BUDGET ADVOCATES--The Budget Advocates of Los Angeles have been in existence for 13 years … a group of citizens dedicated to the people of Los Angeles and watchdogging the city's budget.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The failure of Measure S, which would have put a two-year moratorium on development projects in Los Angeles, is a victory in the fight for affordable housing for UCLA students. But there’s still a long way to go.
It’s no secret Westwood has one of the highest rents in Los Angeles with an average of $4,200 per month for a two-bedroom apartment – well above the average city rent of $2,650 per month. Because UCLA does not guarantee housing for fourth-year students, most UCLA students live off campus at some point during their college career. Although living off campus is cheaper than living on the Hill, off-campus housing prices are still unaffordable for most students, especially when rents are increasing.
But the trend of rising rent doesn’t have to continue if the Westwood Neighborhood Council gets involved. WWNC, which makes recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council about development projects in Westwood, has often opposed high-density housing, advising the council against approving development plans that would increase the amount of people who could live in Westwood. However, such high-density housing could lower rent prices in Westwood by increasing the availability of housing options and improve business in the Village.
Considering how expensive it is to live in Westwood and the number of students seeking affordable housing here, WWNC must take the cue from last week’s election that residents want to shift toward high-density development and help approve more high-density housing projects. They can do so by urging City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents the neighborhood in the city council, to approve more affordable housing projects in Westwood. Doing so would not only give cash-strapped students much-needed relief from high rents but could also help businesses in the Village thrive by bringing in more people to patronize them.
The council’s opposition to high-density projects is not new. The Land Use and Planning Committee often uses the excuse that these projects have higher bedroom counts than apartments and therefore will not fit the local aesthetic, but this an arbitrary distinction. They often also cite overcrowding of the community and lower home values as reasons to disapprove of these projects.
Most recently, they advised the city council against granting a developer a Land Conditional Use Permit to build a fraternity house at 611 S. Gayley Ave., considering it a “boarding house” since it had too many rooms. But this “boarding house” could have housed many Bruins.
And it’s not just inconvenient – the lack of affordable housing in Westwood has undermined students’ well-being. Students wholive off campus struggle to secure reasonably priced housing. Additionally, the high cost of living off campus has led to problems such as greater food insecurity, since students have less money to spend on nutritious food and do not have the security of a meal plan.
Expensive housing in Westwood has also hurt the broader Westwood community. Rising housing prices push low- and middle-income people out of the neighborhood since they cannot afford rent. Having fewer people in the village will further stagnate Westwood’s economy – one that should be vibrant but instead is sluggish. If Westwood becomes more of a destination to visit than a place to live, there will be fewer people walking around the village, and thus, less foot traffic for the businesses in Westwood.
In response to the damaging effects of unaffordable housing in the village, the WWNC needs to urge Koretz to fight for more affordable housing projects in Westwood.
He’ll listen. In fact, he often takes the neighborhood council’s advice on development projects, said Lisa Chapman, president of the WWNC. For example, in 2011 the neighborhood council convinced Koretz to not let the city auction off parking garages in Westwood to private bidders since Westwood residents wanted to maintain free parking in the Village. The WWNC should take similar action and represent its constituents who voted against Measure S by pressuring Koretz to approve high-density housing.
Of course, some WWNC members and homeowners in Westwood think higher-density housing will make the Village too crowded and undesirable. However, that belief is out of tune with what city residents think. The fact that Measure S failed indicates that most people who voted in Los Angeles think that fighting development projects is the wrong solution to housing problems.
Certainly,high-density housing will make Westwood more crowded, but current development with many low-level apartments and single-family homes shows that Westwood is not near capacity –meaning it could fit a lot more people with efficient development.
The choice is clear: Either Westwood can collect dust as an aging LA neighborhood or it can revitalize itself by opening its doors to more affordable housing. LA voters made their choice. It’s time for WWNC to follow suit.
(Emily Merz’ perspectives appear regularly in the Daily Bruin … where this viewpoint was first posted.)
UPDATE--Answering the call to be a Neighborhood Budget Advocate is not for the faint hearted. Recently the budget advocates met with Mayor Garcetti to discuss the White Paper, (research, recommendations for fiscal responsibility of city departments and offer alternative options for revenue generation), and of that group attendance more than 10 are new to budget advocacy. Who would be attracted to what some call a complicated game of find the money molly?
We asked Amy Foell – Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Ivette Ale – Voices of 37 Neighborhood Council and Brigette Kidd – Zapata-King Neighborhood Council three new budget advocates the following questions;
What interested you in the role of the neighborhood council budget advocate?
Amy Foell: I decided to educate and empower myself and my community through public service. It’s important to understand how our tax dollars are being utilized. Many Los Angelenos are not aware of how City Hall is spending our money collected from taxes.
Ivette Ale: As the Treasurer and new member of my neighborhood council, I was seeking opportunities to learn more about the City budget and ways I can better serve. I attended Budget Day and I learned that Budget Advocates was a body that had a "seat at the table" in city government and to amplify the voices of stakeholders in my district.
