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A Perfect Storm
Battle Lines are Drawn on the Proposed
Neighborhood Integrity Initiative
~ a word from the Editor
Thunderstorms are an infrequent occurrence in Los Angeles. Last November all sides in the ongoing and often litigious development wars in Los Angeles – those who see density as a cure for all that ails us and those NIMBYs who want to embalm L.A. as it was 20 years ago – were caught off guard by the sound of thunder. A group named the Coalition to Preserve L.A. proposed a ballot measure that would establish a moratorium of up to two years for any development project that does not adhere to existing planning regulations or requires a City Council vote to change the zoning of a particular site. In simple terms, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative would hit the pause button on the “spot zoning” that allows a project to be bigger, taller, or have less parking than the existing rules permit.
At first, both friends and foes of development were puzzled and asked each other was that thunder? Then, when it was learned that Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, was spearheading the effort, everyone realized that a perfect storm was approaching.
Curiosity pivoted to alarm because Weinstein [photo left
] had recently demonstrated his political muscle and savvy by launching a successful ballot initiative to require condom use at adult film shoots. He’s brought former L.A. Weekly editor Jill Stewart on board as campaign director, so this shapes up to be a battle royale. [See video interview with Stewart below.
The battle-weary individuals and groups who have been fighting mega-developments for years reacted to proposed ballot measure quickly with astonished, but grateful relief: the cavalry was on the way. The proposed two-year moratorium on spot zoning offers a much needed cease fire. It is a game changer that would force the city to play by the rules.
It took a little longer for the pro-density, pro-development factions to realize that the not-so-distant thunder was actually the sound of incoming cannon fire. A poll revealing that 2 out of 3 residents support the proposed initiative was a real wake-up call. Recently opponents have mustered their forces and begun to fight back [see links below
Construction trade unions and affordable housing advocates are rallying their troops, too. And, Mayor Eric Garcetti suddenly hired a new city planning director and now professes a willingness to craft some compromise with initiative backers in hopes that a deal could derail the measure, which must collect over 60,000 signatures to get on the November 2016 ballot – a prerequisite that no one doubts will be met.
The distress of the pro-density group is compounded by the fact that all sides in the development wars acknowledge that spot zoning is the worst possible way to do urban planning – and its elimination is the most salient and sellable aspect of the ballot measure. But opponents of the initiative argue that the zoning rules are outdated, that it’s too difficult and time consuming to revise the community plans that establish the guidelines for new development. The only way that L.A. can change or grow to accommodate new housing, they say, is by granting parcel-by-parcel exemptions.
Initiative supporters counter that elected officials are trading these zoning exemptions for campaign contributions from real estate developers. The system is broken and they’re calling for a time-out to repair the procedures and restore trust in the planning process.
It is, indeed, a perfect storm. Both sides of the battle are beyond frustrated, they are furious with each other. The future of Los Angeles and its quality of life is at stake.
The Miracle Mile Residential Association is a non-partisan organization. Our most important responsibility is to provide the information our residents need to make well-informed decisions. In this issue of our newsletter we feature an opinion piece by Tim Deegan, a longtime community activist in the Miracle Mile, in support of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, as well as a video interview with Jill Stewart, the ballot measure’s campaign director.
The MMRA is committed to fully exploring all sides of the issue and as editor I look forward to providing those who oppose the initiative a full opportunity to make their case, whether it be in this newsletter or via an video interview on the MMRA Channel on YouTube
. Consider this your invitation. This is a debate that is long overdue. I welcome it. And I encourage the residents of the Miracle Mile – and the city at large – to do their homework and take a stand on what sort of Los Angeles they want to live in.
Photo of Michael Weinstein courtesy of the AIDS Heathcare Foundation
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Now Playing on the MMRA Channel on YouTube: The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative ~ A Conversation with Jill Stewart
Now Playing on the MMRA Channel on YouTube:
Click on image to view video.
The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative
A Conversation with Jill Stewart
Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a key player in the Coalition to Preserve L.A., utilized the word “powerhouse” to describe Jill Stewart when she joined the Coalition as Campaign Director.
