IN THE MAY NEWSLETTER:
A new house rises next to an existing Spanish Revival house on a street in Carthay Square.
Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile
MMRA Board Creates an HPOZ Committee
And Considers Other Options
Mansionization is very much in the news these days [see links below]. The issue is especially relevant to the residents of South Ridgeley Drive where a circa-1920s home was sold and then quickly demolished to make way for construction of what appears to be a much larger residence that will overwhelm the existing houses.
In a recent front page article the Los Angeles Times reported that “…as the housing market rebounds and construction picks up, many homeowners complain that "mansionization" has revved up — reigniting long-standing policy battles and sometimes bitter fence fights over the face and feel of L.A.'s neighborhoods.”
The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] passed in 2008 was aimed at stopping “super-sized” home construction in L.A. But developers have been able to easily exploit loopholes in the ordinance by manipulating bonuses for environmentally friendly construction techniques or excluding up to 400 square feet for a garage from the overall limits on floor space. These and other “tricks of the trade” have nullified the purpose of the ordinance: to preserve the character and protect the scale of well-established residential neighborhoods.
Last year the Beverly Grove community, which has been a battleground over McMansions, succeeded in creating a “Restricted Floor Area District” [RFA] to plug the loopholes in the BMO. An RFA limits the maximum base floor area ratio and related bonuses for new construction and remodeling of existing homes.
Since the passage of the BMO in 2008, 58 out of 690 single-family homes in the Beverly Grove area have either been demolished or remodeled in a manner that was out of scale and character with the neighborhood [photo right]. Fifth District Councilman Paul Kortez, in a letter supporting the RFA, wrote: “A large bulky home towering over an adjacent modest historic home can result in a loss of sunlight and privacy as well as a reduction in appeal and property values.”
The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] believes that the simplest and fastest remedy to this problem is for the city council to eliminate the obvious loopholes in the existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. But well-heeled real estate investors and developers have a vested interest in thwarting or delaying such action. So far, they seem to have the upper hand and communities like the Miracle Mile are left without a ready defense against mansionization.
This is why the MMRA is evaluating the only other options available: the creation of either a RFA or a Historic Protection Overlay District [HPOZ]. Both of these options have their advantages and disadvantages and neither would offer a quick solution to this problem.
At the May 2, 2014 MMRA board of directors meeting a motion was unanimously approved to create a committee to explore HPOZ protection for the Miracle Mile. The committee was instructed to do fact-finding, seek the input of residents and property owners, and report on how a HPOZ might be designed and implemented.
The MMRA board was briefed by Michelle Levy, head of the HPOZ unit at the Los Angeles Department of Planning, on what is involved with creating an HPOZ and what protections it provides to a community. The city has 30 HPOZ zones with an additional 16 neighborhoods at different points in the process of seeking HPOZ status.
Unfortunately, because of staffing cutbacks to the Planning Department, approval of new HPOZs are in limbo. Just this week the Los Angeles Times editorialized that because of mansionization the city council “needs to fund these positions or run the risk that some of those aspiring historic districts won't have enough historic properties left to qualify.”
Levy explained that the first step in becoming a historic district is to establish the boundaries of the proposed area. An HPOZ adds historic development standards strictly dealing with design to the existing zoning regulations, whether it be a single family, multiple family, or commercial zone. These standards require that any alteration to the façade of a historic property would be subject to review for conformance with the adopted preservation plan. The preservation plan is developed by the community to establish the guidelines for how properties within its boundaries can be altered and/or developed. The overall goal of an HPOZ is to preserve historic buildings and prevent mansionization and other new development that is incompatible with the surrounding properties.
Levy stressed that outreach to property owners is critical to establish whether or not there is consensus to create an HPOZ. Widespread support will be needed as the community usually funds the expense of having a block-by-block historic field survey performed to identify “contributing” and “non-contributing” structures, which determines whether a particular building is subject to the full weight of the preservation plan or not. The historic survey is a very important component and informs the foundation of the historic district. The City is looking for 60 to 75 percent “contributing” structures [intact historical properties] within the HPOZ.
