commissioners said the building would be too large. Neighbors filed suit, and then appealed the decision that allowed the project to continue.

"We won the appeal, and the appeal is very clear," said association co-founder Jeff Gantman. "Not only did the appeal say that the city council had to go back and do the proper findings because they jammed this thing through initially, they also said that the plans and the project had to go before the zoning administrator for the proper vetting. The city, for whatever reason, is protecting this project, is avoiding to do that."

"The court of appeal never said that this building is too big or that the city council cannot approve it," said attorney Ben Reznik, spokesman for Chabad House.

The Chabad's rabbi, who is also the developer of the project, would not go on camera for an interview, but his attorney, Ben Reznik, spoke for him from New York.

"This is a legal structure. It was approved by the city. Building permits were issued. Everything has been built according to the permitted building plans," said Reznik.

Neighbors say parking is already a problem. And they say they are worried the larger synagogue would lower their property values.

"It's a great, perfect location for a synagogue, and within 1,000 feet walking distance at Valley College, we have hundreds of parking spaces available," said Reznik.

The synagogue expansion project will go to a public hearing by a city council subcommittee next week. Its fate could soon be back in the hands of the full city council.

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