Stewart is an award-winning journalist, editor and political analyst with an extensive background in urban affairs and government reporting. She recently stepped down as Managing Editor of the L.A. Weekly to helm the ballot measure to stem runaway mega-development in Los Angeles.
Her political acumen and intelligence are readily displayed in this conversation with MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon. Stewart makes a strong case for why the success of the initiative is imperative to preserving the quality of life in Los Angeles.
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Three-Card Monte and Bike Lanes ~ by James O'Sullivan,
Three-Card Monte and Bike Lanes
by James O’Sullivan, MMRA President
Three-card Monte is a confidence game in which the victim (the “mark”) bets that they can find the “money card” – typically the queen of hearts –among three face-down playing cards. It’s a shell game without the shells. Dealers employ sleight of hand and misdirection to prevent the mark from finding the queen. The bottom line is that the mark always loses.
City Hall plays a variation of this classic con game on its residents. They do so by constantly changing the rules, granting exemptions to the rules, or by changing the definition of the rules. And if all else fails they declare that they cannot afford to follow the rules. The rules are the queen of hearts in their version of the game: always moving and never what you think they are.
An example of how this sleight of hand works is in the General Plan, which in many parts says the city shall or will
do something. In the real world shall or will mean that if a person or entity doesn’t do what they say they will do they can be held responsible.
The city puts that kind of language into their grand plans to misdirect the citizens. The public thinks they have an iron-clad agreement, that they are protected, that they know exactly where the queen of hearts is. But, of course, they don’t.
When defrauded citizens challenge the city in court for not delivering promised mitigations or protections, the city argues that they don’t have to do what they said they would do because they don’t have the money to do so. And more times than not – out of respect for the legislative branch – the courts let the city of the hook.
Most voters do not understand the difference between political promises and iron-clad implementation. But the politicians do. Like a wise three-card Monte dealer, they always have an escape route in mind.
Sometimes they get really creative, as they did with their latest con game – Mobility Plan 2035 (MP 2035) – and they throw in new wrinkle or two. The plan’s authors designated it as “visionary” and “aspirational” in bold type. These words imply that the plan is nothing to be worried about, that it’s just a harmless wish list – akin to a child’s letter to Santa Claus. But those words were carefully selected to distract our attention from the real goal of MP 2035: to create bike lanes all over Los Angeles to serve the 1% of people who cycle to and from work or school.
Now, here’s a test. Try to follow the queen of hearts:
When the city’s bike plan was adopted in 2010 it became a part of the Transportation Element. It was an ambitious plan that proposed to add 1,684 miles of bike lanes all over Los Angeles. Many of us were caught off guard when we were not included in the early stages of the plan. But we were assured that there was no cause for alarm. So, we stepped up, engaged in the process, and made meaningful improvements to the plan. That resulted in the promise that every street that was to lose parking or traffic lanes had to go through an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
But then our leaders in Sacramento changed the rules of the game by removing the requirement to do an EIR for a bike lane with Assembly Bills (AB) 2245 and later 417. They still required a traffic and safety study and a mandate to provide mitigations, if called for.
Then along came MP 2035, which claimed to include the entire bike plan, but it does not include the promised protections contained in AB 417. There is absolutely no language in MP 2035 requiring compliance with AB 417. This means that the city will have the ability to create road diets by removing traffic lanes anywhere and anytime they desire without traffic or safety studies – and without any mitigations. They have already picked the streets and the treatments they intend to use (bike lane, bike track, or shared use). It’s all ready to go.
Did you know this? Of course not. How could you when the queen hearts is not even on the table. It’s in the dealer’s palm.
The Miracle Mile Residential Association has asked Councilmember Ryu to include an amendment to MP 2035 requiring conformance with AB 417 when the plan it goes back to the Planning Commission on February 11th. But we will be very surprised if the powers-that-be will allow it.
Instead, the city will do as they always do and fervently promise to include the public in the process of creating these bike lanes and the road diets necessary to achieve them. But they won’t be inclined to include AB 417 in the deal, because it would paint them into a corner of compliance. And, as I said, three-card Monte dealers always have an escape route in mind.
