Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter • September 2014

Miracle Mile
Residential Association

Newsletter • September 2014 • Los Angeles, California                                                                                                    

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Academy Museum DEIR Released • MMRA Prepares Response
MMRA Pursues "Reduced Floor Area District" for R-1 Zoned Properties
MMRA to Produce YouTube Interviews of Council District 4 Candidates
Miracle Mile Spotlight: Stephen W. Kramer, Esq.
TarFest 2014

The McMansion Fight: Soon a Neighborhood of Kleenex Boxes
Petersen Automotive Museum Begins Renovations
Miracle Mile Real Estate • August 2014 Sales

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Academy Museum DEIR Released

MMRA Prepares to Respond

 Fairfax Avenue elevation; click on image to enlarge.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report [DEIR] for the proposed Academy Museum at the former May Co. site was released August 28th. The document consists of nine volumes totaling nearly 7,000 pages. Public comments on the DEIR are due on October 14, 2014. The Miracle Mile Residential Association is in the midst of preparing its comments. Due to the size and complexity of the DEIR it would be premature for the MMRA to detail its official response at this time. Our comments will be shared in full in the October 15th MMRA newsletter.
The MMRA’s many points of concern for the project include:
No new on-site parking. The Academy maintains that there is adequate existing parking at LACMA’s Spaulding/Wilshire surface lot and their underground Pritzker garage to accommodate visitors to both the proposed Academy Museum and LACMA. Last year LACMA attracted 1.2 million visitors; the Academy Museum officially predicts that it will attract 860,000 visitors per year – although some experts not affiliated with the museum predict that number will be closer to 1 million.
The Academy Museum wants to create a Digital Sign District that would allow for the installation of digital signs and super graphics akin to Nokia Live and the Hollywood/Highland complex. The digital displays with scrolling, flashing or moving images, including video or animation, would be located in the original May Co.’s storefront window displays, the upper wall area of the original building, and along the south façade of the “Sphere.”
Two movie premieres per week at the “Sphere” theater which will be located immediately to the north of the original May Co. building and will have a passenger drop off and pick up area on Fairfax Avenue. According to the DEIR the theater is intended to be “competitive with other venues in Los Angeles in size and amenities” ­– such as the Chinese Theatre, the El Captain Theatre, or the Cinerama Dome.
          Site plan; click on image to enlarge.

The DEIR provides more information about these premiere screenings: “These would be ticketed, invitation-only events for up to 1,350 attendees. Premiere Screenings may require up to approximately 200 additional support staff including security personnel, caterers, and Academy event planning and public relations staff, and custodians; lease events may require other support staff or vendors.
Approximately two Premiere Screenings or special events per week are anticipated throughout the year; Premiere Screenings would typically take place Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. As with Member Screenings, the majority of Premiere Screenings or special lease events would take place outside of normal Museum hours of operation, and Museum hours may be curtailed early to accommodate such events. Premiere Screenings and special lease events would typically have a 7:30 P.M. start time and end by 12:30 A.M., with campus vacation by 1:00 A.M.”
Plans to manage traffic, parking, premieres, and event coordination between the Academy Museum and LACMA. The DEIR makes repeated references to several plans that are to be devised at a later date. The parking and traffic plans contain lengthy lists of possible suggestions for dealing with these critical elements. The MMRA is evaluating these plans to see how they would actually mitigate traffic and parking – or provide coordination with LACMA to avoid both institutions staging events at the same time.

Here are some of the highlights of the project [quoted from the DEIR]:
“The Museum would be dedicated to films and filmmaking and would include permanent and changing exhibition space; three theaters with a combined seating capacity of up to approximately 1,350 persons; banquet and conference space with a maximum occupancy of approximately 1,200 persons; an approximately 4000-square-foot café (“Museum Café”) with seating for up to approximately 150 persons; an approximately 5,000-square-foot store (“Museum Store”); and ancillary spaces including administrative offices, educational spaces, exhibit preparation, a conservation laboratory, and maintenance and receiving areas.
[The new museum would require the] demolition of a 1946 Addition to the May Company Building. The Project would retain important historic features of the Original Building constructed in 1939, including rehabilitation of its primary façades, while retrofitting the building interior to accommodate Museum uses. The New Wing would be constructed on the north side of the Original Building and include a Museum entrance, a 42,300-square foot Sphere housing a state-of-the-art Main Theater with seating for up to 1,000 persons, a 10,000-square foot enclosed View Deck within the Sphere, pedestrian bridges linking the Sphere to the Original Building, and an outdoor Piazza.
The Tearoom on the fifth, or top, level of the Original Building would be expanded to contain a Special Event Dining Room and a rooftop terrace (“Rooftop Terrace”) overlooking Wilshire Boulevard with a combined maximum occupancy of approximately 1,200 persons, along with space for catering and other support services. The north wall of the Tearoom would also be opened up to provide access from this level to the View Deck within the Sphere. The Special Event Dining Room and Rooftop Terrace are anticipated to accommodate meetings, conferences, and receptions.
The New Wing would also include the outdoor Piazza, which would be constructed to the north of the Original Building and the Museum’s northern entrance, including areas beneath and surrounding the Sphere. The Piazza would replace the existing service driveway and gravel area north of the Original Building. The Piazza is normally intended to provide public access to the Museum and LACMA Campus during the day, and would provide Museum Café and other seating; it would also accommodate Museum and Academy programs and special events held during the day or evening.
Museum would be closed two days per year, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The Museum’s anticipated design day attendance (“Design Day Attendance”), defined as the average of the top 10 percent of attendance days annually (generally holidays and weekends), would be approximately 5,000 visitors.”
For additional information:
The Academy Museum Draft Environmental Impact Report
Curbed L.A.: See How the Movie Museum Will Transform the Miracle Mile – Before & After Images



