NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Images of soccer fans waving Korean flags in the summer wind could be replaced with images of residents and shoppers snarling into parking lots at the site of one of the very few parks availble to Koreatown residents. If Jamison Properties moves forward with a skyline-altering project, a new glass tower would rise above 3700 Wilshire where Liberty Park stands today. The park was designed 50 years ago to address the scarcity of green space in Koreatown and this shortage rings truer than ever today. 

Councilmember Jose Huizar highlighted neighborhood’s desperate need for parks in his message announcing the approval for increased funding for parks. The $8 million annual funding increase for parks projects would come from a hike to the fees developers pay under the Quimby Act. These “Quimby fees” on residential projects allow developers to pay a fee in lieu of creating sufficient park space for the community where they are building. How much of this funding would go to Koreatown parks remains to be seen. 

“Green space is really important to the community,” recognizes Jamie Hwang, a deputy representing the north west region of Herb Wesson’s Council District 10. 

KOREATOWN NEEDS PARKS--Koreatown has been identified as one of the most park-poor areas in the city. It has 0.1 acres of park space available for every 1,000 people, according to a countywide ‘park needs’ assessment. The region houses 170,000 residents. The report estimates 94 percent of residents have a “Very High” need for parks. 

HISTORY TO BE BULLDOZED AWAY?--The sites historic value prompted residents to reach out to the Los Angeles Conservancy. While the park has served as a soccer viewing venue for fans of South Korea’s team, the space’s true historic value dates back to its conception. 

Beneficial Insurance Group, the original developer of the property, built an 11-story building and included the green space intentionally to address the lack of open space in a growing Koreatown 50 years ago. Since the park was (and still is) a privately owned property, the LA Times called it the nation’s “deepest setback” between city street and private office building at the time, according to the Conservancy. 

Beneficial hired award-winning landscape architect Peter Walker, who is now recognized for his work on the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, among many accolades in his extensive career. 

In addition to adding 2.5 acres of green space to the bustling Wilshire Boulevard, the park‘s design offered a futuristic, post war optimism theme. 

The objects included a replica of the Mercury, the first U.S. space capsule; a full-scale model of the Apollo space capsule; and an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, made by the same London company as the original. This bell remains onsite to this day. 

WHAT WOULD THE DEVELOPMENT INCLUDE?--Jamison’s 36-story glass tower would contain 506 residential units ranging from one bedroom to three-bedroom penthouses, more than 40,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 22,000 square feet of restaurant space, ranging from fast food to quality dining. Four liquor licenses are in the works. The more than 530,000-square-foot building would replace the 46,000-square-foot lawn and plaza (i.e. Liberty Park) that lies next to to the 11-story Radio Korea building today. 

WHAT DOES THE OPPOSITION SAY?--Members of the community are concerned about the removal of green space, loss of historic value, and Jamison Properties dismal reputation as a property owner. 

As one of the largest commercial property owners in Koreatown, Solair resident Anne Kim says Jamison has a reputation in the neighborhood of running its properties to the ground, with poor maintenance and high vacancies. “The community doesn’t need more retail,” she said, noting there is a large area of empty commercial space in her building. 

“We saw that this historically significant site was not properly evaluated by the City as part of the project review,” said Marcello Vavala, preservation associate at the Conservancy. 

In a letter addressed to the planning department, local urban designer Mia Lehrer hails the park’s design as a “classic example” of Walker’s “minimalist, reductive style.” 

“Liberty Park was originally intended by Beneficial Insurance Group as a monument to the nation’s heritage and an outdoor museum of patriotic objects heralding great moments in American history,” Vavala said. 

Vavalo said the Conservancy submitted comments to also alert the planning department of Jamison’s flawed historic analysis on its proposal. City Planning representative Yeghig L. Keshishian said these historic assessments are completed by third party consultants, which are approved by the Office of Historic Resources. The original assessment determined the site is not a historic resource based on a 2009 report from the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency. Vavalo claims this survey is irrelevant, however, because it only analyzed buildings built prior to 1962, while 3700 WIlshire was completed in 1967. 

“The historic resources survey involved the visual examination of a total of 1,911 properties constructed before 1962,” states the Community Redevelopment Agency report. Therefore, the decision that the site lacks sufficient historic value was based on a report that never reviewed the property to begin with. 

