IN THE NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER:
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Boisterous Annual Meeting
Leads to a Productive Summit
on Clarifying HPOZ Guidelines
Both Sides Agree
that the Neighborhood Must be Protected
The 33rd annual Miracle Mile community meeting featured a sometimes noisy display of free speech as opponents to the Miracle Mile HPOZ made their case to keynote speaker, Councilmember David Ryu [photo above]. Tensions were high but Ryu and MMRA President James O’Sullivan encouraged civility and dialogue between residents on both sides of the issue.
This past September, shortly before the Cultural Heritage Commission recommended approval of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), a group of opponents led by local realtor Jay Schoenfeldt, distributed fliers and took to social media to lobby against HPOZ.
Their campaign has played fast and loose with the facts but their one accurate and salient attack was aimed at the somewhat obtuse language in the draft Preservation Plan, which serves as the design guidelines for the HPOZ.
It was the express intent of the Preservation Plan Committee – a group composed of a dozen community members working under the aegis of the city’s Office of Historic Resources – to devise a plan that was as unrestrictive and flexible as possible while still in compliance with the fundamental tenets of historic preservation. But the devil is always in the details and both sides agreed that the language in the Preservation Plan, as written, was too ambiguous and could be interpreted to be more restrictive than desired.
At the Los Angeles Central Planning Commission hearing in October, opponents expressed their discontent with the Preservation Plan. Councilmember Ryu then arranged a meeting between the “pro” and “con” camps to review and discuss the design guidelines.
Julia Duncan, Ryu’s Planning and Land Use Deputy, moderated the meeting which took place on November 7th. Ken Bernstein, head of the Office of Historic Resources, and Renata Dragland, City Planning Associate in charge of the Miracle Mile HPOZ, also attended. Representing the supporters of HPOZ were James O’Sullivan, Mark Zecca, Lisa Landworth, Ken Hixon, and Peter Haidos; representing the opponents were Scott Kelsey, Henry van Moyland, Jay Schoenfeldt, Randy Greenwald, and Curt Lukert.
The opponents brought a detailed list of criticisms of the Preservation Plan. What tensions existed between the two sides quickly dissolved as ready agreement was found over the lack of clarity in the guidelines. HPOZ supporters felt that the plan as written did not accurately reflect their objective to make the rules as flexible as possible. Opponents were pleased to have their complaints acknowledged. This resulted in a collegial and successful discussion of how to simplify and revise language in the plan to accurately reflect the will of the community. This task was delegated to Ken Bernstein and staff at the Office of Historic Resources, which is responsible for administrating HPOZs in Los Angeles.
Opponents raised a dozen specific issues, which they said needed to be addressed, to make the HPOZ acceptable. Proponents agreed to nearly every objection raised. Here are the bullet points that all parties agreed on:
No regulation of paint colors. Property owners are free to paint their homes and buildings as they wish without review.
Reiterate that the exteriors of all properties in their present condition are “grandfathered” once HPOZ is adopted. No changes of existing elements (windows, roofing, etc.) are required even if or when the property owner seeks approval to remodel a particular part of the exterior (HPOZ does not regulate interior remodeling).
No regulation or review of landscaping as long as at least 60 percent of the front yard is planted with some sort of greenery. Drought tolerant planting is permitted.
Allow second story additions as long as they are adequately set back from the front façade. Property owners will be free to expand their properties as long as they are sensitive to massing and scale so as not to have an adverse impact on their neighbors.
Permit solar panels on the front of the structure if that is the only place they can most efficiently operate. Ditto satellite television dishes. Also, do not regulate the placement of mechanical equipment, such as air conditioner units or electrical boxes. Most property owners display common sense in these matters, so there is no need to micromanage this.
Allow for modern designs and contemporary architecture on infill projects in vacant lots or as replacement structures for properties lost to fire or natural disasters as long as they are properly scaled to be sensitive to the existing historic homes in the immediate area. Both sides expressed a strong distain for “faux” period architecture.
Backyard additions and/or remodeling will be unregulated (other than by existing city building codes) as long as this work is not visible from the street. This work will be reviewed only to determine that it, indeed, qualifies for this exemption.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or “granny flats” are already permitted by law and cannot be prohibited in an HPOZ. As long as they cannot be seen from the street they will be exempt from the design guidelines.
HPOZ guidelines will only apply to those portions of a structure that are visible from the street. Both sides agreed that “sight visibility” should be defined as what is actually seen from the street and not what could be seen in the theoretical absence of fences, landscaping, driveway slope, and so on.