MMRA Pursues "Reduced Floor Area District"

[Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.]
MMRA Pursues

“Reduced Floor Area District”

for R-1 Zoned Properties in the Miracle Mile
On September 4, 2014 the Miracle Mile Residential Association’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a motion in support of seeking Reduced Floor Area [RFA] District status for R-1 zoned properties in the Miracle Mile. On behalf of the board, MMRA President James O’Sullivan sent a letter to District 4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge formally requesting that he introduce a motion directing the Department of City Planning to draft a RFA overlay for the Miracle Mile limiting the base Floor Area Ratio to 0.42, increasing the side-yard setbacks of two-story homes and eliminating exemptions for over-height entries, balconies, covered porches, and attached garages.
The construction of a “McMansion” at 808 South Ridgeley [right] has galvanized the community to take this action. The implementation of a RFA would plug loopholes in the existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] and stop the construction of additional “super-sized” homes. A RFA would also serve as a stopgap measure to preserve the scale of our neighborhood while the community continues to do the consensus building required to create a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ] that would protect the traditional design and fabric of the Miracle Mile.
The MMRA had hoped that recent efforts to reform the BMO would make this step unnecessary, but there is no relief in sight. The Miracle Mile is surrounded by HPOZs and by other neighborhoods that have already secured or are actively pursuing RFA status thwarting mansionization. It is apparent – given our lack of RFA and/or HPOZ status – that the Miracle Mile has become an easy and obvious target for developers of McMansions.
A Reduced Floor Area District [see map] would limit the square footage for new construction and the remodeling of existing homes. It would only apply to single-family homes that are zoned R-1. Details of the proposed ordinance are contained in the letter the MMRA sent to Councilmember LaBonge [click here to read letter].
Click on map to enlarge.

Once the Department of City Planning launches the process of drafting a RFA overlay for the Miracle Mile they will hold a series of public hearings and workshops to garner community input. Although less time consuming and complex than creating an HPOZ, a RFA could take as long as a year (or more) to implement due to budget cuts and staffing shortages at the Department of City Planning – and the fact that the department is being deluged by new RFA applications from communities across the City that are desperate to stop mansionization. In Council District 4 alone there are already four RFAs waiting for action – the Miracle Mile would be the fifth RFA in this holding pattern.   
It is a sad commentary on the state of our City that our leaders lack the political will to reform the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance in order to protect our historic and traditional neighborhoods from the intrusion of mansionization – and that residents must resort to creating RFA Districts to stop what the BMO was expressly intended to prevent. But it is very clear that our residents are ready to take any and all actions necessary to protect the quality of life in the Miracle Mile.
For additional information:
MMRA Declares War on McMansions!
Los Angeles Times Finally Starts to Report on the Mansionization Story
Preliminary Results of the Mansionization-HPOZ-RFA Survey
Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile


