IN THE JANUARY NEWSLETTER:
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Neighborhood Councils Give Thumbs Down
on 7 Week Closure of Wilshire
for Subway Construction
MMRA Officers Agree
At a community meeting on January 11, 2015, Metro presented a Transportation Management Plan for one of two closure options for the decking of Wilshire Boulevard to allow for underground construction of the La Brea subway station. A video of the meeting is available on the MMRA Channel on YouTube [see link below].
Metro originally planned to do the decking of Wilshire from Orange Drive to La Brea over 16 weekends, with an additional 6 weekends for the decking from La Brea to Detroit (for a total of 22 weekends). But last Fall Metro proposed an alternate plan to close Wilshire from Highland to La Brea for 7 full weeks to do the decking from Orange Drive to La Brea, in lieu of 16 weekends.
The MMRA and other community organizations, with the strong support of Councilman David Ryu, demanded that Metro supply more details about the traffic impacts of a full 7 week closure so that all of the stakeholders could make a well informed decision on the proposal.
After reviewing the Transportation Management Plan developed by Metro [see link below], which lays out how they would detour traffic for the 7 week closure, Mid City West Community Council (MCWCC) and Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC) voted to oppose the full closure Wilshire and endorsed Metro’s original plan to confine decking work between Orange and La Brea to 16 consecutive weekends.
Metro Community Meeting • 11 Jan 2016. Click on image to view video.
The executive officers of the MMRA have also found the mitigations in the Traffic Management Plan to be insufficient and support the decisions made by MCWCC and GWNC.
Confining the decking activities to weekends would require around-the-clock construction, which would create serious nighttime noise disturbances for nearby residents along Wilshire. Although the MMRA has led the fight against the noise emanating from nighttime subway construction, the officers feel that safety must trump noise issues.
The full 7 week closure would create a tsunami of detoured traffic on Highland, Fairfax, Olympic, and 3rd Street that would greatly impact children going to and from the many schools in our area. John Burroughs Middle School would be at the epicenter of the chaos as westbound traffic on Wilshire would be detoured onto Highland.
Weekend traffic on Wilshire is substantially lighter and would result in less neighborhood traffic intrusion, particularly on 8th Street – which is already experiencing near gridlock conditions during peak hours on weekdays.
Full Closure Detour Routes. Click on image to enlarge.
Metro has made improvements in reducing nighttime construction noise since they began utility relocations two years ago. It is the hope of the MMRA officers that extensive noise mitigations will be utilized during the weekend closures of Wilshire to reduce nighttime disturbances to nearby residents.
“This is a choice between lesser evils,” explained MMRA President James O’Sullivan. “Closing down Wilshire for a total of 22 weekends won’t be easy on the residents and businesses, but shutting the street for almost two months would create complete havoc. It would be great for the subway contractor, but it would be a living hell for residents, schoolchildren, pedestrians, bus riders, businesses and employers in the Miracle Mile.”
The executive officers will submit a motion opposing the 7 week full closure of Wilshire to the MMRA board of directors for their approval at our next meeting on February 2, 2016.
Metro will conduct another community meeting of this issue on Thursday, 21 January 2016, 6:30–8:30 PM, at Los Angeles High School, Corwin Theatre, 4650 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90019.
For additional information:
Larchmont Buzz, 14 Jan 2016: Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Votes to Support 16-Weekend Closure for Wilshire
Larchmont Buzz, 13 Jan 2016: Mid City West Community Council Votes to Support 16 Weekend Closure Plan for Wilshire
Metro/Skanska-Traylor-Shea, 22 Dec 2015: Westside Subway Extension, La Brea Station Decking Wilshire Street Closure, Transportation Management Plan (Draft)
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Tom LaBonge's Spending Spree
Tom LaBonge’s Spending Spree
by James O’Sullivan, MMRA President
By the time Tom LaBonge [photo below] termed out of the City Council in June 2015 his City Hall office was a mess. Shades of the fall of Saigon, file cabinets were emptied and records were shredded or just vanished. Not a single piece of paper was left for the incoming David Ryu administration. Council District Four residents who had been asking for assistance with problems or filing complaints were out of luck because there were no records for Ryu’s staff to respond to.