Clarify that in the event of a natural disaster any historic properties destroyed do not have to be rebuilt as replicas and can be replaced with structures of a modern or contemporary design.
Remove confusing and restrictive language from the Preservation Plan. This point was pressed by the architects on both sides: Lisa Landworth, Scott Kelsey, and Henry van Moyland. The group as a whole deferred to the architects’ practical experience and reached consensus that the guidelines should be as simple and practical as possible.
Ryu staffer Duncan emphasized, once again, the importance of having the HPOZ in place before the Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) expires in March 2017. The ICO was enacted to prohibit the demolition of single family homes and to stop their replacement by McMansions. Once the ICO expires the Miracle Mile will be unprotected. The Planning Department and Councilmember Ryu have stated that there are no other viable alternatives available to preserve our community from mansionization, small lot subdivisions, or density bonus apartment projects.
Another meeting is planned once the Preservation Plan is revised. This meeting will take place prior to the Central Planning Commission hearing to review the Miracle Mile HPOZ on December 8th.
Having found common ground on improving the Preservation Plan, and with members of the opposition in agreement that our community should be protected, there should be no further obstacles to adopting the revised HPOZ Preservation Plan.
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Just the Facts, Ma'am...(HPOZ Lies Debunked)
Just the Facts, Ma’am…
(HPOZ Lies Debunked)
Lately, residents have been receiving anti-HPOZ fliers that are chockfull of misinformation – and that’s putting it politely. The MMRA welcomes different points of view, but we strive to tell the truth and present the facts. So, let’s fact check the assertions made in one recent mailer, pictured below:
“We were told a HPOZ was the only way to stop McMansions. FALSE: The new baseline mansionization ordinance will pass by
the end of the year, BANNING McMansions.”
That’s quite a whopper. The existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) is going through a lengthy and contentious review in an attempt to plug its numerous and infamous loopholes. A revised ordinance is yet to be finalized and brought to the City Council for a vote. Whether that will happen this year is anyone’s guess. It remains to be seen just how watered-down the final ordinance will be. Influential real estate speculators are lobbying City Hall to make the law as toothless as possible. If past is prologue, these developers stand an excellent chance of winning the day.
Whatever form it takes, the BMO will certainly not succeed in “banning McMansions” as HPOZ opponents assert. At best, a revised BMO will attempt to modify scaling and massing while still allowing for super-sized homes. We’ve reported at length about the reform of the BMO and done several YouTube interviews with Shelly Wagers, who has spearheaded the battle to fix the BMO.
Offering the BMO as an alternative to HPOZ is offering false hope. HPOZ is about the historic preservation of our neighborhood; the BMO will not stop the demolition of historic homes for the construction of over-scaled houses – nor would it inhibit the demolition of historic multi-family buildings for high-density apartment projects.
“We were told HPOZ rules would only affect the façade.
FALSE: The new HPOZ rules will control every park [sic] our home’s exteriors – even backyard doors, windows, and decks.”
The grammar and spelling of this statement are as impaired as its assertions, which have never been true. The Preservation Plan subscribes to the simple adage: “Out of sight, out of mind.” It does not regulate things that cannot be seen. This is being re-emphasized in the current revisions to the design guidelines, agreed to by both proponents and opponents.
“We were told the HPOZ wouldn’t touch front yard vegetation. FALSE: It will control everything we plant if front.”
What...? This assertion has no basis in fact. The Preservation Plan does not dictate what you plant in your front yard – it never did. If you like geraniums…plant geraniums. If cactus is your thing…go for it. Drought tolerant landscaping…good for you and the environment. The guidelines simply say that 60 percent of your front yard has to be plant matter of some sort. Period.
“The HPOZ will FORBID us from ever putting on a second
story even in the same architectural style.”
There’s no polite way to categorize this statement: it’s a lie. The Preservation Plan never banned second floor additions – and the language in the guidelines is currently being enhanced to allow more flexibility for such additions, as opponents wished and proponents agreed.
“THE HPOZ CONTROLS WHAT WE CAN DO
WITH OUR GREATEST INVESTMENT”
Reasonable people should consider an HPOZ based on the facts. But the facts are hard to find in fliers like this and, sadly, that is purposeful. These fliers are being written and distributed by realtors and property owners in the Miracle Mile whose bread and butter is real estate speculation. They are misstating the facts to promote their self-interests. They want to cash in and we want to preserve the stability of our neighborhood – and protect it from an onslaught of development from which they would personally profit. They are talking about their investments, when we our talking about preserving our charming and livable community. We live in historic homes and apartments – they live in investments.