MMRA to Produce YouTube Interviews of CD4 Candidates


MMRA to Produce

YouTube Interviews

of Council District 4 Candidates
The race for Council District 4 is quickly shaping up to be the most contested open seat election in the city. Currently, there are 14 candidates running to replace Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents Council District 4 – a district that stretches from the Miracle Mile to Sherman Oaks [see map]. LaBonge has served on the council since 2001 and will be termed out in 2015.
The battle to represent one of the most influential districts in the city is attracting a broad range of candidates from City Hall insiders to complete unknowns – all who are vying to emerge on top in the March 3, 2015 general election.
Over the past two years, the Miracle Mile Residential Association has invested in social, online, and digital media to enhance and expand our ongoing commitment to community outreach. Our website, monthly email newsletter, and our MMRA Channel on YouTube have provided us with platforms to effectively communicate not only with the residents of the Miracle Mile, but with the city at large.
In the process of becoming a “digital” residential association we have witnessed first hand how good communication fosters engagement. It is in this spirit that the MMRA has decided to produce a series of video interviews with all of the candidates for Council District 4. Although traditional debates have their value, we want to provide an opportunity for voters to get to know each candidate in a “one on one” interview where their remarks are not hamstrung by the formal time constraints of a debate. This interview format will allow more “elbow room” for follow up questions and responses.
Ken Hixon, MMRA Vice President and Director of Communications, will conduct the interviews, which will be approximately 20 to 30 minutes in length and will cover topics relevant to both the Miracle Mile and Council District 4.
To date 12 candidates have committed to participating in this project:
Jay Beeber
Teddy Davis
Sheila Irani
Step Jones
Wally Knox
Fred Mariscal
Joan Pelico
John Nelson Perron, Jr.
Carolyn Ramsay
David Ryu
Steve Veres
Oscar Winslow
We are waiting for replies from:
Tera Bannister
Tomas O’Grady
The MMRA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to providing a fair and open forum for the candidates to express their positions on a variety of issues to the residents of Council District 4. If there are questions or issues that you would like the candidates to respond to, please send your suggestions to:


Miracle Mile Spotlight: Stephen W. Kramer, Esq.


Miracle Mile Spotlight:

Stephen W. Kramer, Esq.

Restaurants and retail stores are the most visible of the many local businesses that benefit the residents of the Miracle Mile. But there are a large number of professionals in our community rendering important services, as well. The Kramer Law group – a firm founded by Steve Kramer that specializes in estate planning – has been serving clients in the Miracle Mile and citywide since 1992.
Steve is also the founder and president of the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, a business organization that has taken an active role in the improvement of the Wilshire corridor as well as sponsoring cultural events such as the upcoming “TarFest” [see below].
Steve has all the requisite qualifications for his trade: he attended USC, received his law degree at UCLA and has been a member of the California State Bar since 1976. But what makes Steve particularly skilled at the very serious work of estate planning his is passion for the work and his personality. His intelligence, compassion for others, and his plain-talking honesty lend themselves to the task.
“Don’t be driven by the clock, be driven by the quality of your work and the courtesy you extend to your clients,” Steve relates as the first important lesson he learned when he began to practice estate planning. He acknowledges that many attorneys shy away from the field – even “brilliant lawyers wouldn’t go into the room to deal with estate planning or administration because the whole topic was too loaded for them – too touchy,” he remarked.  But Steve found that the intimacy and confidentiality involved with helping people put their affairs in good order and ensuring that their plans pass legal muster appealed to his sense of integrity and his desire to do work “that really matters.”
Mediation is a part of the job, too. After someone dies tensions sometimes flare between the heirs, often over trivial items of no great monetary value. “Those battles all come down to who did mommy or daddy love more,” Steve said, shaking his head. “Ultimately, a fair amount of the work I do involves mediation.”
Although many people are uncomfortable contemplating their inevitable demise, Steve argues that a proper estate plan can be an antidote to their fears: “It really does give you control. It puts you in charge in the sense that at least you’re naming who the players are going to be handling your business, so you don’t have people fighting in a courtroom. Even more importantly, if someone ends up in a position where they need a conservator and you have a living trust, you have already laid out to a court that this is what you want and this is whom you want to do it. That’s a really good thing. It’s favor to everybody around you.”
Those who are unwilling to confront their mortality and die “intestate” – without a will or living trust – surrender all control of their estate to the probate courts. “I had a client and he and his lady friend had been together 35 years. He had no estate plan whatsoever. And he said to me, ‘We’re not married, but she’ll get the house, of course.’ And I said, ‘Without a will I can guarantee you that she won’t get the house.” The client then explained that he had no living relatives to object to his longtime companion’s claim to the home.
“Everyone has relatives somewhere,” Steve informed his client, pointing out that with the advent of computer genealogy it is easier than ever for the courts to find some distant third or fourth cousin to claim the estate. “You might not consider these distant relatives family,” Steve cautioned his client, “but the court considers them heirs.” The client agreed that he needed an estate plan.
“But more important than anything is an advance healthcare directive,” Steve emphasized. “It is the most important document I do. Because money, most of the time, will eventually flow to where it’s supposed to go. But to have a critically ill family member and not have any input over their healthcare is a horrible position to be in. And for the individual at the end of life, an advance healthcare directive gives you the opportunity – if you don’t want significant medical intervention, ventilators or stomach feeding tubes – to make your wishes known.”
Of particular concern to Steve is that many parents are unaware of the fact that legally they have no say over their child’s healthcare once their child turns 18 years old. Should their child be involved in a serious accident or incur a life-threatening illness, medical professionals have no obligation to share any information with parents. “A lot of times I tell my clients just bring your grown son or daughter in to sign a healthcare directive. It’s a simple document, it won’t take but a few minutes, and I won’t charge you for it.”
Steve goes out of his way to make a difficult topic as easy as possible. “I tell my clients I’m not priest or a rabbi, I’m a mechanic. The less you see me – the more efficiently I do my job – the happier you’ll be. Because talking about death isn’t pleasant, but once we get it done: you’ll be glad.”