By its very nature the creation and implementation of an HPOZ is an exacting and complicated process. We encourage residents to review the links below to educate themselves on the subject.
Obviously, mansionization is a controversial matter – as is creating either an RFA or HPOZ to combat it. The MMRA is a consensus-based organization. We are committed to effective outreach whether it be via this newsletter, our website, door-to-door canvassing, or informal surveys [see below]. We welcome your input and participation in the discussion regarding the pros and cons of implementing a RFA or HPOZ in the Miracle Mile. You can contact the Executive Committee or HPOZ Committee at:
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MMRA Mansionization–RFA-HPOZ Survey
Click on map to enlarge.
The mandate of the MMRA board of directors is to represent the will of our residents. Good communication between the board and the residents is critical to this mission. Although informal and far from scientifically accurate, surveys help the board gauge the general opinions and attitudes of the community.
Topics like mansionization, Reduced Floor Area Districts, and Historic Protection Overlay Zones can provoke strong and often heated responses. Even though we are very early in the exploratory stages of what our response should be – or should not be – to mansionization, we felt that we should emphasize that this will be a two-way conversation between the board and the residents from the start.
So, please, take a few minutes to complete this survey – there are only 17 questions and you will also have the opportunity to make general comments. All MMRA residents, property owners and renters, may participate [see map above to determine whether you live or own property within our boundaries].
We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Poll participants are completly anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. Just click on this link:
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Miracle Mile Spotlight: Rascal
Miracle Mile Spotlight:
For many years one restaurant after another cycled through the single story building on the southwest corner of La Brea and 8th Street. The location seemed jinxed – but not to Miracle Mile residents Sandy and Rebecca Clark [photo below]. They saw good bones: exposed brick interior walls, large windows, and an ideal spot for a neighborhood restaurant.
So in 2011 they decided to test their intuition and years of experience in the restaurant business and they opened Rascal. The restaurant almost instantly became a local favorite known for its welcoming atmosphere and great food.
Which begs the question: what is the secret in creating a successful neighborhood joint?
“A huge part of that is staff,” answers Rebecca. “Our philosophy is that we hire for personalities more than experience. We want interesting people, people that travel and are educated – and have all those things going for them.”
“We have no attitude,” adds Sandy, who was the wine buyer for the Chaya restaurants for many years. “Here you can sit where you want, if you don’t like your food you can send it back, here’s a top off. It’s like hosting a party at your home, basically.”
“We really wanted to get to know our neighbors and have a presence in the neighborhood,” Rebecca offers. “Once a month we like to do a fundraising night. We prefer it to be for a local charity. It’s great for us because it brings us new customers and then we give 20 percent of the proceeds to that charity.”
Charity is close to Rebecca’s heart, her “day job” for almost 12 years is with Heart of Los Angeles, a non-profit community center that provides underserved youth with exceptional programs in academics, arts and athletics aimed at getting kids into college.
Sandy runs the restaurant and Rebecca handles public relations and the books. But they both agree that being in the restaurant business is as much a lifestyle as it is an occupation – particularly at an establishment that’s open seven nights a week. One of their New Year’s resolutions is to take a vacation this year, something they haven’t done since they opened.
They are optimistic that they might be able to get out of town since the arrival of Chef Andy Lee [photo right], who joined them last October. His culinary skills and knack for organization are key ingredients in the restaurant’s continuing success. Chef Lee is enthusiastic about the advantages of creating dishes for a 50-seat establishment. “For me it’s my dream job,” he says. “I get to touch everything, see everything, and the feedback from the customer is immediate.”
When you have a lot of regulars there are favorite dishes that they always expect – at Rascal it’s the fried chicken, hamburgers, and Brussels sprouts. “One night Andy made the chicken nuggets into a sandwich and so we ran it as a little special,” Rebecca explains. “Then we tried to take it off the menu and our regulars were like ‘no way’ and we had to keep it.”
Their compact kitchen limits the number of items on the menu. “Our magical number right now is eight appetizers and eight entrees,” says Chef Lee. “We change our menu every three or so weeks. It’s a subtle flow. We’re all about what we can do to make a dish better. So, although there are certain familiar dishes, they are always evolving.”
