Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter • August 2013

Miracle Mile
Residential Association

Newsletter • August 2013 • Los Angeles, California                                                                                                    

 share on Twitter    Like MMRA August 2013 Newsletter • Tom Bergin's Closes: What Happened? on Facebook


Tom Bergin's Closes: What Happened?
MMRA Opposes Subway Work Hours Exemptions
Construction Begins on Desmond's Apartment Project

"Never Built: Los Angeles" Opens at the A+D Museum

Miracle Mile Real Estate • July 2013 Sales
American Contemporary Ballet Seeks Housing for Dancers
(...below the fold...)

Tom Bergin’s Closes: What Happened?

(Photograph courtesy of

The sudden closing on July 7th of the iconic Tom Bergin’s, the oldest eatery and tavern in the Miracle Mile, created much surprise, mourning, anger, and speculation on social networks about the events surrounding the demise of the historic establishment.
It began July 3rd with an announcement on Bergin's Facebook page: "We are sorry to let everyone know that this Sunday will be Tom Bergin's last day of business. Please join us in our last few days; we'd love to see as many familiar faces as possible."
Instantly, social networks and an array of websites buzzed with the news. A “Keep Tom Bergin’s Open” Facebook page was quickly created. Cyberspace was filled with heartfelt tributes as well as rants criticizing Bergin’s owner, Warner Ebbink, for “ruining” the restaurant. Rumors were spun that the venerable building was going to be demolished as part of the development project at Shalhevet School (Bergin’s neighbor on the south).
Fears of Bergin's destruction were fueled by Ebbink’s initial reticence with the press. Finally, he shed some light on the situation in another Facebook posting: "The current management team is actively seeking a buyer with the intention of preserving this historic property intact. Once doors close on Sunday, every fixture, every shamrock, will remain untouched until an appropriate operator steps forward to purchase the property. While Bergin's is a widely beloved landmark, a sluggish economy and insufficient sales made it difficult to sustain as a business.”
This posting unleashed a new round of criticism of Ebbink's management of Bergin's. Ebbink, who owns Dominick's, Little Dom's and the 101 Coffee Shoppurchased Tom Bergin’s from long-time owner T. K. Vodney in 2011 and then shut it down for a lengthy remodeling. Despite fears that the improvements would destroy its historic character, the remodeling principally involved relocating the main entrance to the middle of the building and the construction of new restrooms to comply with ADA regulations. The interior was left largely intact and a new roof and kitchen were also installed.
The restaurant re-opened in May 2012 with a new menu that still featured a few of the favorite dishes, but the food prices had increased – although drink prices were unchanged. Some people on the web blamed shutting down so long for remodeling and the more expensive menu for driving away many of the regular customers. Others railed against what they perceived as the owner’s interest in attracting the “hipster” crowd instead of locals. The consensus on the social networks was that – despite improvements to the facility and the menu – the “neighborhood watering hole” vibe that existed for over six decades had been lost in the translation from the old establishment to the new-and-improved version.
"We've been in business almost a year and a half and there weren’t enough sales to sustain the business," Ebbink was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "While we have a long and loyal list of Bergin's regulars, I just think not enough of them have patronized it consistently."
A listing for the property soon appeared on offering the property for sale at $3.9 million. And a grass roots effort composed of Miracle Mile residents and Bergin’s regulars sprung up to seek landmark protection for the restaurant.
On July 11th the MMRA Board of Directors approved a motion supporting Historical-Cultural Monument [HCM] status for Bergin’s. The MMRA offered to work with all parties interested in submitting an application to the Los Angeles City Office of Historical Resources.
The MMRA also made an effort to squash rumors that the Shalhevet development played any role in Bergin’s closing. Plans for a new school building and a mixed-use apartment project on the southern end on the Shalhevet parcel were long underway before Bergin’s closing (see May 2013 edition of the MMRA newletter). Ebbink and Rabbi Ari Segal, headmaster of Shalhevet, confirmed at a July meeting of the Mid City West Community Council that the Shalhevet development had no bearing on Ebbink’s decision to go out of business – nor is Shalhevet interested in acquiring the Bergin’s property.
On July 14th MMRA vice president Ken Hixon met with Ebbink to discuss the closure of Bergin’s. Ebbink, who has enjoyed much success with his other restaurants, was forthright in his conversation with Hixon. He v
olunteered that he had probably spent too much on remodeling and restoring the restaurant and that those costs coupled with the purchase of the property saddled him with a debt service greater than the monthly cash flow could support. He also conceded that the business model of his Los Feliz and Hollywood restaurants were obviously not a good fit for the Miracle Mile.
Ebbink told Hixon that he was considering several offers from parties interested in either purchasing or leasing the property and re-opening Tom Bergin’s. He stated that given his financial exposure he was motivated to quickly close a deal and that – although he supported HCM status for Bergin’s – he was concerned that if a HCM application was submitted during his negotiations with a new operator it would complicate or obstruct the close of escrow and/or the transfer of the liquor license.
Given Ebbink’s candor and the possibility that the immediate pursuit of HCM status might impede the re-opening of Bergin’s, the MMRA agreed that it would be wise to delay the filing of an HCM application until the sale and/or transfer of the business is concluded. On July 15th the MMRA issued a public statement asking all interested parties to temporarily suspend their efforts to secure HCM status for Bergin’s.
The statement explained that: “If, indeed, Tom Bergin’s is leased and Mr. Ebbink remains as owner of the property, he is happy to cooperate with all interested parties in securing HCM status. If Mr. Ebbink succeeds in selling the property the cooperation of the new owner is not relevant to the HCM application process – it can resume and be pursued with or without the consent of the future property owner. Although, any prospective buyer would be made fully aware that the community is actively engaged in securing HCM status for the property.
“The MMRA believes that Mr. Ebbink is sincere about preserving Tom Bergin’s – both as an historical landmark and as business. We are also confident that Bergin’s will obtain HCM status and the MMRA will continue to support this objective.”
Hixon attended the July 22nd meeting of the Mid City West Community Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee to advise them on the MMRA’s interest in both achieving HCM status for Bergin’s and seeing it continue as a viable business – and to explain why the timing of filing an HCM application is so sensitive to obtaining this goal. The committee members were supportive of the MMRA’s position.
Mr. Ebbink has maintained close contact with the MMRA. Since his meeting with Hixon on July 14th additional offers have been made. At the time of the publication of this newsletter, Ebbink is evaluating five purchase offers and two lease offers. All of these offers are from experienced restauranteurs who wish to re-open Tom Bergin's and continue its operation. The counter-offer and due diligence process is well underway and Ebbink is optimistic that negotiations with a new operator will be formalized soon.