Stephen W. Kramer, Esq.
Kramer Law Group

5858 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 205
Los Angeles, CA. 90036

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.


TarFest 2014

The McMansion Fight

The McMansion Fight:

Soon a Neighborhood of Kleenex Boxes

by Peter Merlin

As I stood across the street from the two-story framed box being built on my block and raised a camera to record its enormous size, a young carpenter swung down off the second story and ran towards me, his hammer still in his hand. “Why are you taking pictures,” he demanded. Respecting the hammer more than the carpenter, who I would later learn, was the developer of the property, I lied to him that I really loved the design of the new building. The opposite, unfortunately, is true.
In Carthay Square I have been part of a movement for over ten years now, which proposes to protect the architectural character of the buildings in the neighborhood by establishing a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). In the 12 block neighborhood comprising 347 homes, mostly a mixture of Spanish Eclectic, English Tudor style cottages with clinker brick chimneys and one-story bungalows, no house has up to now been built with a two-car attached garage accessed from the front of the house. 

Our young builder, with approval from the City, had to chop down a 50-foot street tree to clear the driveway into the garage. To me, the tree was as important to the look of our street as the structure of the new house itself. The house is a modernist design, a McMansion in the style of a Kleenex box with huge areas of glass that many readers of this article have seen popping up all over Los Angeles. 

On each side of this two-story structure and dwarfed by it were the clay-tiled roofs of homes built between 1924 and 1936, technically known as the “period of significance,” when most of the homes in our area were originally developed.

It’s not an easy task to go about instituting a zoning change. But up until four years ago, the Planning Department with its Office of Historic Resources, had been promoting this program citywide. 

Community meetings were held with planners stepping out from behind their office desks to discuss the virtues of preservation and conservation. Guidelines were published called “Preservation Plans” that were unique to each individual neighborhood in the program. Review Boards were established – with one member representing the Neighborhood Association, but also with participation by professionals appointed by the City – to guide development in ways that would reinforce the look of a community rather than destroy it. As of this writing there are 31 designated HPOZs in the City of Los Angeles. The HPOZ restrictions offers the strongest protection so far against inappropriate development. 

For many homeowners their private property is the largest investment they will ever make. To restrict its appearance and development flies in the face of a principle that can be summarized by the phrase, “my house is my castle.” This was true in the neighboring community of Carthay Circle, now an HPOZ. One owner actually built himself a stone castle complete with turrets, crenellations, and heavy chains flanked by cast-stone lions. This whimsical structure was a turning point in that neighborhood. I have visited a board meeting of the Carthay Circle HPOZ and have been impressed by the interaction between owners and city planners.  
In my Carthay Square neighborhood, we also have a bit of whimsy. In the 1000 block of Hayworth just south of Olympic an owner has constructed an Egyptian mausoleum in the style of Third Dynasty architect, Imhotep, who lived 2700 years BC.  As we did our architectural survey, we learned that adjacent to the mausoleum there are 17 historic duplexes designed by the architect S. Charles Lee, designer of the Los Angeles Theater in 1931, and of about 400 other movie theaters throughout California and Mexico. Lee built his own house on Hayworth Avenue and lived here during this time in Carthay Square.

In December of 2010 our neighborhood won a matching grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to complete our work to obtain a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. It was not a huge amount of money, $7850, and we were able to match it through generous donations from Councilmember Paul Koretz, from the Carthay Square Neighborhood Association, and from private parties. The money went to hire an architect who was qualified by the City to evaluate our housing stock. The rest involved thousands of volunteer hours from our committee to prepare a survey of individual properties and to document what we found. 