Brigette Kidd: My initial goal for running for a seat on the Zapata-King Neighborhood Council was to find out how I could get trees trimmed in the area that overshadowed light poles and stop signs which was safety issue; and also made some locations easy for tagging. I knew it wasn’t where you lived, but how you lived that could make a difference.
Budget advocates play an important role by providing recommendations to how the City can run more efficiently, what was your role in the White Paper that was presented to the Mayor on March 8, 2017? What did you learn?
Amy Foell: I researched assigned departments, interviewed department heads and co-wrote sections of the White Paper. I covered the Economic & Workforce Development Department as well as the Department on Disability. Each department has their own personality and level of openness towards BA’s objectives. I believe our City can bring in much more revenue by harnessing solar power and other sustainable practices.
Ivette Ale: As the chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, I organized a discussion with department leadership and drafted the subsequent recommendations for the Cultural Affairs Department. I learned that there are issues that span across several departments. For instance, access to the City's internet backbone and standardizing technology is a consistent problem across the board, for example the Cultural Affairs Department lack of tech support prevents the department from capturing revenue and maximizing use of facilities.
Brigette Kidd: I chaired the Information Technology Committee. As Ivette mentioned technology is a major problem. The ITA is making some strides with the creation of the 311 app, but inefficiencies are from lack of communication from one department to another and that each department has different technology goals. The major road block is unifying departmental goals to create an intuitive, reliable and easy to update technology system that protects critical assets (water, utilities, sewage), and communicate across all departments while providing transparency and clear costs to tax payers.
Why is it beneficial for others to get involved as a budget advocate or budget representative for their NC/area?
Amy Foell: It would be great if every citizen had to take a turn as a budget advocate for LA. I would wager the positives would offset the negatives. Folks would gain a greater understanding of the various departments, monies allocated and spent. Amazing ideas and solutions would develop and voter turn-out would dramatically increase. This utopian vision may be a stretch goal, but a woman can dream. Just over a year ago today I was completely unaware of neighborhood councils and budget advocates. Today I’m a District B representative for Los Feliz neighborhood Council, co-chair of the environmental affairs committee, and a budget advocate. The learning curve is steep but anyone can do this because we all care about our home.
Ivette Ale: Looking around the room at a budget advocate's meeting, it is evident that there are gaps in community representation. Becoming actively involved in budget advocates provides an avenue to legitimize, vocalize and amplify the concerns of our areas. But regardless of political background and identity, at the heart of budget advocates is a desire for transparency and accountability. It is an underutilized body with the potential to be transformative with increased, diversity and participation.
Brigette Kidd: Learning how to challenge effectively. As a budget advocate you can challenge budget issues with research and facts. Get involved because you are either adding, subtracting multiplying or dividing.
If you are interested in getting involved in your local neighborhood council or becoming a budget advocate check out Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate Responsibilities.
(Adrienne Edwards and Brigette Kidd are Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates. More info at ncbala.com.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--A year of record boardings on the San Gabriel Valley’s Gold Line train is suppressing bus ridership, causing a local independent operator to propose substantial reductions to lines that offer similar service.
As a response to a passenger shift from buses to the light-rail foothill extension running from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border for a year, West Covina-based Foothill Transit is proposing to slash bus lines, including Line 187, one of the most popular east-west bus routes that runs from Montclair to Pasadena, across the foothill cities of the San Gabriel Valley.
Foothill Transit will de-emphasize the connection between Azusa and Pasadena by splitting the line into two: an eastern and a western segment.
“With regards to Line 187 as it relates to the Gold Line, the Azusa to Pasadena ridership has really fallen off,” said Kevin McDonald, deputy executive director of Foothill Transit. “We are keeping the eastern portion, which will go to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia.”
Under the proposed restructuring plan voted for public consideration by the governing board on Friday, the agency will cut Line 187 in half, which will continue to run from Pasadena to Azusa. The split will also create Line 188, which will from Azusa to Montclair. (Read the rest.)
HAWTHORNE--In a move that stunned local residents, the Hawthorne City Council voted to extend their own terms by an additional year in the March 14th, 2017 meeting.
Under the guise of compliance with Senate Bill 415, city leaders swiftly made a motion to bring Hawthorne Ordinance 2136 from the table and called for an immediate vote. Ordinance 2136 serves to alter the election cycle of the City of Hawthorne by extending current terms by one year to accommodate the switch to even-year elections.
Two weeks prior, Councilmember Haidar Awad called for the ordinance to be tabled indefinitely due to public outcry, leading many residents to believe the ordinance would not be voted on.
Councilmember Nilo Michelin quickly objected to the motion on March 14th to bring the ordinance off the table and called for discussion. He was censured by Mayor Vargas because he was out of his seat during the motion. After a second objection by Michelin, Mayor Vargas called the vote again but allowed discussion on the Ordinance 2136 after.
“There are other ways to do this,” cited Councilman Nilo Michelin. “The state said that the elections need to be on even years by 2022. There’s nothing about extending terms. It could start in 2017 or 2019. It could be shorter terms.”
Councilmember Awad quipped that the residents in opposition were running for political office themselves, and only serving self-interests. After allowing Michelin and Awad time to speak, the Mayor again called for a vote on the ordinance which passed 4-1.