AN ATTEMPT TO CHANGE THE ZONING--The city honored Beneficial’s president and CEO in 1966 for contributing open space to the community. The Conservancy says a city 1968 planning case zoned the green space under a “P,” or parking designation, which essentially precludes the space from commercial use. This designation is the closest thing the city can do to protect a property, short of purchasing land for public open space, the Conservancy says, citing key language from the case: “The interests of good zoning practices and relevant considerations of public necessity, convenience and general welfare would best be served by retaining this open space asset to the community and preclude further intensification of land use in this block.” 

In contradiction of this protection, Jamison has requested for the city to change the “P” zone on the park portion of the property to allow commercial development. 

DONATIONS TO THE CITY--Since Jamison is a large development company and owns a lot of projects in the district, the council office meets with the company to evaluate the impact of each project on the community, as it does with any other developer, she said. The company has more than $106,000 in contributions to all city candidates and officeholders on the record since 2001. In the past 13 years, more than $13,000 have gone to Council District 10 office and candidates, with more than $11,000 of that going to Wesson’s campaigns since 2005. These Ethics Commission disclosures, however, do not include possible contributions to programs promoted by the Council office or Wesson as an individual. In response to resident claims that Jamison has bribed the Council District office to usher their projects through approvals quickly, Hwang said the office has no special relationship with the company. 

CD 10's PLAN--The district has proposed to convert the parking lot at a nearby library into a park, potentially with underground parking. In an opposition letter to 3700 Wilshire, resident Keith Kresge argued the proposed park is much smaller than Liberty Park and it could be a potential illegal gift of a public asset if it is being offered as a replacement. He recommended a City Attorney investigation. 

CD 10 Deputy Hwang denies claims this park was a concession project. While the library is in close proximity to Liberty Park, she said this project has been in the works for years before Jamison submitted its proposal and is not related to the potential loss of Liberty Park. The project’s timing and proximity are “just a coincidence”. 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?--The planning department confirmed the proposal is currently on hold. A Feb. 9 planning department hearing for the project has been suspended. Jamison is currently reevaluating the site’s historic value, according to Hwang. This process could take about a month. 

The Conservancy recommends that residents interested in saving the park learn more about what they can do at savelibertypark.org, a website organized by Kim and other opponents. Vavalo also suggests contacting Councilmember Wesson’s office to express concerns. 

THANK YOU to resident Mark Lawrence for alerting TNN to this story.

 

(Carla Pineda is a staff reporter for The Neighborhood News … where this piece was first posted … and currently the site editor for Link TV Digital, after serving as associate international news editor and social media manager for other KCETLink properties. The Neighborhood News is a ‘get engaged’ partner of CityWatch)

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BUDGET ADVOCATES--This Saturday, February 25, from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates will host the annual Regional Budget Day. Come out and Make your voice heard!  

The purpose of this 3 hour session is to hear your concerns about your neighborhood, and how you believe the City can better spend its funds for an improved quality of life in Los Angeles.  

Get involved by asking questions during open Q & A and enjoy informed presentations from special guest speakers and many more. Come meet some of your local City Officials, Budget Advocates and Neighborhood Counsel Members. Get involved! 

The Budget Day forum is free to the public. 

Also, after your regional Budget Day Forum you and your family can enjoy the zoo at a discounted rate with this special coupon code NBHDFEB25 for free parking, with discounted zoo entry at $12 per Child and $16 per adult. 

Budget Day Locations 

Region 1-4: 

Braude Center

6262 Van Nuys Blvd,

Van Nuys, CA 91401

Register here 

Region 5-6: 

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Griffith Park Dr,

Los Angeles, CA 90027

Register here 

Region 7-8: 

Glassell Park Community Center

3650 Verdugo Rd,

Glassell Park, CA 90065

Register here 

Region 9-10: 

Ridley Thomas Constituent Center

8475 S. Vermont Ave,

Los Angeles, CA 90044

Register here: 

Region 11: 

West LA Municipal Building

1645 Corinth Ave,

Los Angeles, CA 90049

Register here 

Region 12: 

Croatian Cultural Center

510 W. 7th Street,

San Pedro, CA 90731

Register here

 

 

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--In an extraordinary video posted here by the MMRA, Julia Duncan attempts to rally support for the HPOZ among renters. One of them says, “The single family owners can eat it,” and gets something close to agreement from Julia Duncan. Is that really David Ryu’s attitude to single family owners in the Miracle Mile? 