To make matters even worse LaBonge had gone on a last minute spending spree. He promised to hand out over $600,000 in discretionary funds to various groups with no documentation to show how these expenditures had been earmarked or why.
When those of us who closely follow City Hall found out that LaBonge had emptied the CD 4 bank account we were stunned because the use of discretionary funds had been a major issue in the runoff election between Carolyn Ramsey, LaBonge’s former Chief of Staff, and David Ryu. For many voters LaBonge passing out money like Halloween candy was the last straw that pushed them into Ryu’s camp. Ryu won the election hands down. (We can only speculate if those funds and files would have been left intact if Ramsey had been elected.)
In order to bring some sanity to the situation, on his first day in office Councilman Ryu filed motions to have LaBonge’s spending spree rolled back. On July 28, 2015 the City Council voted 15-0 to do just that. They cancelled LaBonge commitments and declared that these funds were unencumbered. Ryu then appointed a committee of stakeholders to advise him in this effort to review LaBonge’s pledges, but with no paperwork to go on the effort has been extremely daunting. The committee has been diligently trying to help the Councilman examine the requests and appropriately reallocate funds. But the task is complicated. Did the groups listed by LaBonge as needing public funds actually apply for them or was this LaBonge’s peevish attempt to empty the coffers before he left office?
There are legitimate and pressings needs for discretionary funds in CD 4: trees to be trimmed, potholes to be filled, sidewalks to be fixed, and the list goes on! Which of the projects on LaBonge’s list should be funded, which should not? This is public money and each group should have to step forward and make their case for the funds to the Council office – and to the public.
The list of LaBonge’s giveaways ranged from Parent Teacher Associations to museums. It also appears that some funds were earmarked for projects outside of Council District Four – these are probably the most egregious items.
The amounts on LaBonge’s list range from $2500 to $50,000. Some names are recognizable while others are not. All are just a simple line entry on a page that lists the names and amount. There are no supporting documents illuminating why one group was to get money and others were not. To many this is the perfect example of a slush fund: opaque, arbitrary, and subjective.
One name and amount on LaBonge’s ledger immediately jumped off the page: Museum Associates was to get $50,000 to finance a way-finding project involving signage along Museum Row.
I had to look at it several times to make sure I was really seeing what I was seeing. Museum Associates is a privately owned 501(c)(3) non-profit doing business as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
This group receives around $30-million a year from the County to run LACMA and is also slated to get another $125-million from the County to build its new museum on Wilshire Boulevard. Museum Associates also owns the old May Company property were the Motion Picture Academy is being built – as well as its Spaulding parking lot and 6006 Wilshire Boulevard. So, the first thought that came to mind was does LACMA really need $50,000 from the CD 4 discretionary fund and if so, why?
In a letter LaBonge submitted to the City Council on July 28, 2015, he asked them to leave his financial gifts in place and not return the funds to Councilman Ryu. LaBonge claimed he was fulfilling a $ 100,000 commitment to Los Angeles County by giving $50,000 to LACMA and $50,000 to the Ford Museum. That actually should be fairly easy to check out. An inquiry to the County should turn up something that references such a commitment.
Museum Associates should also be of help as they have a personal service contract with an independent contractor detailing plans for a way-finding plan to promote LACMA and other Miracle Mile museums. That contract mentions a grant from the city that will be used to pay the contractor. Surely there is something in writing that Museum Associates can produce that details the conditions of such a grant? The project may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but what elevated it above all the other needs in CD 4?
Again, these are public funds and there must be a paper trail documenting the basis for this grant. Without that the specter of quid pro quo will forever hang over all of these funds and projects.
David Ryu is committed to an open and transparent process in this matter. He promises to come up with a grant proposal system that all must comply with. There is already a template that many Neighborhood Councils use to help them in this process. Whether a Neighborhood Council or a Council Office, there needs to be a rational and fair way to vet the expenditure of public money. After all, it’s our money – not Tom LaBonge’s.
Photo of Tom LaBonge courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.
For additional information:
Los Feliz Ledger, 1 April 2015: LaBonge Questioned Over Possible Misuse of Funds
Los Feliz Ledger, 25 Nov 2015: LaBonge Document Inquiry Sought
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Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is Aiming to Take On Large Developments in L.A
Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is Aiming
to Take On Large Developments in L.A.