Up for re-election in November 2017 were Councilwomen Olivia Valentine and Angie English-Reyes. Valentine was appointed to council in a special appointment process after losing her seat by election to incumbent Nilo Michelin and newly elected Haidar Awad. Both Valentine and English-Reyes remained silent during the discussion, but ultimately voted to give themselves an additional year to fundraise and campaign.
Several residents are gathering outside of City Hall on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, prior to the City Council Meeting to speak out against sitting elected officials canceling a scheduled election and extending their own terms. Advocates for voting rights are encouraged to come and participate. The address to Hawthorne City Hall is 4455 W. 126th Street, Hawthorne CA 90250.
(Amie Shepard is an activist and a one-time candidate for Hawthorne City Council.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The city’s plan to put the unfinished Target project in Hollywood back on track moved ahead on Wednesday after the city council approved a plan in which Target will pay a $1.2 million in-lieu fee for employee child care.
The issue regarding how Target would satisfy the city’s requirement to provide childcare was one of the final steps for the project to receive approval to resume construction. However, the project still must clear a remaining hurdle in court before construction can begin again on the partially completed store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.
The Los Angeles Superior Court must rule on a lawsuit filed by the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association, which contends the city violated zoning laws in approving the project because it exceeded allowable height limits. A court hearing on the matter is expected to occur soon.
The Los Angeles Superior Court previously ruled in favor of the neighborhood association and construction was stopped in 2014. Target appealed the ruling to an appellate court, and the city altered zoning regulations at the site to allow for a taller building. The La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association filed a second lawsuit against the revised zoning plan last year, and the appellate court sent the matter back to the superior court for consideration. (Read the rest.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Thank you for your support. Thank you for standing up for your property rights. Thank you for being someone who wants to allow Los Angeles to flourish. If it were not for you, we would have never brought light to this abuse of the planning system. We have received calls from other neighborhoods in which HPOZs are in process inquiring how to stop theirs. The answer is to organize and stand up early enough in the process, not be afraid to speak out. We did that. Without us taking a stand together, we could not have achieved what we did: a significantly liberalized Preservation Plan. Your energy gave us a voice.
Yesterday’s Planning Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee was a stark reminder that even when it appears you have a chance, the cards may be stacked against you. It was a stark reminder of the inequalities of politics. It was a stark reminder that we live in a great city which can make great errors in judgement. Government is a machine oiled with backroom promises and lack of discussion. Yesterday was a reminder of that. PLUM’s decision to push the Miracle Mile HPOZ to City Council is an indication of everything that is wrong with our City government.
What have we accomplished? We prevented a horrible Preservation Plan from being adopted and instead we will have the most lenient in the City. We made sure you can paint your house any color you like. We made sure an arborist report will not be required if a property owner decides to remove mature trees. We made sure that solar panels are permitted as per state law (and if they try to prevent drought tolerant, just let us know). We replaced the language that would mandate transparent gates with allowances for solid. Many additions that were prohibited under the old rules will now be allowed, including many second stories. And for those who don’t want to imitate ‘20s architecture, we forced the City to allow contemporary. To be sure, the language is still a mess, but it’s not what it was.
What did we learn? We learned that had we been involved and organized earlier, this abuse would likely never have happened. We learned that we could make a difference. And we learned that the people who were drawn to our group saw the future not as something frightening or repugnant, but to be embraced. That is why we are setting up Miracle Mile Forward. We look forward to seeing you all at future meetings - more information to come.
(Say No HPOZ is a citizen group formed to fight a proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ. They can be reached at [email protected].)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Less than two months after a horrific warehouse fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony in Oakland, city inspectors came knocking at the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.
On Jan. 18, two officials with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety showed up unannounced to the art studio and event space, which also was home to 17 artists. As the inspectors made their rounds, residents frantically posted in a community Facebook group to try to find out why two strangers with clipboards were surveying the property and asking to look inside their bedrooms.
This wasn’t the first time city officials had discovered people were living in the commercial warehouse space at 939 Maple Ave. For more than a year, in fact, the city had known Think Tank was illegally housing residents. But it wasn’t until the tragedy in Oakland that the city took more forceful action.
“We knew once the Ghost Ship fire happened, we were like, ‘This is it,’” says Think Tank Gallery executive director Jacob Patterson.
After the inspection, the LA City Attorney’s office served an order-to-comply notice to the property owners, giving the gallery until Feb. 13 to either acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal complaint. By the end of the month, all of the artists had moved out.
In the wake of the fire, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials, promising an “aggressive response” to illegal-use commercial spaces. The city’s D.I.Y. community has been on edge ever since, and the threat of a widespread crackdown on underground lofts and warehouse spaces has left many artists in fear of eviction. (Read the rest.)
NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES--The City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on March 8th to present and discuss their White Paper for the coming city budget fiscal year 2017 – 2018.
The White Paper will contain priorities, recommendations to improve revenue generation, collection and operations and the efficient use of our tax dollars.
The Budget Advocates take on the arduous task and spend hundreds of hours in meetings with city department and agency General Managers, and senior staff to learn, study and analyze their departments' strategic plans, operations, budget proposals and then develop recommendations.