Meanwhile, James O’Sullivan, embattled President of the MMRA, writes in a bizarre article in CityWatchLA.com here that rejection of the Miracle Mile HPOZ will result in the loss of 500 rent controlled apartments, with homelessness thrown in for good measure, and seems to blame Mayor Garcetti for it all! The MMRA has clearly lost all credibility with homeowners in the Miracle Mile and is now morphing into a tenant advocacy organization. 

Finally, a flyer has popped up dated February 2nd here from Councilmember Ryu's Senior Planning Deputy, Julia Duncan, asking the neighborhood to weigh in on the Miracle Mile HPOZ by Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Problem is, nobody, not even the MMRA, seems to have received it.  For the record, write and/or call Julia at julia.duncan@lacity.org, (213) 473-2346, to tell her what you think of the HPOZ.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

I M P O R T A N T     D A T E

M I R A C L E     M I L E    T O W N     H A L L     M E E T I N G

 

When: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 7:00pm (show up at 6:30p).

Where: John Burrows Middle School located at 600 S McCadden Place in Los Angeles.

What:  David Ryu is hosting a town hall meeting specifically on the HPOZ. The purpose presumably is to try to rally support for the HPOZ.

PLEASE ARRIVE AT 6:30PM  WE WILL BE THERE

TO DEMONSTRATE THE OPPOSITE!

JOIN US SHOW COUNCILMEMBER DAVID RYU THAT PROPERTY OWNERS

IN MIRACLE MILE DON'T WANT THIS!

 

(SayNoHPOZ is a group of Miracle Mile residents who oppose an effort to create a restrictive HPOZ for the community. They can be reached at saynohpoz@gmail.com or saynohpoz.com) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-----The effort to legalize street vendors is moving forward at City Hall.  The proposal has proven controversial in the past, with many residents as well as brick-and-mortar business owners opposed to the idea.  But most of the business owners and managers who were interviewed by The Eastsider were open to but cautious about the measure

“If it’s a taco stand, of course it’s competition,” said Miguel Perez, the manager at Acapulco restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, near Virgil Avenue in East Hollywood. But, “as long as [vendors] keep it nice and clean, that would fine.” 

Perez’s answer was typical among [business owners] but so was his surprise to hear that the city was considering the matter; Perez, like most of the other businesses owners and employees who were interviewed, had not heard about the renewed efforts to legalize vendors. 

The latest push comes as advocates are concerned that undocumented immigrants who are cited for illegal vending may face deportation under a Trump presidency. Under a proposal that came out last week from a Council committee, each block could have up to four vendors – two on each side of the street. Adjacent businesses owners would also have the power to approve their presence. The plan goes to the full City Council for review next spring. 

“I know people who are against vendors,” said Meghan Dhaliwal, a manager at Caffe Vita in Los Feliz. “But I think cheap street food is great.” 

Dhaliwal said vendors nearby probably wouldn’t create much competition with her store, since Caffe Vita doesn’t serve hot food. 

Christian Chavez, owner of Echoes Under Sunset on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park, had heard of the recent vendor proposal and unabashedly supported it. 

“I got no problem with street vendors. They’re convenient,” said Chavez, whose business is primarily a comedy venue – selling drinks, but not much food. “So it’s kind of cool for us to have the street vendors.” 

He added that the vendors are clean and don’t take away from other businesses, since his neighborhood sees so many people. 

“Some people come out of a club or bar get something to eat and keep running,” he said.

The City Council is scheduled to take up the most recent street vendor proposal early 2017.

 

(Barry Lank posts at The East Sider where this report originated.)  Photo of Boyle Heights Vendor by Ana Facio-Krajcer.

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--A displacement study conducted on the impact of The Reef, a proposed development in historic South Central with 1,440 luxury housing units priced well above the level affordable to the surrounding residents, found that the project would put 43,756 residents at a very high to moderate risk of being  displaced. That is the impact of having just ONE mega development with so many "market-rate" units imposed on a South LA community. 

This is not academic for us. And we've seen it before locally and in other parts of the country. What we are witnessing is a form of economic violence, and no corner in South LA is safe. 