If that happens we are asking Councilman Ryu to continue being the voice of the people and vote no when MP 2035 comes back to the Council for approval.
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Metro to Go With Weekend Closures of Wilshire Blvd; Ryu Agrees ~ by Patricia Lombard
Metro to Go With Weekend Closures
of Wilshire Blvd – Ryu Agrees
by Patricia Lombard
February 9, 2016 – It’s official: the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), in partnership with L.A. City Council Member David Ryu, yesterday announced that Metro will pursue a weekend-only closure of Wilshire Blvd for the planned Wilshire/La Brea Station decking operation now anticipated to begin this summer.
The closure is needed to install a concrete deck that will serve as the temporary street surface while construction of the Wilshire/La Brea station, the first to be built in the Metro Purple Line Extension Project, continues underneath. The Metro Purple Line Extension Project will bring the subway further west along Wilshire, ultimately to the Westwood/VA Hospital.
Metro’s original, baseline schedule of 22 weekend-only closures for the Wilshire-La Brea decking work was selected over a last-minute alternative plan that would have fully closed Wilshire Boulevard, from Highland Ave. to La Brea 24/7 for seven consecutive weeks. But a consensus of community and business interests gathered over the last several months at more than 50 meetings ultimately favored the original weekend-only closure operation.
“We have heard the call of the community, and we will now move forward with this critical subway station work,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas, Metro Board Chair in a press release yesterday. “Our goal is to build this project on time, on budget and with minimal disruption in a safe and efficient manner. This decision reflects Metro and its contractor’s commitment to truly listen and respond to community concerns throughout the entire length of construction.”
“When this construction project is completed, the subway is going to be a great addition to Los Angeles,” added L.A. City Council Member Ryu. “Building it will present some challenges for people who live and work in the area and I appreciate Metro’s partnership to work with us throughout the process. Ultimately, I am so grateful to the many residents who were actively involved in this important community dialogue.”
The full 22-weekend closure schedule will consist of three separate decking phases on the affected section of Wilshire. The first phase will include three weekend closures from Detroit Street to La Brea Avenue. The second phase will include three weekends at the La Brea intersection. And the third and biggest phase will involve 16 consecutive weekend closures from La Brea Avenue to Highland Avenue. (Note that the six weekend closures from Detroit through La Brea would have also been part of the project had the 7-week closure option been chosen for La Brea to Highland.)
During each weekend, Wilshire be closed beginning at 9 p.m. Friday evening and will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday morning. Each phase of the project will have a different set of traffic plans, detour routes, and mitigations. Once complete, the concrete decking will allow traffic to continue to flow on the street while station construction occurs below ground for the next few years.
The actual decking operation is now anticipated to start in June 2016 (instead of the originally planned April 2016 start), allowing the contractor to thoroughly review traffic plans with LADOT and Board of Public Works between now and then. During the weekend closures, the contractor will also include other work activities, when possible, to help the overall construction proceed as efficiently as possible. No work or closures are planned during Memorial Day Weekend in May, the Fourth of July or Labor Day weekends.
Metro and its contractor will continue working on approvals of traffic plans for the weekend closures and anticipate that approved plans will go to Board of Public Works in March.
Metro’s Construction Relations team will also continue to work closely with L.A. City Council Member David Ryu, as well as LADOT, to update the community on all upcoming detours and mitigations as they are approved. Maps and materials will be available to businesses to help prepare their customers in advance.
Members of the public who are interested in tracking this project are invited to attend Metro’s next community construction meeting on Thursday, March 17, 6:30 p.m., at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Brown Auditorium, 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
For questions or concerns related to this work or any Purple Line Extension construction activity, the public can call Metro’s 24/7 project hotline at (213) 922-6934…or e-mail email@example.com.
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz, where this article first appeared. We are grateful to Patty and the Buzz for permission to republish it here.