The Budget Advocates will next meet with and present our findings to the City Council Budget & Finance Committee followed by a presentation to the full City Council in the coming months.
Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the Budget Advocates White Paper.or more information on the white paper please visit NCBALA.com, track our progress while we wait to see how our Los Angeles City Mayor responds.
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: [email protected].)
NEIGHBORHOODS--From the Middle East conflicts to an incredibly divided America, religion plays a most important part in our politics and our lives … and prompts me to tell you about Venice’s Open Temple.
I was raised until I was 10 years old in the Beverly-Fairfax area of Los Angeles. We affectionately referred to it as The Borscht Belt due to the Eastern European origins of the vast majority of its inhabitants. At 10, my upwardly mobile parents decided to move to Northridge in the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley. It was only then that I found out the rest of the world was not Jewish.
My family wasn't religious. In fact, I wasn't even bar mitzvahed, when I turned 13. But the pervasive secular liberal Jewish culture that surrounded me, my family, and most of our friends exposed me to a unique way of looking at life- whether expressed in humor, politics or fundamental ideas of fairness- that has continued to manifest itself throughout my life with its roots in the ancient Jewish religion.
But the dilemma that has always faced the Jews and other ethnicities that value their cultural identities of origin- be it religious or secular- is how can we maintain these religions and cultures and yet integrate ourselves into the dominant amalgamated American culture that up until recently has continued to make America great- again and again- by incorporating that which is best in its component peoples?
If the key for our or any specie's continued viability is to continue to evolve, this unique American heterogeneous cultural integration mechanism that takes the best of what all our tribes have brought to America seems to have served our survival rather well. So, why have our religions remained so segregated?
Up until I recently experienced going to Open Temple in Venice, I found that organized religion in general pretty much saw itself as right and other religions or atheists and agnostics as being wrong- even if the G-d of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is historically the same G-d.
Open Temple in Venice, CA, is a nascent example of a community that responds to these concerns. An engagement model for "the Jew-ishly curious and those who love us," Open Temple utilizes the mosaic of Los Angeles to breathe life into the Moses of the Bible. In recent services, Muslims and LAPD officers played the roles of G-d, Abraham, and Sarah during the Torah service. A local homeless man "disrupted" the performance artist "playing homeless" as a chastening of the Torah reading's view on expulsion (both men were hired by the rabbi for this interaction). And words from Hamilton's "My Shot" were re-written for the Yom Kippur confessional prayer.
The community is spearheaded by its founding rabbi Lori Schneide Shapiro who also serves as the community's artistic director. She views Judaism through the lens of a pragmatic spiritual aesthetic designing her approach to melding traditional Jewish ideas with how they now can be applied to making sense in the 21st century.
Like me, Rabbi Lori grew up with no Jewish identity or upbringing, until as a young adult she traveled around the States and the Middle East in search of meaning and found her Jewish light.
Open Temple is the realization of the constant dream she has had since that discovery of what she calls her Jewish light. She wanted to create a place where people could explore their spirituality through creativity. Rabbi Lori believes that Torah is the blueprint for us to do so. When she moved into Venice, it was clear that there was no community with which to share this vision, so she has created it with Open Temple.
Rabbi Lori met with community organizers, like One Voice L.A. to learn how to organize. She began a grass roots effort collecting names at the Abbot Kinney Festival and meeting people in house talks and coffee dates. Today Open Temple has over 2000 people on its mailing list and has had over 1000 active participants since September 2016.
As Rabbi Lori points out, "Venice is going through a time of exciting and extreme change. Open Temple seeks to be a forum curating spiritual conversation, where people on all sides can feel safe and enter into the conversation. WE are holding space for community engagement and pluralsim; we will never discriminate based on point of view and seek to unify 'old' and 'new' Venice as we go through this adaptive change."
Coincidentally with being taken to Open Temple by a friend, I just happened to finish reading an excellent book entitled A History of the Jews in the Modern World by Howard M. Sachar. One of the many many ideas that Sachar deals with in the book is that of Mordecai Kaplan, who developed Judaism not as a theology or legal system, but rather as a "civilization."
Was it just a coincidence that Rabbi Lori is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College founded by Mordecai Kaplan disciples, whose work is foundational to Rabbi Lori's perspective, mission, and thought?
Check out Open Temple if at least part of you is Jewishly inclined. Who knows, you might just find your bashert- spiritual or incarnate ... or maybe even both.
1422 Electric Ave.
DENSITY DEBACLE-Over the last three years, the residents of the Miracle Mile have been fighting to obtain an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) to preserve the charm and scale of their historic neighborhood. The Miracle Mile emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as the nation’s first linear downtown – a commercial shopping district stretched along Wilshire Boulevard between La Brea and Fairfax – bounded by block after block of multi-family apartment buildings and single family homes.
The historical continuity of the Miracle Mile was one of the key reasons why, in Autumn 2016, the Miracle Mile HPOZ was approved by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission.