Sandy and Rebecca recently added three outdoor tables and just received approval of a full liquor license. They have always served wine and craft beers and now will be able to offer customers a cocktail with their meal. “But we do not want a rowdy liquor crowd,” Sandy states. He takes pride in their house wines. “There’s a real art to buying inexpensive wines that taste great that you don’t have to charge so much for. At most restaurants the wine buyers are too lazy to do that.”
Sunday “Game Nights” have become a fun attraction for families – you can dine while playing your favorite board games and card games. “That is what makes this so neighborhood,” remarked Chef Lee. “You’re not going to see that at other big restaurants.”
They offer valet parking but say that almost 70 percent of the customers walk to the restaurant, which is further evidence of Rascal’s genuine connection to the neighborhood.
“The funny thing, too, is that I think that L.A. being a city of transplants, so many people walk in here and say ‘This is just like my favorite place in Boston or Chicago or Seattle.’ It just has that feeling of familiarity,” Rebecca says.
“It’s nice to work where you live and live where you work,” Sandy concluded.
Maybe that’s the real secret to a great neighborhood joint: having proprietors like Rebecca and Sandy Clark.
801 South La Brea Ave.
5 PM-11 PM Monday-Saturday
5 PM-10PM Sunday
Photo credits: Chef Andy Lee, courtesy of ladinenclub.com; other images courtesy of Rascal.
The MMRA newsletter does not solicit or accept advertisements. Our support of local businesses is a matter of principle – for which we receive no financial compensation or consideration of any kind.
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"Shut up. We are busy." •
A Message from James O'Sullivan
“Shut up. We are busy.”
On April 14, the day it hit the iceberg, the Titanic received seven heavy ice warnings, including one from the Californian less than an hour before the fateful collision. The message said: "We are stopped and surrounded by ice." Titanic sent back a message that said, "Shut up. We are busy."
A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President
Over 90 percent of an iceberg is underwater. It is a simple but sometimes treacherous fact. Deteriorating infrastructure is Los Angele’s iceberg. Every day we deal with potholed streets that flatten tires and buckled sidewalks that break arms. Trees go untrimmed, alleys fill with refuse, ageing water mains fracture, and two-thirds of our streets go without a weekly cleaning. But that is only what we see: the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
What many people are also not aware of – unless they have direct dealings with City Hall – is the continual diminishment of municipal services across a broad spectrum. Early this year the residents of the 700 block of South Genesee Avenue in the Miracle Mile applied to the City to limit parking on their block to permit holders only. This block has older apartment buildings with little or no off-street parking and its proximity to a popular gym and Museum Row had driven the residents to the breaking point. They obtained the necessary majority of signatures, had their petition vetted, and celebrated when it was approved. Parking relief had finally arrived. But then they learned that it would take eight to nine months for eight new parking signs to be installed. Eight to nine months?
The reason for the delay: the City’s street sign department has been so decimated by budget cuts that they are down to a skeleton crew and buried with backorders.
Is this a trivial example of how city services are falling ever further behind? It probably is to the people who wait months to have a burned out street lamp replaced or years for curb-cuts at their intersection.
But from the trivial to the profound, every City department is failing to provide adequate service to the residents and businesses of Los Angeles. Yet, like the Titanic speeding across the North Atlantic, the City ignores basic services while it rushes to approve new developments – one after another – without regard to the impact these projects will have on our crumbling infrastructure.
In a 2009 audit of the City’s Capital Improvement Program
then City Controller Laura Chick concluded: “…that the City of Los Angeles does not have a citywide capital improvement program and capital budgeting process to adequately identify capital and major equipment needs, plan for solutions and necessary improvements, fund and approve its capital projects.”
In other words, the City is sailing without a chart – and has been for a long time.
Until recently it has been impossible to know the true condition of our infrastructure, but a recent Public Records Act request by the organization Fix the City
yielded a never-before-seen 2010/2011 “Infrastructure Report Card”
that appears to have never been released.