We also wrote a history of our neighborhood in the form of a Context Statement. The architect, Katie Horak at ARG, judged that our neighborhood was indeed qualified to become a HPOZ. Her Draft Report in 2012 stated that over 90% of the structures in our area were of significance. The housing was originally designed by developer/builders on small lots reflecting the expansion of our City on a path of transportation along Eulalia Avenue (now named San Vicente Boulevard) as Los Angeles stretched westward toward the sea.
We got to the stage where the Planning Department was holding public meetings to discuss the content of our Preservation Plan. That was in the early months of 2012. Then everything went on hold. We were told there was not enough staff in the Office of Historic Preservation to write the Plan or to administer it. We were told to wait. This was not a problem during a recession when there was a lull in building construction. It has become a concern recently as the house up the block has been completed and is now up for sale, as are a number of properties down the block.

So we visited the open house. The new house is very open and airy with high ceilings and expensive finishes. The developer was there, this time without a hammer. First he complained how unkind the neighbors had been to him during construction. Then he told me he had done everything according to code.

When I said that the City requires a developer to plant two trees to replace the tree he had taken down in the parkway, he explained that he had provided the two trees but the City had chosen not to replant them.

The City comes up again and again in these discussions, whether it is about HPOZ or a revision to the Mansionization Ordinance. It seems impossible to get planning officials to fulfill their responsibilities in spite of 10 years of community initiative.

We need the Office of Historic Resources to allow our and other pending HPOZs to finally move forward. We need a Preservation Plan in Carthay Square to be approved quickly and to stop so called mini-mansions from replacing historic housing.


Peter Merlin is a resident of Carthay Square. This article first appeared in CityWatch, edited by Miracle Mile resident Ken Draper. We are grateful to Mr. Merlin and Mr. Draper for their permission to reprint it here.

Photos: Carthay Circle Theatre (1926-1969); "Dan the Miner" statue.
Petersen Automotive Museum Begins Renovations

Petersen Automotive Museum

Begins Major Renovations
A major renovation of the Petersen Automotive Museum began at the end of August. Construction fencing, scaffolding, and barricades have been installed and work is underway on an overhaul of the museum’s façade. The museum will close to the public on October 19 for a complete remodeling of the museum’s interior. The museum will reopen when the project is completed in November 2015. The process of installing the controversial stainless steel ribbons, which will envelop the exterior of the museum, is scheduled to begin in January 2015.
For additional information:
Petersen Museum Closes October 19th to Begin Construction

The Miracle Mile is a hotbed of construction. For information about other projects currently underway see these past issues of the MMRA Newsletter:
Two Projects Under Construction on South Odgen Drive
Construction Begins on Desmond’s Apartment Project
New Apartment Project Planned behind Dominguez-Wilshire Building
New Mixed-Use Project at Fairfax and San Vicente
Miracle Mile Real Estate • August 2014 Sales

Miracle Mile Real Estate
August 2014 Sales

1110 S. Ridgeley Dr.
3bdrm, 3 bath
2,105 sq. ft.
lot: 6,399 sq. ft.

listing price: $1,150,000
sale price: $1,200,000
  sale date: 8-6-2014

816 S. Ogden Dr.
3 bdrm, 2 bath
1,817 sq. ft.
lot: 5,694 sq. ft.

listing price: $1,275,000
sale price: $1,275,000
sale date: 8-16-2014

820 S. Genesee Ave.
6 bdrm, 6 bath
3,706 sq. ft.
lot: 5,657 sq. ft.

listing price: $1,600,000
sale price: $1,560,500
sale date: 8-22-2014

750 S. Spaulding Ave. #134
condo: 2 bdrm, 2 bath
1,683 sq. ft.
listing price: $690,000
sale price: $660,000
sale date: 8-19-2014

750 S. Spaulding Ave. #129
condo: 2 bdrm, 2 bath
1,305 sq. ft.
listing price: $569,000
sale price: $559,000
sale date: 8-12-2014

750 S. Spaulding Ave. #237
condo: 2 bdrm, 2 bath
1,305 sq. ft.
listing price: $539,000
sale price: $530,000
sale date: 8-5-2014


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MMRA Board Meeting
October 9, 2014
@ 7 PM

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

5870 Olympic Blvd.
All are welcome.

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Miracle Mile
History Quiz

Click on image to enlarge.

The Fox Ritz was the first movie theater built in the Miracle Mile. Where was it located?

Click here for the answer.

Miracle Mile Farmers' Market
Every Wednesday 11 AM ~ 3 PM

Wilshire Courtyard

The MMRA Channel

Miracle Mile
Residential Association

James O’Sullivan, President

Alice S. Cassidy, Vice President

Joseph Steins, Treasurer

Ken Hixon, Vice President/
Director of Communication
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Copyright © 2014 Miracle Mile Residential Association.  All rights reserved.

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


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