IN THE JULY NEWSLETTER:
LACMA Wants to Bridge Wilshire with Revamped Museum Design
Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has revised his “ink blot” design for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA]. The original design received a great deal of criticism for overshadowing the La Brea Tar Pits. The Miracle Mile Residential Association objected to the earlier plan for encroaching on the tar pits and on valuable green space at Hancock Park.
The revised design avoids impinging on the tar pits by spanning Wilshire Boulevard to an anchoring pavilion located on a LACMA owned parking lot on the south side of Wilshire at Spaulding Avenue. This new design retains the original 400,000 square foot single-floor concept, which will be elevated 30-feet above street level.
Although bridging Wilshire would eliminate impact on the tar pits and help to reduce LACMA’s expansion into Hancock Park, the reconfigured plan raises a slew of new questions and concerns for the community.
A New York Times article on the revised design explained: “The museum receives about a third of its $70 million annual operating budget from Los Angeles County and uses county buildings on county land. The City of Los Angeles must approve construction within its limits and air rights above Wilshire Boulevard. Mayor Garcetti and county supervisors were among the first apprised of the design change, suggesting how much this project depends on the support of politicians and governmental agencies.”
The cost of the project is the subject of speculation. LACMA Director Michael Govan has maintained that the razing of the original museum campus and the construction of the new Zumthor structure – along with an endowment fund – would cost around $650 million. Many architects and experts estimate that the price tag would be closer to $1 billion. The cost of this new design – as well as environmental, seismic, and land use issues – will be analyzed in a feasibility study to be completed in spring 2015.
The New York Times article quotes critics of the design who feel “it would be too dark" — “monolithic” or “cavelike” — for a city as sunny as Los Angeles.” It is a criticism that Zumthor feels he has addressed by creating open-air courtyards in the center of the five glass cylinders that would support the main building.
But Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne feels that the revised plan is “perhaps misguided.” Having such a large structure bridging Wilshire had Hawthorne musing on “…what will it be like to walk beneath it? Will it feel like you're trudging under a freeway overpass? How will the underside of the building be detailed and illuminated?”
It is too early for the MMRA to take an official position on LACMA’s proposal to bridge Wilshire with a new museum. MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon was interviewed on LACMA’s revised plan by The Architect’s Newspaper: “As we’ve painfully learned the devil is in the details. We’re not the design police. We want good design. We want good architecture. But it’s all about the connective tissue.” For now, he [Hixon] points out, such issues — like the museum’s relationship to local housing, available parking, preservation, street life, and, of course, construction—have yet to be specified. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project is still far off.”
The dotted line shows the original shape of a planned LACMA building, jutting out over a tar pit. The solid line, which stretches over Wilshire Boulevard, is the revised design.
What is your initial reaction to LACMA’s plan – is it a bridge to the future, a bridge over troubled water, or a bridge too far? Take our survey and let us know. We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Poll participants are completely anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. Just click on this link:
Top and bottom graphics courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner; middle graphic courtesy of LACMA.
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Subway Construction Update
Subway Construction Update:
Metro Staff Recommends
Purple Line Contractor
On July 7, 2014 the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority [Metro] announced that its staff recommended awarding the contract to construct the Purple Line Subway Extension to a joint venture composed of three companies: Skanska, Traylor Bros. and J.F. Shea. The Metro Board will evaluate the recommendation at its July 24 meeting.
The $1.636 billion contract is to design and build the subway extension from Western to La Cienega. According to Metro’s press release: “The contract calls for building twin subway tunnels on a 3.92-mile alignment that includes three new underground stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. It also includes train control and signals, communications, traction power supply and distribution, and fare collection systems that will be integrated with the existing Metro Rail system. Construction activities could begin later this year depending on when the contract is awarded. The contract requires completion in October 2024. The contractors have proposed an early completion schedule saving 300 calendar days.”
How the contractors intend to shave 300 days from the construction schedule without variances for nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction is not yet known. The Miracle Mile Residential Association strenuously objects to granting such exemptions from the City’s work hours ordinance, which limits construction activity to 7 AM–9 PM Monday through Friday, 8 AM–6 PM on Saturdays, and prohibits work on Sundays.
The MMRA launched its ongoing “Sleepless in the Miracle Mile”
petition campaign last February to protect residents living near the subway construction sites from constant 24/7 noise and vibration. Our resolve to combat nighttime subway construction has been strengthened by the noise disturbances ensuing from recent utility relocation work along Wilshire.