The report card looks like this:
But this 2010/2011 report card only tells part of the story about our failing infrastructure. When compared with a 2003 “Infrastructure Report Card”
prepared for then Mayor Hahn the results are devastating. It not only shows that many of these grades have gone down since 2003, but it also reveals that much of the money required to fix our infrastructure was neither secured nor spent at that time. Now in 2014 the amounts needed to repair our infrastructure have almost doubled and the cupboards are bare.
Also, several critical aspects of the City’s infrastructure covered in 2003 report card were not even mentioned in 2010/2011 report card: water, power systems, telecommunications, airports, public buildings, parks and the Port of Los Angeles. It’s as if the City wishes to “drop a course” to avoid a failing grade. But these items are conspicuous in their absence.
Click here for a side-by-side comparison of the 2003 and the 2010/2011 Infrastructure Report Cards.
So, what do these report cards say about the City? A quote from the recently released 2020 Commission report
says it best: “Los Angeles is sinking into a future in which it no longer can provide the public services to which our people’s taxes entitle them and where the promises made to public employees about a decent and secure retirement simply cannot be kept. City revenues are in long-term stagnation and expenses are climbing. Year by year, our City – which once was a beacon of innovation and opportunity to the world – is becoming less livable.”
And what was City Hall’s reply to the 2020 Commission? Basically, their response has been: “Shut up. We are busy.”
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Subway Construction Update •
Petition Campaign Expands
Subway Construction Update
Petition Campaign Expands
Metro Meeting May 27th
The Miracle Mile Residential Association’s ongoing petition campaign to stop 24/7 construction at the La Brea and Fairfax subway sites has expanded west of Fairfax to Crescent Heights/Orange St. to 6th St. and east of La Brea to Highland/Wilshire to 6th St. The noise and disturbance of nighttime utility relocations in these areas has provided nearby residents with an unwelcome preview of what’s to come when construction of the Fairfax and La Brea stations begin early next year.
The MMRA has been emphatic that we do not oppose the Purple Line Subway Extension.
Nor do we oppose nighttime construction for work that involves street closures and/or lane reductions. But we strenuously object to around-the-clock activity and dump truck traffic at the “laydown yards” at La Brea and Fairfax for the construction of the underground stations. The La Brea site is where all of the dirt will be removed from all of the tunneling from Western to La Cienega, a task that will require between 100 and 150 dump truck trips per day – and night, if Metro gets its way.
Metro has scheduled a “Station Advisory Meeting” on Tuesday, May 27th, 5:30-7:30 PM, at the Petersen Automotive Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd., 4th Floor. Validated parking will be available.
At this meeting Metro will make a presentation on the noise and vibration mitigations they will deploy at the Fairfax and La Brea sites. From close reading of various construction documents it is apparent that Metro wishes to stymy common sense with a barrage of acoustical mumbo jumbo that glosses over the impact that a nearly a decade of nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction will have on nearby residents.
We strongly encourage residents of the Miracle Mile to attend this meeting and make your voices heard. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, please sign our online petition to prevent nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction. For those of you who live in secured apartment buildings, where we have been unable to canvas door-to-door, please download the printable petition [below
] and share it or the online petition link with your neighbors.
We also invite you to visit the Subway Construction
page on the MMRA website. It is frequently updated with links to media coverage on our petition campaign, official correspondence, construction fact sheets and reports, YouTube videos of subway construction techniques, and other information.
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Miracle Mile Real Estate • April 2014 Sales
Miracle Mile Real Estate
April 2014 Sales
1120 South Ridgeley Dr.
5 bdrm, 4 bath
3,305 sq. ft.
lot: 6,457 sq. ft.
listing price: $1,375,000
sale price: $1,365,000
sale date: 4-25-2014
935 South Stanley Ave.
5 bdrm, 4 bath
3,408 sq. ft.
lot: 5,271 sq. ft.
listing price: $1,295,000
sale price: $1,250,000
sale date: 4-11-2014
724 South Stanley Ave. #5
2 bdrm, 2 bath
1,321 sq. ft.
listing price: $543,000
sale price: $534,000
sale date: 4-02-2014
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