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Knock on Wood We Don't Become Manhattanwood! ~ by Tim Deegan
Knock On Wood We Don’t Become Manhattanwood!
by Tim Deegan
Reform is in the air across the land, and it’s also evident in our city. The mood has been set by an angry national political debate that pits the 99% against the 1%, the haves versus the have-nots, and the far left against the far right. Here in LA, it’s more prosaic where there is a call to reform our out-of-control development plan for the city. People are angry and it’s bubbling up into lawsuits and litigation that have replaced reason. That must change. We must get a grip on land use.
There’s a ballot measure planned for the November elections asking the voters to weigh in on the land use and development policies in our city. Already, leaked murmurs from City Hall are calling for appeasement and conciliation to prevent this from happening.
But let’s not negotiate. The people need to speak on this one, not just compromise with politicians. Let’s get the issue out there to be fully vetted by the public; the public deserves to vote. Remember, it’s the people, not the revolving-door politicos, who make up the permanent government.
Politicos at the root of the land use regulation problem have been served notice: fixing the mess they’ve made may be taken out of their hands if the proposed Neighborhood Integrity Initiative
qualifies to appear on the November 8 ballot. It calls for a two-year timeout on all development that goes against existing zoning – a hiatus for all the winks and nods and special zoning variance favors between the politicos and developers.
Pro-growth advocates can be expected to do everything possible to halt this proposed ballot measure in its tracks. They are wealthy, enjoying unqualified political support at City Hall from the Mayor and City Councilmembers. This is why it is so crucial for the conversation to be elevated above the heads of the politicos to include the voice of the voters. If there’s a ballot measure in November the people will speak and the politicos will be forced to listen. No wonder the opposition is forming.
The clock is ticking and the players are scrambling, some to advocate and others to assail. The stakes are as sky high as the developers want their new buildings to be. In the run-up to the November vote, they will face greater scrutiny and city planners will be held more accountable; politicos will no longer be the masters of their districts when it comes to land use decisions – decisions that, until now, have needed only their sign-off on a variance to skirt around any kind of land use rhyme or reason.
Of all the players, the 15 councilmembers stand the most to lose. Financial support from developers is the high octane fuel powering the engines of many council offices and campaigns. Only one councilmember, David Ryu (CD4), has a website showing the transparency of his dealings with developers who do business in his district. Knocked as a naive newcomer, Ryu may be the last man standing if the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is passed by the voters on November 8. He looks even better because the others look so bad.
Anti-development sentiment is widespread but fractured. Each neighborhood seems to form its own splinter group with its own take on what’s good for them. Many have been tarred as NIMBY’s – a stigma that needs to change. A good start toward changing this perception has been launched by the Coalition to Preserve L.A. (CPLA) and its Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a grassroots-driven ballot measure seeking to rein in “mega” development in Los Angeles over the next few years.
According to CPLA’s Campaign Director Jill Stewart, "The November ballot measure will put a two-year timeout on all development that goes against existing zoning, and will force the City Council into a public process during that moratorium, to rewrite the 1980s-era General Plan. Most planning is spot rezoning that is done in back rooms then presented as a near-inevitability. We're seeing a huge number of older, affordable housing units destroyed to make way for luxury units, and destruction of neighborhood character, not to mention significantly worse surface street congestion.”
The developers’ mantra seems to be “let’s make a deal,” and it’s the politicos who are brokering those deals. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative says, “let’s deal the people in – all of the communities and neighborhoods that are being drastically affected by your back-room moves. Let them tell us what they want by voting “yes” or “no” on the ballot measure.”
Paving the way for the ballot measure signature drive is the start of the “Stop Manhattanwood” campaign that, says the campaign’s newly launched website
, “is a new awareness and advocacy campaign featuring billboards and online elements to educate concerned citizens in Los Angeles and elsewhere about the impact that tremendous growth and overdevelopment in Los Angeles – particularly in the Greater Hollywood area – is having on the overall quality of life in the city”.
For once, there is no Hollywood dream-factory hyperbole or political overstatement to this sobering fact: the land use policies of the city are a mess – physical Hollywood is the epicenter – though not the only area of concern.