For additional information:

Park Labrea News/Beverly Press: Patrons rally to save Tom Bergin's

Los Angeles Times: Goodbye to Tom Bergin's (by Jonathan Gold)

A short history of Tom Bergins…

Tom Bergin's is one of the oldest restaurant/bars in continuous operation in Los Angeles. Originally opened in 1936 at 6110 Wilshire Boulevard by it namesake, lawyer Tom Bergin (pictured right with Bing Crosby), the establishment was originally called the “Old Horseshoe Tavern and Thoroughbred Club” in honor of a Boston bar owned by Bergin’s uncle. The Bergin family had been in the liquor business in the Boston area since the 1850s.
Bergin's soon became a favorite hang-out for horsemen, sports fans, Irish ex-patriots, and Hollywood stars, including Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, Glen Ford and – decades later – Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Pierce Brosnan.

Many of Bergin’s bartenders, like Chris Doyle and Michael O’Dwyer, also earned celebrity-status for the length of their tenure and their skills mixing drinks and handling drunks. Waiter Rudy Ochoa served countless diners for 38 years until his retirement in 2000.
When the lease at the original Wilshire Boulevard location expired in 1948, Bergin built a new tavern and eatery at 840 South Fairfax Avenue and rechristened it “Tom Bergin’s Horseshoe Tavern.” One of the many tall-tales about Bergin's is how employees and customers carried the pub’s legendary horseshoe-shaped bar three blocks south to its new home. The horseshoe bar and its colorful bartenders and regulars are reputedly the inspiration for the 1980s sitcom Cheers.
Soon after moving to its new location, the "shamrock" tradition began to honor regulars. Each shamrock was handmade and painted with the favored customer's last name. Eventually over 7,000 shamrocks decorated the walls and ceiling.
The bar’s infamy grew with its Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, which drew large crowds of revelers. In 1978 the occasion included a publicity stunt for a horseracing movie starring Walter Matthau: a quarter horse was brought into the tavern and served a bucket of Guinness.
Tom Bergin retired in 1978 and sold the business to T. K. Vodrey and Mike Mandekic.  Vodrey continued on alone after Mandekic’s departure in 1998. Vodrey retired in 2011 and sold the property and business to Warner Ebbink. 

MMRA Opposes Subway Work Hours Exemptions

MMRA Opposes Subway Work Hours Exemptions

 Illustration of "cut and cover" construction of subway station at Wilshire and Fairfax.
(Courtesy of Metro.)