Then on December 8, 2016 the City Planning Commission weighed in. The Commission endorsed the HPOZ with one hand and gutted it with the other, cutting out historic properties along Olympic Boulevard, on South Orange Grove Avenue, and between 8th Street and Wilshire Boulevard (see map below.) Suddenly, 79 historic buildings and 500 rent-stabilized apartments were placed in jeopardy – and big-box development was given a green light.
It is neither a coincidence nor a surprise that soon after the Commission excluded these properties from the pending Miracle Mile HPOZ, an application to demolish 744 South Ridgeley Drive was submitted to the city. Nor that, on February 20, 2017, the tenants received eviction notices. 744 South Ridgeley has the misfortune of sitting right where the Commission drew its pro-development boundaries.
Yet, 744 S. Ridgeley epitomizes the historic character of the Miracle Mile. The six-unit apartment building was built in 1937 – during one of the city’s biggest growth spurs in which “period revival” was the rage. The apartment house was designed to resemble a French Chateau by Edith Northman (photo below,) the only licensed female architect in Los Angeles at the time. Northman designed five other residences in the Miracle Mile: 1044 S. Cloverdale Avenue (1927), 1024 S. Dunsmuir Avenue (1929), 749 S. Burnside Avenue (1931), 1031 S. Burnside Avenue (1932), 1000 S. Dunsmuir Avenue (1942) -- all of which were deemed “full contributors” to the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Now, three of Northman’s Miracle Mile buildings have been put on the chopping block by the City Planning Commission – 744 quite literally.
With its turret and dormers and finials and steel casement windows – and elegant courtyard – 744 S. Ridgeley Drive is an apt example of what makes the Miracle Mile so livable, desirable, and culturally significant. Step inside the apartments and this judgment is only further confirmed: light, spacious, airy rooms detailed with finely crafted moldings, hardwood floors, and bronze hardware. (Photo left: Architect Edith Northman)
What’s more, like most of the multi-family buildings in the neighborhood, 744 S. Ridgeley is rent-controlled. Long-time tenants have been able to put down roots in the neighborhood because their homes remain affordable, by law. Should this building fall to the bulldozers, six more rent stabilized (RSO) apartments will disappear forever. And, as irreplaceable as the architecture is, these apartments themselves are even more irreplaceable amidst the city’s severe, and deepening, affordability crisis (nearly sixty percent of renters pay more than 30% of their monthly income in rent.) Of course, the Miracle Mile HPOZ would have preserved the building, while protecting its rent stabilized units – and occupants.
But the city Planning Commission decision to exclude Ridgeley north of 8th Street, along with the other redlined streets, means this historic apartment building faces imminent destruction. Why? Planning Commission chair David Ambroz – who in an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti – argued that the Wilshire corridor needs increased residential density. That was his justification for ignoring the recommendations of his own Cultural Commission and Planning staff. Yet, not only has the boulevard experienced unabated densification in the last decade, there is still room to grow up without tearing down the small-scale, historic buildings that are the essential fabric of the Miracle Mile.
Wilshire Boulevard has no height limits; Wilshire Boulevard has many undistinguished buildings; Wilshire Boulevard has three enormous parcels between Fairfax and La Brea, which the subway builders will convert to mega-structures when tunneling is completed. There is, in other words, ample space to accommodate new residents – without sacrificing a single rent stabilized or historic structure.
The Miracle Mile Residential Association has made a short video to introduce the real people whose lives are about to be upended by the demolition of 744 South Ridgeley. Ultimately, it is the residents who are being asked to sacrifice their homes to David Ambroz’s and Eric Garcetti’s vision. It is time we let their voices be heard.
Over 1000 people have signed a petition or sent messages demanding that City Hall reinstate historic properties, like this one on Ridgeley, into the Miracle Mile HPOZ. To add your support click on: Support.MiracleMileLA.com
(Greg Goldin is the coauthor of Never Built Los Angeles and a curator at the A+D Museum. From 1999 to 2012, he was the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine. He is a longtime resident of the Miracle Mile and was featured in the MMRA Channel's YouTube presentation: "The Miracle Mile in Three Tenses: Past, Present, and Future." This piece was posted first in the excellent Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Westside JCC gets second bomb threat in two weeks.
For the second time in two weeks, the Westside Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd near Fairfax Avenue received an e-mail yesterday containing a bomb threat.
After receiving the threat, which came in around noon, “We contacted the Los Angeles Police Department and followed our emergency protocols to evacuate the building. Within an hour the police had very thoroughly checked our building and gave us the “all clear” to re-enter and return to our normal day,” wrote Brian Greene, WJCC’s Executive Director, in an e-mail to WJCC families and friends later in the day. (Read the rest.)
ELECTION WATCH--Monday evening, February 27 four Neighborhood Councils (NC): Atwater Village, Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Rampart Village hosted the last candidate forum for City Council District 13 at Mayberry Street Elementary School. Council District 13 includes all or parts of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Heights, Elysian Valley, Atwater Village, and Hollywood.
300 attendees packed the auditorium, lining its walls. Silver Lake NC Co-Chair Anne-Marie Johnson and Vice Chair Jerome Courshon facilitated the event. Allison Cohen publisher of the Los Feliz Ledger and Kirk Hawkins from KTLA 5 News served as moderators.