Ballot measure proposed to cut down on housing density in L.A.
by Deidre Woollard
A Hollywood-based nonprofit group, the Coalition to Preserve L.A., is making big moves against large developments in L.A. The organization drafted a ballot measure known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative
to crackdown on large real estate development projects, and recently hired former L.A. Weekly managing editor Jill Stewart as its campaign director.
Part of the ballot measure’s terms call for a moratorium of up to two years for real estate projects that require an increase in the allowable density. The measure would also take preparation of the Environmental Impact Report out of the hands of developers and limit the developer’s ability to reduce required parking for building developments.
The coalition must gather 61,486 signatures to qualify its measure for the ballot and be part of the November 8 ballot. The nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation is backing the coalition and providing primary funding for the campaign, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times
Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he plans to meet with the coalition to see if a compromise can be reached to avoid a public vote and has stated that certain restrictions in the drafted ballot measure could limit developers’ ability to provide housing construction that he sees as being much needed in Los Angeles.
Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been vehement in his opposition to more development. In a press release distributed December 15
“With rents in Los Angeles climbing just as high as the towering, ‘mega’ structures developers want to throw up across the city, almost 60 percent of L.A. renters are now spending more than the recommended 30 percent of their income just to keep a roof over their heads. The time is now for the City of Los Angeles Planning Department and City Hall to stop being pawns of greedy developers and to start acting strategically on behalf of the Los Angeles residents who voted them into office and want real solutions to the housing crunch.”
Large developments in L.A. creating tension…
Weinstein’s initiative is citywide but he is focusing specifically on the Hollywood area, which has seen an increase in the amount of high-rise development projects including the Palladium Project [image above]. He has called it a microcosm of the urgent need for a building moratorium and pointed to recent impact report that showed nearly 70 projects pending in the Hollywood area.
Billboards showing a skyscraper-filled skyline and the words “Stop Manhattanwood” are planned for the area but are not part of the official campaign.
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2016 Great Los Angeles Homeless Count
2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
by Josh Paget
On January 28th, the Mid City West Community Council is hosting a deployment site for the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The count is a county wide effort to take a census of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. Every neighborhood across the county will be sending out volunteers to walk the streets and alleys and take a visual count of people sleeping on the street, in makeshift shelters, or vehicles. The data collected by volunteers will help to raise funds and allocate resources appropriately across the county.
"Traditionally, people think of homelessness in Los Angeles and they think of the hotspots like downtown, Hollywood, and Venice, and not Mid City West," said Scott Epstein, chair of the Mid City West Community Council. "But anyone who lives or works in Mid City West has definitely noticed an increase of this population in our neighborhood. The Homeless Count will help direct county resources to our neighborhood."
Mid City West will be organizing volunteers to cover the neighborhood, which includes Miracle Mile, Park La Brea, Fairfax District, Beverly Grove, and Carthay Circle. Volunteers will be trained on how to observe homelessness, then given a census tract averaging 6-10 blocks, they'll walk the streets and alleys in groups of 2-to-4.
If you would like to volunteer, please register online at this website:
Josh Paget is a board member of Mid City West Community Council and Co-Chair of their Transportation, Parking & Streetscape Committee.
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Memories of Ohrbach's Department Store ~ by Rick Olson
Orhbach's, 1978; courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Memories of Ohrbach’s Department Store
by Rick Olson
The most popular feature on the MMRA website is our Miracle Mile Historical Photograph Collection. Over 500 photographs have been gathered from an array of archives that present a visual history of the Miracle Mile. The images provoke many memories from viewers and occasionally they comment on a specific photo.
We recently received a comment from Rick Olson about a photo of Ohrbach’s department store [above], which formerly occupied the building that now houses the newly re-done Petersen Museum. Mr. Olson’s memories of working at Ohrbach’s offer a amusing insight into what the Miracle Mile was like when it was a thriving retail center:
I worked here as the Corporate Training Director (1972-1974) when there were four Ohrbach’s stores in the Los Angeles area. They were the first and only “off price” stores in the market. This was prior to the advent of the Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and others who eventually dominated the market.