On July 23rd the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] released a letter written to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Agency [Metro] detailing the MMRA’s opposition to exemptions from city work hours ordinances that Metro is seeking for construction of the Wilshire-LaBrea and Wilshire-Orange Grove subway stations, which is scheduled to begin in 2014. Metro estimates that construction of the stations and the subway tunnel through the Miracle Mile will take nine years.
The underground stations, which are 800-to-1000 feet long and 70 feet wide, are constructed from the surface and will involve massive excavation, pile driving, and temporary decking of Wilshire Boulevard. The construction staging sites for these two stations will extend well into residential areas. The disruption to the residents, businesses, and museums in the Miracle Mile will be on an immense scale. The impact on our community would be greatly exacerbated if Metro were permitted to conduct construction activities at night, during rush hour traffic periods, and over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Metro is seeking similar work hours exemptions for the Regional Connector – the underground project connecting downtown subway and light rail routes – and encountering similar resistance from downtown residents and businesses.
Google satellite view of the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue (left).
The area to be excavated for the underground subway station is outlined in blue.
The area shaded in blue at the upper left, on the northwest corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, is a construction staging site. Johnie’s Coffee Shop will be preserved; Marinello School of Beauty will be demolished.
The area shaded in blue at the lower right, on Wilshire between Orange Grove and Ogden, is the subway station entrance and a construction staging site. All of the structures along Wilshire will be demolished, as will two duplexes on Orange Grove.
Google satellite view of the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue (left).
The area to be excavated for the underground subway station is outlined in blue.
The area shaded in blue at the upper center, on the northwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea, is the subway station entrance and a construction staging site. The Metro Customer Service Center and former Blockbuster’s building will be demolished.
The area shaded in blue at the lower center, on the southwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea, is a construction staging site. All of the structures at this location will be demolished, including the Bank of America and Albertson’s Wedding Chapel.

(NOTE: the soon to be completed BRE apartment project at the southeast corner of Wilshire and La Brea is not shown in this satellite view.)
For additional information:
MMRA letter to METRO
Metro Purple Line Extension Construction Fact Sheet
Los Angeles Downtown News: For Regional Connector,
Metro Wants Things to Go Bump in the Night



Construction Begins on Desmond’s Apartment Project

Construction Begins on
Desmond’s Apartment Project

Work began in early July on the long-delayed “Desmond’s on Wilshire” project: a 175-unit apartment building being constructed on the parking lot behind the Desmond’s building at 5500 Wilshire Boulevard.
The historic art deco building and parking lot property was purchased by Ohio based Associated Estates Realty Corporation [AERC] in May 2012. The acquisition of the 2.2-acre site came with an entitlement allowing for the construction of up to 175 apartments and a parking structure. According to a LA Curbed article published last year, rents will range from $2,600 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $3,300 per month for a tw0-bedroom unit.
The genesis of this project began in 2005 when the property was acquired for an undisclosed sum by Legacy Partners, who announced plans to build condominiums on the parking lot south of the original building. Legacy negotiated with the City and the MMRA to secure the necessary approvals but never commenced construction due to the collapse of the real estate market in 2008. Legacy sold the building and parking lot to AERC for $37 million. AERC plans to spend $70 million on the new parking structure and apartment building.
The Wilshire Tower, as the Desmond’s building was originally named, was completed in 1929. The 11-story tower with its curved two-story base was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood. Desmond’s Department Store and Silverwood’s, a popular men’s clothier, were the first tenants in the building. Signs promoting these stores are still in place on at the top of the tower. The success of these retailers prompted downtown merchants to migrate westward to the Miracle Mile and launched a thriving shopping district.

The tower, which was designated a Historical-Cultural Monument in 1987, has long been a popular location for architect’s offices. Today the building’s most prominent tenant is the internationally known Ace Gallery, which has a five-year option to purchase the original building for $20 million.

For additional information:

Wikipedia biography of architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood

Los Angeles Business Journal:
Residential Developer Has Lot to Work With in L.A.


"Never Built: Los Angeles" Opens at A+D Museum

Original 1952 plan for LAX by Periera and Luckman.

Never Built: Los Angeles,
an exhibition of sometimes visionary and often grandiose urban projects that never made it off the drawing boards opened July 27th at the A + D Architecture and Design Museum on Museum Row. It brilliantly examines a treasure trove of unrealized buildings, parks, master plans, and transportation concepts that – for better and for worse – would have dramatically reshaped Los Angeles.
Curated by Sam Lubell and Miracle Mile resident Greg Goldin – who have co-authored a recently published book of the same name – the exhibition, designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects, explores the unfulfilled dreams of planners, architects, and developers via their words, blueprints, renderings, models, maps, and 3D animations – as well as an eleven foot tall Lego model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s never built Catholic Cathedral. The plethora of obstacles – technical, financial, and political – that these bold and often controversial projects encountered are remarkably familiar to the modern observer.
The exhibition is two years in the making. Lubell and Goldin combed through dozens of archives and selected nearly 50 projects spanning many decades, including Olmsted’s and Bartholomew's groundbreaking 1930 "Plan for the Los Angeles Region" and a far-sighted 1925 initiative to construct over 100 miles of subway tunnels that would put our current mass transportation projects to shame.
Lubell’s and Goldin’s objective is to “expose people to a history of the city they didn't know existed and spur them to push for a more innovative, ambitious culture of design and urbanism in the city."
Never Built: Los Angeles will continue through Sunday, October 13. Museum admission costs $10 for regular entry and $5 for students and seniors. Children under 12 and museum members enter for free. Guests with TAP cards, Metro Employee IDs or L.A. County Employee IDs save $5 on admission.
A+D Architecture & Design Museum
6032 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (323) 932-9393