Candidates for the March 7th election Doug Haines, Sylvie Shain, Bill Zide, Jessica Salans, and David De La Torre attended. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (incumbent) missed the event. Council District 13 Senior Policy Advisor, Christine Peters declined a press interview.
The moderators asked questions of the candidates followed by questions from the audience.
Why do you think Councilman O’Farrell is unresponsive to constituents?
Doug Haines, President of several neighborhood associations in District 13 for over 12 years, said O’Farrell is not being responsive to his constituents in many ways. The City Review Committee meetings have been effectively opened to the public for 30 years where the public can gain knowledge of all city developments. Yet, O’Farrell has shut its doors to the public including NC representatives and neighborhood associations while doors have remained open to lobbyists and developers.
Sylvie Chain related her eviction from her Villa Carlotta apartment in Hollywood where 17 renters were displaced and two became homeless. The owner benefited from relocation waiver, stating he would build condos but instead now plans to build a hotel.
“I contacted the Council’s Office; they told me they’d look into the issues. I appealed the matter through a nine-month period, while continuing to call Mitch’s Office for a meeting,” He never met with us saying there was nothing he could do. As a Councilperson, you need to be thinking always of what you can do for your constituents, not what you cannot do, Shain countered. There’s lack of response and responsible planning across the board with a multitude of issues across District 13, Shain continued.
Bill Zide, former chair of the Hollywood NC, said that Councilman O’Farrell is making choices and he’s not involving stakeholders. He doesn’t follow the law. Instead he looks to Mayor Garcetti who said the Target Project could be built bigger, yet he did not add affordable housing to get the extra height. “If you break the [zoning] law, just change the [zoning] law. It’s soft corruption which is endemic in City Hall.”
Jessica Salans, board member of the Atwater Village NC, said she doesn’t know why O’Farrell does not respond to the District’s needs. Salans provided statistics about the growth of homelessness in district 13 and mentioned the topic of “environmental justice.”
David De La Torre is the founder of the Elysian Valley NC. De La Torre said that it’s beyond him why Mitch O’Farrell is not responsive to Elysian Valley and the rest of CD 13 as he is supposed to be. He should provide attention to community’s needs. “It’s clear to me that the job has gotten to him. … It’s about getting what our communities need,” he said.
(Photo left: Candidates from left to right are Doug Haines, Sylvie Shain, moderator, Jessica Salans, and David De La Torre)
How would you contribute to making LA a Sanctuary City?
All candidates are in favor of working to make Los Angeles a sanctuary city. Haines said his immigrant neighbors look to him for protection and vice versa. Shain would coordinate with community organizations that protect the undocumented “especially youths who were raised here as infants and now are being shipped to a country that they do not know.” Zide said, “I will protect immigrants since they make up a lot of the work force and make it clear that ICE is not the police.”
Salans said her team will reach out to Latino immigrants and provide resources to the most vulnerable. Similarly, De La Torre will bring information that protect the immigrant community and will “work for and with them to help them stay in this city.”
Position on Measure S
Most candidates support Measure S, except for Salans. Haines, Shain, Zide, and De La Torre emphasized that Measure S will not impact affordable housing.
Shain explained that Measure S stops the rampant abuse by developers that goes along with building luxury developments. These then cause collateral damage in existing, surrounding buildings that had been renting far below market rate. She adds “spot zoning is incredibly irresponsible on so many levels.” Salans added that whether Measure S passes or not, team will work for affordable housing.
What would you do differently if elected?
Haines explained that daily, he sweeps streets and paints over graffiti in his neighborhood; and, weekly goes to City Hall meetings to participate by expressing the peoples’ voice. He said, “Nothing will change.” Then he emphasizes he would change the way the city operates. Shain said she is running because “There is a lack of leadership in CD13. It’s a responsibility to serve the constituents.” She supports campaign finance reform at the local level.
Zide will meet with people who complain about developments at the particular development sites. “I will have a housing deputy and small business deputy.” Salans will dedicate 50% of her salary for a progressive community fund. “I will pull in workers from inside District 13 to represent the people of CD13.” Lastly, De La Torre will use an open door policy. “I will be response to you and your needs. If an issue cannot be solved because it’s out of my control, I will tell you so,” he said.
How would you improve and handle the disputes regarding the Silver Lake Reservoir? Not every candidate was asked this question.
Both Zide and De La Torre acknowledged that the reservoir is a pubic city park and the land should be accessible and useable by everyone. Zide said that it’s important to strike a balance with the people who live in the area and with the people who live closest and around the lake. Similarly, De La Torre said that one group would like to turn reservoir into the next central park “and the other appreciates the passive recreational component and the nature that comes with it. I’d like to work with both sides where both get some of what they want but not all of what they want.”
Salans described her vision of turning Silver Lake Reservoir to be like Echo Park Lake: “Walkable, bikeable, and usable for kids to play. I’d plant fruit trees and take down that fence,” she said.
How will you contribute to “Sustainability” in the City?