The Reef project, the proposed 30-story Cumulus skyscraper at La Cienega/Jefferson with 1,200 luxury apartments, and the nearly 1,000 all-luxury housing element of the Crenshaw Mall redevelopment in Leimert Park all break the same zoning law so that they can be built in areas that they don't belong: General Plan Amendments.  

Measure S is one solution to stop these massive traffic-causing projects from wiping out all that we have built - our community, our institutions, our relationships with our neighbors. 

RSVP now for a critical community action forum on Tuesday the 21st about Measure S, encouraging development not displacement, and addressing some of the biggest lies said by the Downtown establishment about the measure.  

On March 7th, literally our neighborhood is on the ballot.

 

(Provided by the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.)

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Parking and politics aren’t mixing well for Robertson Boulevard businesses, leaving some to question whether retailers have become pawns in the lead-up to the city’s March elections.

The recently opened campaign headquarters on Robertson Boulevard of Jesse Creed, who is running against incumbent Paul Koretz for a chance to represent the fifth district on the Los Angeles City Council, was followed with a surprise for the street’s other tenants: the removal of a two-hour free parking garage program some allege was taken away to stop Creed’s volunteers from using it.

Free parking is gold in Los Angeles, where gridlock and circling blocks to find an open metered spot is factored into all commute times. For Robertson Boulevard, it’s perhaps even more critical as some hope for a revival of the occupancy-challenged street. Offering the first two hours free in the structure — a common carrot in places such as Beverly Hills or Santa Monica — is seen as a way to woo people to the street.

“Free parking on Robertson is imperative to the success of the street and small business owners like us especially,” said Alissa Jacob, the cofounder and ceo of the multibrand concept shop Reservoir.  “We are competing with Beverly Hills’ free parking and have many customers who are incentivized to come here only if there’s available free parking for a portion of their time on the street. The street is really suffering, with many more homeless people than ever, and if the city doesn’t do something now to help businesses, then this street will continue to suffer and more businesses will shut down or relocate.”

At issue is what the city of Los Angeles calls lot 703, the parking garage it owns at 123 S. Robertson Boulevard. Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, the structure offered the first two hours of parking free. Business owners reported anecdotally a lift in foot traffic and sales during that time.

A two-week free parking program was approved for the holiday via a council motion, a Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman said. The motion was done as an incentive for holiday shoppers and will not be coming back, the spokesman also confirmed.

That’s a different story than what was told to Fraser Ross, the founder of Kitson and owner of the new boutique concept Kitross on Robertson Boulevard. Ross has attempted to work with the city since May beginning with Manav Kumar, deputy counsel to Mayor Eric Garcetti, before being shuttled to Garcetti’s senior director, William Chun. He was passed on to the office of councilman Paul Koretz, who oversees the fifth district where Robertson is located, and has since been working with John Darnell, district director for Koretz.

Darnell, according to Ross, said at the onset the free parking would be extended every two weeks before swinging to full-time in March. Ross had a free parking sign made after he said he was told the city couldn’t afford to make such signage.

“Why do I have to make signs for the city? I’ve got enough to do. I have to pick up the garbage, get the tree [on the sidewalk] trimmed, get the phone booth [on the sidewalk] down. When was the last time Paul [Koretz] has walked the streets of Robertson to see the problems first hand?” Ross said.

Darnell, Koretz and Koretz’s spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The sign’s lettering was slashed, by an unknown party, last week with the end of the free parking program.

“It looked like we possibly had his [Koretz’s] attention, but since Creed’s office [opening], I’m having difficultly talking to his office,” said one merchant on the street, requesting anonymity.

Ross on Monday started a petition to bring the free parking back and expects to get to 1,000 within a week. He also, per his style, dressed his store’s window with a hard-to-miss statement accusing Koretz of taking away the parking. “Pay for play. All talk, no action,” part of the window reads.

Creed, the incumbent running against Koretz for the council, said he moved onto the street because he had seen the thoroughfare languish and took up the space as a statement of what he said was solidarity with the other business owners. He called the sequence of events — free parking available when his headquarters moved in Jan. 1 and then no free parking Jan. 15 — “suspicious.” One other observation since his move onto the street few would argue with: “The merchants here are desperate for help,” Creed said.

“There’s no ownership and Mayor Garcetti and Paul Koretz were down at the march on Saturday and they’re saying stand up for your rights and fight the fight. Well, we’re fighting the fight against you [politicians],” Ross said, pointing to American Apparel, BCBG Max Azria Group, The Limited and other retailers shuttering doors. “I mean, come on. You can see there’s a problem in this brick-and-mortar retail business. You’ve got to invite people to stores and make common areas again.”