So who are the known principal players right now in the battle that is shaping up?
There’s Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has a history being at the eye of the Hollywood overdevelopment storm starting as councilmember in CD13 when the wrecking ball started rolling, followed by his tenure as President of the City Council, and now as Mayor. Some say a run for Governor or Senator may be next for him. He has motive, means and opportunity to get the land use mess cleaned up – and maybe put smiles on the faces of voters.
Next up from the city is Garcetti’s newly appointed head of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning (LADCP) Vince Bertoni [photo right
], who brings more than 25 years of planning experience – including a previous stint at LADCP. When Bertoni was Deputy Planning Director in Los Angeles he oversaw the adoption of 16 historic preservation overlay zones (HPOZ) and a Hollywood community plan.
Nobody has stood up to say he or she is “for the status quo, for uncontrolled development,” and willing to take that side of the argument. It’s no wonder. Although an opposition is forming to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, the fight will eventually be joined.
So far there is no announced opposition, creating a vacuum allowing the advocates of reform to set the agenda and step into the empty space, claiming as much ground as possible before an opposition organizes and gets funded. The ballot measure team is off to a good start this week with twin programming launches – both billboards and ballot measure awareness outreach.
Leading advocates include the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) President Michael Weinstein and Coalition to Preserve L.A. (CPLA) Campaign Director Jill Stewart. This is a tough and determined team involving an organization renowned for advocacy, intended on educating area residents about the growing problem in the city and region, and particularly in the Greater Hollywood area.
An ad campaign using “Stop Manhattanwood” billboards has begun and can be seen at major intersections like Vine and Santa Monica; Cahuenga, north of Sunset (above the Jack in the Box); Sunset and Van Ness (near Denny’s); Melrose, west of La Brea; and at Western and Lexington Avenues. The campaign will run for three months, a prime time for gathering signatures for the ballot measure.
Synchronized to this effort is the Coalition to Preserve L.A.’s Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, supported by a grassroots group that will be gathering signatures to place the measure on the ballot. They must amass 61,486 signatures to qualify its measure for the November 8 ballot. A few days ago, the Los Angeles City Clerk informed the backers that they may begin circulating petitions.
The Coalition to Preserve LA (CPLA) will soon start the ballot signature process to qualify the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative for the November election. They will visit groups citywide to discuss the ballot measure and solicit citywide buy-in from individuals for the fight. Their aim is to build a volunteer corps trained in workshops that will help get out the message, to spread the word to neighbors. It’s like a political campaign.
So, the race is on. Nearly 100 years ago, when New York City was only a village, Rogers and Hart wrote the classic, “I’ll Take Manhattan, a song that has become part of “The Great American Songbook.” A century later, people in our sunny city are singing a different tune – “I’ll Take Manhattan? No, you can have it!”
Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the MidCity West Community Counci, and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece first appeared in CityWatch, edited by Miracle Mile resident Ken Draper. We are grateful for permission to republish it here.
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New Playground Equipment Installed at Wilshire Green Park
New Playground Equipment Installed
at Wilshire Green Park
A ribbon-cutting event was held January 26, 2016 for the rededication of the playground at Wilshire Green Park on 8th Street behind the Wilshire Courtyard complex. MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Caria Gorman, Wilshire Courtyard property manager, officiated the opening of the freshly remodeled play area, which features new play equipment, padded ground covering, and a new fence.
The playground was in need of updating and the original fence was corroded and unstable. Tishman Speyer, the current owner of the Wilshire Courtyard complex, spent over $70,000 on repairs and improvements.
Wilshire Green Park has unique status as a privately owned park operated for the public benefit. Tishman Speyer and the Miracle Mile Residential Association co-manage the park. The park was created in the early 1980s by Wilshire Courtyard developer Jerry Snyder and the MMRA as a buffer between the two-block long office complex and the adjacent residential area. The playground is named in honor of City Planning Director Calvin Hamilton who helped facilitate negotiations between Snyder and the MMRA.