Mitigation of the impact of a decade of subway construction is solely the responsibility of the contractors engaged by Metro. The MMRA looks forward to sitting down with these contractors to discuss how they intend to conduct construction in the Miracle Mile. The MMRA supports the subway extension, but will remain vigilant about preserving the rights of our residents to enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes.
Our petition campaign has forced Metro to take the concerns of the residents of the Miracle Mile and our surrounding communities seriously. Because the full brunt of subway construction will not be felt until the demolition of entire blocks of Wilshire begins – and the installation of soldier piles at La Brea and Wilshire start next January – we have decided to keep the petition campaign open-ended. Every signature we collect amplifies our say in how subway construction is performed in the Miracle Mile. Make your voice heard – sign our online petition to stop nighttime, Sunday, and Holiday subway construction today:
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Los Angeles Times Finally Starts to
Report on the Mansionization Story
Courtesy of Al Seib/Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times Finally Starts to Report
on the Mansionization Story
by Dick Platkin
Editor’s note: According to the results to-date of the MMRA “Mansionization–RFA–HPOZ Survey” 40 percent of the respondents felt that eliminating the loopholes in the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] was the best way to stop mansionization in the Miracle Mile. In this article Dick Platkin offers a concise lesson in how mansionization works and explains how the BMO would have to be changed to stop it.
After sitting on the sidelines for at least a decade, the Los Angeles Times has finally begun to report on the mansionization of Los Angeles neighborhoods [Return of ‘Mansionization’ Leaves Some Homeowners Grumbling] as well as City Hall’s halting – and sometimes disingenuous – efforts to regulate it.
For those unclear on the term, mansionization is a business model of real estate profiteers and contractors who pay cash for small homes in nice, older neighborhoods that have reached a profitability tipping point. Once purchased, the contractors quickly demolish the homes, sidestepping legal requirements to remediate asbestos and lead paint. They then build a large, suburban style tract house by exploiting convenient loopholes in the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO]. To avoid taxes and deductions, the contractors also handle almost everything in cash. The entire process takes less than a year and can net the mansionizers and their backers a half million dollars per house. Once sold, the owners and investors then usually flip the McMansions every two years for additional tax benefits.
The Los Angeles Times promises to keep on top of this story, especially since L.A. Councilmember Paul Koretz recently submitted a council motion directing the Department of City Planning to eliminate the bonuses and exemptions that allow the BMO to turn reasonably sized houses into monsters.
If the City Council adopts the Koretz motion and the Department of City Planning quickly implements it, the amendments will restore the original intent of the BMO: preventing the mansionization of Los Angeles’s neighborhoods. The BMO would also finally implement – not undermine – the official anti-mansionization policies of the Los Angeles General Plan and the City Planning Commission’s Do Real Planning document.
The neighborhood activists who have worked hard to put a lid on mansionization strongly encourage the Los Angeles Times to carefully follow this story, including coverage of the many Los Angeles neighborhoods now formally requesting protection from mansionization. As the BMO’s amendments are prepared, adopted, and implemented, press coverage should zero in on the central question: Will the amended Baseline Mansionization Ordinance finally stop mansionization in Los Angeles or will City Hall’s reflexive support for real estate speculation dilute these amendments and perpetuate the charade?
To assess the effectiveness of the amended ordinance, the Times should use five criteria to scrutinize the revised Baseline Mansionization Ordinance:
1) Simplicity. Following the spirit of Re-Code LA, the City’s five-year program to simplify LA’s cumbersome zoning code, the BMO’s amendments should produce a short, simple ordinance that stops mansionization. The bonuses and exemptions that allow the Department of Building and Safety to surreptitiously increase the size of a house by 45 percent above what is allowed by-right must be jettisoned. As it currently stands, local residents who want to stop mansionization have no alternative but to seek special zoning overlays called Residential Floor Area Districts [RFAs]. Regrettably, RFAs are nearly impossible to obtain and properly enforce. But, even if they were easy to obtain, RFAs are still a poor solution because Los Angeles already has hundreds of special zoning districts designed to compensate for the deficiencies of the city General Plan, and we don’t need anymore. Instead, we need to fix the citywide mansionization ordinance, not slap new band-aids on dozens of neighborhoods.
2) Enforceability. A city awash in even more special zoning districts for many small areas, each with its own unique formula to halt mansionization, will exceed the capacity of the City’s bureaucracy to understand and properly enforce these one-of-a-kind zoning ordinances.