Instead, what people see are empty and sometimes dirty storefronts, some of that city-owned real estate.

Bob Esho, the owner of the optical and sunglass store Optx, has been on the street for some 15 years. He previously occupied the storefront, owned by the city, located next to the city-owned parking garage. He shared the space with a doctor who decided he wanted to exit Robertson in 2015. Esho said he asked if the city could re-write the lease, removing the doctor from the contract, and was told no one was available to redo the paperwork. He closed in July 2015 and inked a lease across the street a few months later at a building owned by a private individual.

Esho’s former space is still empty.

Nathan Sager, who owns Sager French Salon, has expressed interest in leasing Esho’s previous space on Robertson. It would have been a homecoming of sorts, with Sager French on the street for 17 years before relocating to Beverly Hills after losing its lease when the building underwent major renovations. Sager was told by Darnell he would have to apply for the space via a request for proposal process through the Department of Transportation.

The city expected the RFP to post by mid-August, according to e-mails between Darnell, Chun and parking and LADOT analyst Rene Sagles. Darnell followed up with Sagles in November, at which time he was told the RFP would be released the first week of December. On Dec. 2, a follow-up e-mail between Darnell and Sagles indicated what Sagles called a “small setback we need to resolve” and that the RFP would be out the following week. The RFP has not yet been posted.

“I don’t understand it,” Esho said. “Why wouldn’t you lease the space and have a tenant there paying … There’s no accountability. Who are you going to hold accountable for it? They will blame each other [at the city].”

And even as lease deals get inked, merchandising of the street’s tenants needs to be done with a more careful eye, Sager added, factoring in services and lessons learned from the street’s past boom and then bust.

“The street’s lost so much of the retail and we understand that you cannot support retail without services,” Sager said.

It didn’t help that big brands — Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Lululemon, among others — moved in years ago, boosted rents and later left with the recession and rise of competing streets offering cheaper prices. It wasn’t good for real estate and it wasn’t good for a street aimed at trendsetters and neighborhood shoppers, some would say.

“These people [big brands] don’t really look at recessions,” Sager said. “These people have an agency that is looking for them and what is the hottest location. None of these owners stand on the street and see what people are walking them. They have location scouters.”

“I’ve been here for 20 years. This street, I’ve never seen it so bad,” said Sylvia Diaz, owner of the restaurant Cuvée. “Any little thing we can get that would increase our business, I’m shocked that the city doesn’t get it.”

Diaz said longtime customers come in and regularly ask her what happened to the street, referencing the heyday when celebrities shopped there and tour buses rolled through. Today, she’s contemplating whether she should relocate following a rough six months capped by a November and December that were the worst months the business has had during its run on the street.

“It’s never been this bad,” she said. “I’m working harder. I’m trying to come up with new ways of drawing in business and it’s hard. I’ve never had to cut [employee] hours before. These employees of mine, it really breaks my heart.”

(Kari Hamanaka writes for WWD.com … where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS—Vernon--State environmental regulators issued guidelines Thursday that will allow expedited cleanups of high-risk homes near the shuttered Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon even before a full mitigation plan and environmental review are completed. 

The Department of Toxic Substances Control released a draft cleanup plan and environmental impact report for public review in December, with cleanup operations to mitigate lead-contaminated soil and properties near the plant anticipated to begin this summer. 

That schedule, however, sparked criticism from some residents and area officials who said some properties near the plant are at particularly high risk. 

DTSC officials said Thursday they will move forward with cleanups on a “case-by-case basis” at a limited number of properties “with high levels of lead in the soil and the greatest exposures to sensitive populations.” 

“We are utilizing all of the resources at our disposal to ensure that we are able to take action to protect the most sensitive populations impacted by the presence of lead in the soil from the Exide operations,” DTSC Director Barbara Lee said.

The agency plans to consider for expedited cleanup properties that have soil with lead levels of 1,000 parts per million or more. 

The agency will also consider cleanups at properties where a resident “has a blood-lead level at or above five micrograms per deciliter, which is the level used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify children with elevated blood-lead levels.” 

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup. 

Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year signed legislation providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant. 

State officials said the funding would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.

 

(This report originated at City New Service.)

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