SoCal Connected: Interview with Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin
(Click on image to view video) (Click on image)


Miracle Mile Real Estate • July 2013 Sales

Miracle Mile Real Estate
July 2012 Sales

932 S. Cloverdale Ave.
3 bdrm, 2.74 bath, 2,565 sq. ft.
lot: 6,657 sq. ft.
listing price: $1,299,000
sale price: $1,299,000
sale date: 7-18-2013

1127 S. Ridgeley Drive
5 bdrm, 3 bath, 1,992 sq. ft.
lot: 6,347 sq. ft.
listing price: $899,000
sale price: $890,000
sale date: 7-15-2013

1002 S. Burnside Ave #103
2 bdrm, 2 bath, 1,286 sq. ft.
listing price: $499,000
sale price: $510,000
sale date: 7-1-2013

5848 W. Olympic Blvd #108
2 bdrm, 3 bath, 1,473 sq. ft.
listing price: $524,000
sale price: $520,000
sale date: 7-10-2013

5852 San Vicente Blvd
duplex, 4,549 sq. ft.
unit #1: 4 bdrm, 3 bath
unit #2: 3 bdrm, 2 bath
listing price: $1,495,000
sale price: $1,370,000
sale date: 7-9-2013

848 S. Curson Ave
duplex, 4,117 sq. ft.
unit #1: 3 bdrm, 2 bath
unit #2: 3 bdrm, 2 bath
listing price: $1,419,000
sale price: $1,500,000
sale date: 7-17-2013



American Contemporary Ballet Seeks Housing for Dancers

Seeks Housing
for Dancers

The American Contemporary Ballet [ACB] – featured in the July MMRA newsletter – is reaching out to its neighbors in the Miracle Mile to find affordable or rent-free housing for members of their company. Young dancers come from all over the country to work with the innovative troupe, which is headquartered in the eastern pavilion of the Variety Building at 5900 Wilshire Boulevard.
“As with many young artists and arts organizations, budgets are tight and you survive on limited funds,” explained Theresa Farrell, Associate Artistic Director. “Their chief expense is housing. It would be ideal if a family in the Miracle Mile had a spare room or guest quarters that they could offer for free or for a token rent. These young women are highly motivated, disciplined, gracious, and would make lovely house guests.”
ACB currently has ten dancers under contract May through August and, at present, four dancers under contract September through May 2014. The dancers require quarters that are safe and quiet with access to a kitchen. Ms. Farrell would be happy to arrange a visit to a rehearsal of the dance company for interested host families.
Theresa Farrell, Associate Artistic Director
American Contemporary Ballet

On August 16th and 17th the final performances of the ACB season will take place at the ACB DanceSpace in the Variety Building as part of their Music+Dance: L.A. collaboration with the Da Camera Society. They will debut two new ballets to music by Debussy and Britten.
For tickets and additional information:
Da Camera Society Concerts


(...below the fold...)


MMRA Board Meeting
August 1, 2013
@ 7 PM

Due to the Rosh

meeting will be held
August 29, 2013
@7 PM

Board meetings
are held at
the Berch Lounge
Westside Jewish
Community Center

5870 Olympic Blvd.
on the first Thursday of each month.

All are welcome.

In the news:


Meals by Genet, the Ethopian restaurant at 1053 South Fairfax Avenue, is the only restaurant in our guide to appear in Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants for 2013. Read his review here...

Miracle Mile
History Quiz

In a tip of the hat to the A+D Museum's new exhibition, Never Built: Los Angeles, we present Never Built: Miracle Mile. To find out more about the circa 1929 project illustrated above click on the image.

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Miracle Mile
Residential Association
James O’Sullivan, President

Alice S. Cassidy, Vice President

Joseph Steins, Treasurer

Ken Hixon, Vice President/
Newsletter Editor

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Copyright © 2013 Miracle Mile Residential Association.  All rights reserved.

Miracle Mile Residential Association
P.O. Box 361295
Los Angles, CA 90036-9495


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