3) Consistency. As far as we can determine, except for McMansions, the Department of City Planning handles all other municipal land-use processes that add square footage to a structure beyond what zoning ordinances grant by-right. Since these planning processes are discretionary actions, they require public notification, an environmental review through the California Environmental Quality Act, written determinations, open access to files, and rights of appeal. The BMO’s amendments must end this unique treatment of McMansions once and for all, and if not, any building and related demolition permits based on exemptions and bonuses must be routed through the Department of City Planning.
4) Transparency. As already noted, the Department of Building and Safety reviews and approves building permits for McMansions – including all bonuses and exemptions – behind closed doors. To make things worse, on-line data for individual building permits exclude any information on the exemptions and bonuses that permit McMansions. Short of making a daytime appointment with Building and Safety at a downtown office, the public has no way to know how the City granted a specific house up to a 45 percent increase in its legal size. This is why if any bonuses or exemptions remain in the BMO, these bump-ups must be carefully itemized on all on-line, publicly accessible building permit records.
5) Sustainability. California state laws, such as AB 32 and SB 375, require the City of Los Angeles to reduce Green House Gas emissions, and this mandate should apply to land use and building permits. Even though many McMansion have adopted some trivial “green” features, they still have a huge carbon footprint. They consume lavish amounts of materials and energy, not counting their large cars and what is wasted during demolitions and construction. Since smaller houses have smaller carbon footprints, the BMO amendments to stop mansionization would also have the additional benefit of compliance with State laws reducing the generation of greenhouse gases.
Finally, instead of reflexively repeating the assertions of the mansionizers, we expect the Los Angeles Times to subject these self-serving justifications to a critical review. To cite just one example, the claim that legal restrictions on mansionization violate personal freedoms certainly needs to be debunked. To protect public health and property values, the Supreme Court ruled nearly a century ago that local municipalities have the right to control land uses through zoning, including the height and size of buildings. Your freedoms do not include a right to damage the quality of life, health, and property values of your neighbors.
Is the Los Angeles Times up to the challenge of accurately reporting on mansionization in Los Angeles? Time will tell, but either way, watch this space for the latest on mansionization.
Dick Platkin is on the board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association. He teaches and writes on planning issues in Los Angeles. He welcomes questions and comments on this article at email@example.com.
A version of this article previously appeared in CityWatch, edited by Miracle Mile resident Ken Draper. We are grateful to Mr. Draper for permission to reprint it here.
What's your opinion?
Miracle Mile Residential Association has launched an online survey to solicit residents’ opinions regarding mansionization and the creation of a Historical Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ] and/or Reduced Floor Area District [RFA]. The May 2014 MMRA newsletter featured an article that provides an overview on these topics [link].
The ongoing survey has had 66 respondents to date and the results can be analyzed in detail here.
What’s your opinion? Take the poll and share your thoughts with us. The MMRA is a consensus-based organization and we need your input. We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Poll participants are completely anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. Just click on this link:
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Miracle Mile Spotlight: Black Dog Coffee
Miracle Mile Spotlight:
Black Dog Coffee
Bradley Gold had what he thought was a “lifetime career” working in operations for a restaurant chain when he was laid off at age 53. So, he walked away from corporate life and entered the world of sole proprietorship when he opened Black Dog Coffee in 1998.
It was an opportunity right in his back yard. Brad lived six blocks away and, at that time, his wife had an office in the Wilshire building where the restaurant is located. According to Brad the previous owner was “a motivated seller” – and, given his sudden joblessness, Brad was obviously a motivated buyer.
“So, I changed the name, changed the menu, changed everything,” he explains. “I think up until I came along most of the places that had been in here were geared toward the people working in the office buildings and the residents were given less attention. All the places around were always closed on Saturdays and Sundays. And I knew from the get-go that I wanted it to be a seven-day-a-week business – because you can’t be a neighborhood business if you close on the weekends.”
Brad [behind counter at left] knew what he was doing. With outdoor seating and free wi-fi, Black Dog Coffee is one of the most popular eateries in the area. The menu features a variety of breakfasts and sandwiches – and, of course, great coffee.
Brad attributes his Miracle Mile location as key to Black Dog’s success. There are thousands of residents within easy walking distance and close to 3 million square feet of office space within a two-block radius of the coffee shop. “You couldn’t do any better than that if you were a single operator in Century City,” Brad remarks.
Brad grew up in the restaurant business. His parents operated an Orange Julius stand in Burbank for 25 years. He worked there when he was in high school. “And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more fun working for myself than it was working for my dad,” he laughs.