In his remarks before cutting the ribbon, O’Sullivan related how the MMRA was created specifically to combat the original plans of Wilshire Courtyard, which at that time featured twin office towers with minimal set-back from 8th Street. O’Sullivan paid tribute to the MMRA’s founding president, Lynn Cohen, and developer Jerry Snyder for working so hard to devise an innovative means to mitigate the impacts of the project by building a park that has proved to be such an enduring asset to the neighborhood.
“I’m thrilled,” said O’Sullivan. “We have a great working relationship with Tishman Speyer. We met with them to discuss improvements to the park and they did exactly what they said they would do and then some. They have gone the extra mile.”
Nearly a dozen children waited eagerly for the grown-ups to complete the dedication ceremony. Once the ribbon was cut and the gate opened they rigorously tested the new play equipment. From their smiles it was evident that the new playground is quite a success.
From left: Caria Gorman, Wilshire Courtyard Property Manager; James O’Sullivan, MMRA President; and Desiree Cirrincione, Director, Tishman Speyer.
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Lassens Opens Miracle Mile Store on La Brea near Wilshire
Lassens Opens Miracle Mile Store
on La Brea Near Wilshire
After a long wait, Lassens Natural Foods and Vitamins unveiled their new La Brea Avenue branch. The family-owned organic grocery chain opened their new 12,000-square-foot store at 719 S. La Brea Avenue. The operating hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10AM to 7PM.
Lassens specializes in organic groceries, meat and produce, as well as vitamins and healthcare products. The family-owned Ventura County-based company was founded in 1971 and has 10 stores throughout California. The other stores in the Los Angeles area are located in Los Feliz and Echo Park.
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Construction Zone ~ Updates on Projects Undeway in the Miracle Mile
Updates on Projects Underway in the Miracle Mile
Demolition began of the 1946 northern annex to the former May Co. building to make way for the Academy Museum. The façade of the original 1939 portion of the structure is a Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monument and will be preserved and restored. The interior of the original building will be extensively reconfigured to serve as a museum of motion picture history.
The Missionaries Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit are remodeling and expanding their convent adjacent to Cathedral Chapel School on the northeast corner of Dunsmuir and 8th Street. The new building will serve as a residence for novitiates and retired Sisters, as well as an administration office. The convent had been previously occupied by the Sisters of Saint Louis. After their departure in 1987, the Guadalupanas Sisters were invited to use the facilities as their novitiate. In 1994, Cathedral Chapel Parish sold the convent to the Missionaries of Guadalupanas.
Metro has demolished all of the buildings on the south side of Wilshire between Orange Grove and Odgen. The site will be used as a staging yard for the construction of the Wilshire/Fairfax subway station. MMRA executive officers James O’Sullivan, Alice Cassidy, and Ken Hixon met with Metro officials and contractor representatives to review mitigation plans for the site on February 9th. Discussions focused on the location of the gates to the construction yard and shifting the existing crosswalk on the west side of Wilshire and Odgen to the east side of the intersection to enhance pedestrian safety.
Construction continues on the “Desmond on Wilshire” – a seven-story, 175 unit apartment building behind the landmark Desmonds Tower at 5500 Wilshire Boulevard. The project broke ground over two years ago. The $70 million development has fallen significantly behind schedule, with completion slated for this summer. The Desmond is being developed by Associated Estates Realty, a national developer specializing in apartment communities.
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Miracle Mile Real Estate • January 2016 Sales
Miracle Mile Real Estate
• January 2016 Sales •
1130 Hauser Blvd.
3 bdrm; 2 bath
1,726 sq. ft
lot: 4,964 sq. ft.
listed price: $999,950
sale price: $995,000
sale date: 1/6/2016
1042 S. Burnside Ave.
3 bdrm; 2 bath
1,737 sq. ft.
lot: 6,828 sq. ft.
listed price: $1,295,000
sale price: $1,305,000
sale date: 1/25/2016
801 S. Burnside Ave.
5 bdrm; 4 bath
3,221 sq. ft.
lot: 7,862 sq. ft.
listed price: $1,699,000
sale price: $1,630,000
sale date: 1/27/2016
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(...below the fold...)