Haines would have respect for the existing zoning laws that are devised by the community over time. “A community should be a better place not a worse place as you live there longer,” he emphasized. Shain would negotiate for public benefits when there are investments to be considered like outside capital coming into the city. She will use funds from big developers for people in the community.
Zide would simply represent his constituents and be responsive to their needs and address environmental issues. “It all starts with supporting the people, if you’re not responding to them you’re not sustaining anything,”
Salans would support protected bike lanes, electric public transportation, walking, geo-thermal development, solar panels in every home and business, and capturing rain water. While, De La Torre will represent the people of CD13 and will improve upon services so you feel safe and have a relationship with the LAPD as well as provide youth opportunities for higher learning.”
Small Lots Subdivisions
All candidates find that Small Lot Subdivisions are luxury houses that surpass the affordability of the people in Los Angeles. Shain observed that Small Lots are imposing excessive stress in our infrastructure by developers building 3 toilets in each unit. ”They should be held responsible to upgrade our present worn down infrastructure,” she said.
Zide argued that Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) need to be done independently, other than the developer.
Haines made clear that 26% of all the City’s Small Lot Subdivisions are in Echo Park and Silver Lake with a consequence of ruining the historic quality of these communities; ”this needs to stop”.
Shain acknowledged the many vacant units in luxury, high rise buildings and suggested finding rooms for the homeless there. Zide said that homelessness has to be part of a comprehensive plan and thinking ahead. “It requires a balance. We have to take into account all the constituencies involved. It’s connected with the lack of affordable housing.”
Salans expressed that we need to move forward with compassion. De La Torre said, “Planning has to be done carefully to also protect homeowners and businesses. Let’s prioritize our funding in the city with what matters to us. He asks “there are billions of dollars to develop the LA River when we have homelessness and infrastructure issues?”
Shain clarified that we’re not in a housing crisis; we’re in an affordability crisis. She would cancel the Costa-Hawkins Law. Zide would protect Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) units, our main stock of affordable housing. “We are losing them and are not being replaced. Building new luxury-units will not lower the price of affordable housing; it will push rent up,” Zide assured the audience. Salans expressed that her team will search to find a way to create socialized housing as a solution to the affordable crises. Lastly, De La Torre said that his office will facilitate information so renters will know what their rights are for protection in case of displacement.
(Connie Acosta participates in the neighborhood council system and frequently reports on Neighborhood Council matters. She is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)
ELECTION WATCH--I first met Doug Haines about ten years ago when my wife and I and a group of neighbors got together to set up the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. After establishing the by-laws and getting certified by the City, we held an election. Doug Haines ran for one of the seats against an affable guy from the neighborhood. Let's call him Steve. At the candidate forum before the election, Doug stood out for his intensity verging on obsession. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him.
After the election, as the votes were being counted, my wife turned to me and said, "You know, I voted for that Doug Haines guy."
"What?" I said. "What about Steve?" Steve lost by one vote.
And so changed the trajectory of my life.
Doug Haines brought to the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council a passion, commitment, and knowledge that I had never seen in anything I had ever done before. Doug researched every item on the agenda, reached out to the people affected, walked the streets handing out Notices, and brought his neighbors into the process.
To describe Doug Haines to a person who has never met him is almost impossible without sounding a little over the top. If I were to say to you that the person in history who Doug reminds me of most is ... Gandhi, you would probably think I was off my rocker. But, if you know him, you might chuckle at the idea and then nod your head in agreement.
Doug first got into local politics when he was working as an editor for his old college buddy Sam Raimi. I don't know much about editing, but I'm told he could have done quite well for himself. Then he found out the old Cinerama Dome was slated for demolition and he got to work. He saved the Cinerama Dome, then started looking around the neighborhood for other things to save.
What he saw were his neighbors: mostly immigrants and low-income families who didn't know how to navigate the system and who felt intimidated by a coming wave of gentrification that threatened to push them out of their homes. Doug started going down to City Hall everyday. And he started cleaning up his neighborhood by picking up trash, painting over graffiti, getting to know the homeless people camped under the freeways and helping them get the services they needed. Doug's no pushover. If you want to smoke crack in the alley behind the elementary school, he's going to get LAPD involved. But, if you want help, Doug will find a way for you to get it.
Everyone -- the gang members, the drug addicts, the cops, the developers, and the people who sit on the City Council -- respects Doug Haines. They may not agree with him, but they respect him. And they probably also like him a little bit.
One story from just last week illustrates my point. I called Doug to ask how the campaign was going. He was busy, he said, down at City Hall everyday, working on a dozen things affecting his neighborhood. And still getting up everyday at 4 a.m. to pick up trash and paint over graffiti. "Yesterday," he told me, "I saw my 86-year-old neighbor out on the streets in his pajamas." Doug asked the man what was happening, but he wasn't very coherent. So Doug found out. Turns out the man was evicted from his long-time apartment, given $19,000 in relocation fees, and set off on his own. That was 30 days ago, and the man's been living in a hotel ever since. He's about to run out of money.
Doug lives in a small rent-controlled apartment himself. He doesn't have a car and usually pays his rent doing jobs for people like painting or rehabbing old houses. Doug opened his home to his 86-year-old neighbor until he can find him a more permanent place to live. And Doug will find a place for this man. He won't rest until he does.