Approaching his 70th birthday – the father of two grown children and the grandfather of three – Brad represents the end of the line for the restaurant business in his family. His daughter is a realtor and his son is a journalist – and he is enormously proud of them.
What began 17 years ago as a remedy to forced early retirement has now become a pleasant working retirement for Brad. “I’m very grateful that the restaurant turned out the way it has. In the beginning I worked around-the-clock, but now I’ve got seven employees and four of them have been here ten years or more,” he said, knocking on wood. Having such a stable and trustworthy staff allow Brad and his wife to take vacations to Europe and Asia.
“I’m going to continue to work, because I’m not working that much anymore. And it gets me out of the house every morning –makes me shave.”
Photos courtesy Black Dog Coffee.
Black Dog Coffee
5657 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Monday–Friday 7 AM–6 PM
Saturday–Sunday 8 AM–4 PM
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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"CAPS LOCK" • A Message from James O'Sullivan
a message from James O'Sullivan
This is one “Message from the President” that I am sorely tempted to type all in CAPS. In fact, it would be better to temporarily put aside my official capacity as President of the MMRA and bill this as a “Rant from a Exasperated Resident of Miracle Mile.”
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times
caught my attention and my ire at just about the same time. The story relates how the city of Los Angeles has a new head at the Department of Transportation, San Francisco’s Seleta Reynolds. I’m sure she will do her best to tame the beast that is traffic in L.A., but the City has been going about that ass-backwards since the first traffic study was done in 1915.
The story goes on-and-on about what she must do, but I particularly like the following: “Among the biggest changes at the department is a push to put key streets on ‘road diets,’ taking away car lanes and using the additional space for bus-only lanes, wider sidewalks or dedicated bicycle lanes. Some of those efforts have met resistance in some neighborhoods.”
Personally, I want to put the City of Los Angeles councilmembers on a diet – a financial diet by slashing their salaries from the $190,000 a year range to an amount made by the majority of working stiffs. Then I would dock their salaries by every penny they give away to developers. But that’s just me.
Then there is this gem from the same article: “Garcetti's pick shows ‘without a doubt’ that the mayor is trying to reduce the emphasis on cars at the city's transportation agency and give more attention to bicyclists and pedestrians. Reynolds is known nationally for her work in making cities more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.”
I have a better idea – let’s ban all new development and the nasty car trips they generate? Or why not just ban cars entirely? That way everyone can walk, ride a bike, or hop on a bus to get to work. If we spend hours more getting to our jobs business will just have to understand, right?
piece is filled with quotes from this and that Councilmember about the evils of cars. How the mission of the Department of Transportation must go beyond "an engineering-based perspective about cars.”
I have a question: what reality do these people live in? I wish they would all read the 1915 traffic study – and every one produced after that time – and maybe they would understand that the errors and omissions the City has made since 1915 exacerbated the traffic problems as the City expanded. We could have started on a subway then and widened the streets and sidewalks. Instead of fixing what they knew was wrong, they expanded and expanded beyond the Pueblo and baked in the problems.
Maybe it’s time to have another serious discussion about breaking up this seriously flawed city into smaller, better managed ones.
Oh, and yes, you can count the Miracle Mile as one of those neighborhoods that has serious problems with “road diets” – AKA bike lanes. Road diets also involve taking away street parking!
SO, NO ROAD DIET FOR 6TH STREET!
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Miracle Mile Real Estate • June 2014 Sales
Miracle Mile Real Estate
June 2014 Sales
929 South Stanley Ave.
3 bdrm, 3 bath
1,831 sq. ft.
lot: 5,274 sq. ft.
listing price: $1,135,000
sale price: $1,150,000
sale date: 6-04-2014
5601 West Olympic Blvd. #301
3 bdrm, 2 bath
1,512 sq. ft.
listing price: $689,000
sale price: $680,000
sale date: 6-27-2014
5848 West Olympic Blvd. #106
2 bdrm, 2.5 bath
1,551 sq. ft.
listing price: $699,000
sale price: $670,000
sale date: 6-06-2014
829 South Curson Ave.
2 - 3 bdrm, 3 bath
lot: 5,501 sq.ft
listing price: $1,999,500
sale price: $1,850,000
sale date: 6-20-2014
1049 South Stanley Ave.
1 - 2 bdrm, 1.5 bath
1 - 1 bdrm, 1 bath
lot: 5,227 sq.ft
listing price: $809,000
sale price: $800,000
sale date: 6-30-2014
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