Ohrbach’s buyers would be seen at night by manufacturers when they went to New York on buying trips – after the buyers from other stores had completed their business. Ohrbach’s buyers bought only the finest designer label clothing, but were forced to cut out the tags because the manufacturer’s regular customers (May Company, Broadway, Bullocks, etc.) did not want customers to compare the prices at Orbach’s to the identical items which they were selling at full markup.
Orhbach's opened its Miracle Mile store in 1949. It was originally located
at Prudential Square (now known as SAG/AFTRA Square).
These strange Ohrbach’s people sold at deeply discounted prices. Their buying strategy, however, appealed to manufacturers because they would buy end lots, out of season merchandise, and cancelled orders – albeit at rock bottom prices –for far less than the major retailers had paid for the identical merchandise.
Customers had to guess at what they were buying, but the prices were so reasonable that they were accepted the risk. Located on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, the main store drew huge numbers of people from the Hollywood entertainment industry – big names of the time. I frequently saw Deborah Kerr [left], Natalie Wood, Joey Heatherton, and many others shopping in the store – of course with the obligatory large sunglasses and big, floppy hat.
The biggest name and the biggest problem was Joan Crawford [bottom], who was extremely high maintenance and always left the store in a complete disarray after every visit. Every purchase was “stuffed” into a brown paper bag and stapled shut with the receipt stapled to the bag (for security reasons).
I once assisted Deborah Kerr in the purchase of a full-length mink coat which we stuffed in the largest bag we could find and she happily carried it out in that deplorable condition for a several hundred dollar purchase – because she paid about half he price she would have in Beverly Hills or anywhere else in the area. No label of any kind, but I always felt that she knew exactly what she was purchasing. She was always very gracious and appreciative of the service we extended to her and was one of our favorite customers. Not so with many of the other celebrities: on two occasions we had to escort Natalie Wood [above] out of the store because she was physically fighting with other women over such items as 10-cent nylon bikini panties.
I once heard a local newscaster describe an out-of-control peace demonstration as “…as much mayhem as a chiffon sale at Ohrbach’s.” The place was truly a circus at all times as well as a great deal of fun. However, training young cashiers to deal with the matrix of people who frequented the place was a huge undertaking. Some responded well, but many did not as they were intimidated by the celebrity of the customers and often reacted in a hostile manner to the demands made upon them for “special service.” But, in retrospect, if I had the opportunity to repeat the experience, I would jump at the chance.
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A Timeline of 6060 Wilshire Boulevard
A Timeline of 6060 Wilshire Boulevard
Click on photos to enlarge.
Aerial view, circa 1960, of properties demolished for
the construction of the Seibu department store.
– Seibu department store opens at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax in a building designed by the renown Los Angeles architect Welton Becket. It is the first Japanese department store in the United States. Despite much publicity, the store attracted little more than curiosity and closed after only two years.
Seibu department store, 1962.
Seibu department store interior, 1962.
– Orhbach’s Department store relocates from its original Miracle Mile location at Prudential Square (now SAG/AFTRA Square) to the former Seibu department store [see photo in above article
– Orbach’s goes out of business and the building remains vacant for approximately six years.
– The building is purchased by Robert E. Petersen (1926-2007), who created a publishing empire of automotive-themed magazines, including Hot Rod
, Car Craft
, and Motor Trend
– The Petersen Museum opens.
Petersen Museum, circa 2000.
– The Petersen Museum undergoes major exterior and interior renovations.
Petersen Museum, 2016.
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Miracle Mile Real Estate • December 2015 Sales
Miracle Mile Real Estate
• December 2015 Sales •
5955 W. 8th St. #104
condo: 2 bdrm; 3 bath
1,536 sq. ft
listed price: $679,000
sale price: $615,000
1146 S. Cochran Ave.
4 unit apt. bldg.
4,612 sq. ft.
lot: 8,575 sq. ft.
listed price: $1,475,000
sale price: $1,350,000
sale date: 12/17/2015
1085 S. Cloverdale Ave.
8 unit apt. bldg.
907 Hauser Blvd.
7,814 sq. ft.
lot: 8,640 sq. ft.
listed price: $2,100,000
sale price: $2,075,000
sale date: 12/7/2015
3 bdrm; 2 bath
2,014 sq. ft.
lot: 6,998 sq. ft.
listed price: $1,244,000
sale price: $1,137,00
sale date: 12/12015
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(...below the fold...)