Doug Haines. Google him and you're bound to find some bit of slander put out by some shill for the developers Doug has fought so successfully against on behalf of his neighborhood and his neighbors. They'll say he's in it for the money. But there is no money. I know. I've been working with him for ten years. And even the people he's fought against so hard -- if they really know Doug -- will say the same. Every single thing Doug Haines has goes back into the neighborhood.
Many of us have not recovered from the presidential election. The overwhelming theme that has arisen from this moment in history is that elections matter. And they matter starting right now. Turnout in local elections in Los Angeles usually muddles in around 8%. Eight percent! Every crisis facing this City has grown out of the corruption fueled by this virulent apathy. Don't let that happen. The revolution starts now, on March 7th!
This election has aroused a lot of passion – which I hope translates into voter turnout. The hot issue, obviously, is Measure S. Whichever way you vote on that issue, please consider that it’s the status quo that has brought us to the crisis we face today. I like Doug Haines – but any one of the candidates in CD 13 will be better than Mitch O’Farrell.
(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--As a City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee hearing approaches on the proposed Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, tensions are still running high between neighborhood stakeholders who favor the HPOZ and those who don’t. To help combat rumors and misinformation, and to try to find some common ground among the divided neighbors, City Council Member David Ryu held a town hall meeting last night, to provide facts about HPOZs, and to give stakeholders both pro and con a forum to voice their opinions. (Photo above: Forum participants stand in line to voice their views.)
About 150 people attended the meeting, held at John Burroughs Middle School, and it was obvious from the beginning that the organizers were expecting what might politely be referred to as a “lively” discussion: the meeting opened with a welcome and coaching on rules of decorous behavior by Kiara Nagel, a consultant hired by CD4, who specializes in “services to foster collaboration, grow healthy organizations, and support equitable community development,” according to her website. Local LAPD Senior Lead Officers were also present, unusual for a discussion of zoning and housing issues.
After Nagel’s introduction, Council Member Ryu expressed his desire to help “restore trust” among the divided neighbors, as well as his goal of helping them find common ground. (Read the rest.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Maybe there really is no there here -- not now – and maybe there never was. Did we just all fall in love with the irascible Venice of our dreams? We imagine ourselves as the unique ones, the interesting doers, basking in the idea that we are the vibrant happening town overflowing with artists, one-of-a-kind, seriously intent on cultivating the feeling of being in a real place.
We smugly look at the “others” with sad eyes. They, who hold urgent meetings to deal with a cracked sidewalk. We, the noble ones, superior human beings determined not to be swallowed up in that “good life.” No utopia for us here! We’re Venetians! We thrive on the internecine development fights occurring on a near daily basis. We live for the latest outrage inflicted on us by the city. We beat our chests to get the LAPD to take a report about a mugging on “the coolest street in America.”
And, we remind you, some schmo just paid eight million bucks for a tear-down. We can only guess that he thought it was worth the price of admission to drink the best wine, eat the best sushi, crow about the endless new restaurants selling one kind of faux food or another -- and who gives a damn if he has to wait a couple of days for the LAPD to get an officer out here to take a police report?
Over there, where the sidewalks don’t have a crack, three cop cars respond at once to the most minor crime and the biggest story is the guy with his RV parked on the driveway for months. Who knows, maybe they Airbnb there too. But us unique ones, we’re tough! We’re tolerant and patient and loyal and we take all comers. One moment we grouse about the kid sleeping on a shop’s front porch, the next, we are trying to figure out if his puppy is getting its shots.
Maybe that’s our secret. We are not a myth. You can throw anything at us and we deal with it all like conquering soldiers. We don’t quit, but just don’t make us live where all the houses are white and the roofs are red. We reject their architecture police. We crave the distinct place, the big idea! Where else will you find impromptu cocktail hours forming on a Sunday afternoon where regulars migrate like they’ve been magnetized -- all living the idea that this place is real?
In this topsy-turvy world our craziness is almost charming. No matter how Aspen-like we are becoming, the kernel of uniqueness is alive. But we sure have to put up with a lot of **** to live this vibrant madness. We don’t want a groomed HOA-controlled neighborhood here. Please don’t clean or polish us!
Corner lots sell for eight million, lofts rent for 40K. One creative marketing company is even renting two of them on the street now. Hot dog trucks are parked illegally for days and the line is around the block for $5 ice cream scoops and $4 donuts. And yet, they come. They come because they feel alive and that’s why we are not a myth. Where else can you say that?
We old Venice denizens just want the cops to show up when we call them… and the Rooster truck to take a hike.
(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice.) Photo by Elaine Spierer. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)
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)
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
6262 Van Nuys Blvd,
Van Nuys, CA 91401
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Griffith Park Dr,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Glassell Park Community Center
3650 Verdugo Rd,
Glassell Park, CA 90065
Ridley Thomas Constituent Center
8475 S. Vermont Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90044
West LA Municipal Building
1645 Corinth Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Croatian Cultural Center
510 W. 7th Street,
San Pedro, CA 90731
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: [email protected].)
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.)
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 [email protected], (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!
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.)