The residents of Windsor Square, Hancock Park, Carthay Circle, and 30-plus other HPOZs in Los Angeles have seen the value of their “investments” improve because of the protections provided by historic preservation. Buyers are attracted to the stability of HPOZs. This is a fact, as testified to by Richard Barron, Chairperson of the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission [see article below].
So, whatever your position on HPOZ, listen to the facts – and ignore the fiction.
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The Silent Majority Speaks ~ A Note from the Editor
The Silent Majority Speaks
A Note from the Editor
The opponents of HPOZ have attempted to drown out the voices of those who support historic preservation of our neighborhood. It is time for the many hundreds of residents who have demonstrated their support for HPOZ at meetings large and small – and who have donated tens-of-thousands of dollars to the cause – to make their voices heard again.
The opposition bandies about how we can save our community via the promised reform of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance or the menu of new R-1 zones the city has offered selected neighborhoods. But they conveniently ignore our unique and historic mix of single family homes and R-2 and R-3 zoned multifamily buildings (which comprise the majority of parcels in our community).
HPOZ is the only way to protect and preserve our neighborhood because these R-2 and R-3 zoned multifamily dwellings are interspersed throughout our residential area. We are also unusual in that the Miracle Mile has a surprising number of single family homes built on R-3 zoned parcels.
Many of our R-1 zoned single family homes abut or are near those single family homes on R-3 zoned parcels, as well as R-2 and R-3 zoned multifamily buildings (duplexes, fourplexes, and small apartment buildings). “Density bonus” laws allow developers of R-2 and R-3 zoned parcels to build new apartment projects that exceed existing height limits and parking requirements “by right.”
The historic duplex next door or behind your single family home could be easily replaced with a four story project as high as 52 feet with as many as six units.
These density bonus projects are allowed reduced setbacks from the property lines and feature balconies and rooftop patio/party areas to compensate for the lack of “green space” surrounding the building. The reduction in parking requirements (as few as 1.2 parking spaces per unit) would exacerbate demand for street parking.
The city also allows for “small lot subdivisions” where multiple townhouses (with just a few inches of clearance between the units) can be constructed on an R-3 zoned parcel. This means that an existing historic single-family or multifamily home can be demolished and replaced with a grouping of three-story townhouses.
So-called reform of Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, if or when it is enacted, would not apply to single family homes on R-3 zoned parcels or prevent them from being demolished and replaced with high density apartment projects or small lot townhouses.
Graphic depicting built and planned McMansions in the La Brea Hancock neighborhood.
[Click image to enlarge.]
The menu of R-1 zones that the city is offering selected communities only controls the scale of new single family homes. It would not prevent the destruction of the historic fabric of our neighborhood, nor would it prevent the demolition of existing R-2 and R-3 zoned multifamily buildings for the construction of density bonus apartment projects or small lot subdivisions.
This is why HPOZ is the only way to preserve the historic character, scale, and charm of our community. It is the only way to stop mansionization, density bonus apartment projects, and small lot subdivisions.
Make no mistake about it, with the advent of the Purple Line subway extension, deep-pocketed developers and speculators are targeting the residential area of the Miracle Mile for densification. Left unchecked our historic neighborhood will be replaced with McMansions, cheek-to-cheek townhouses, and super-sized luxury apartment projects. And even our opponents won’t be happy about that. HPOZ truly is the best and only hope to save the Miracle Mile.
This is why you must speak out now. It takes a village to save a village. Let your voices be heard. Contact Councilmember David Ryu today:
SCROLL DOWN FOR: A Lesson From Masselin Avenue
or Coming Soon: The McMansion Next Door to You
A Lesson From Masselin Avenue
or Coming Soon:
The McMansion Next Door to You
by Pete Haidos
Last year, after a very large and unattractive development appeared at the corner of Olympic and Curson [photo above
], just two blocks away from my vintage fourplexes on Masselin Avenue, I decided to give my support to an HPOZ in the Miracle Mile. Like many of my neighbors, I became worried that more of these insensitive developments might pop up, spoiling the charm of our neighborhood while lowering our rents and property values. My fellow landlords and I promote our rental units as looking as if they are on a Hollywood movie set — that’s how beautiful our street is right now.
Over the course of the year, I attended various public hearings and I railed against the Olympic and Curson eyesore. Where was the architectural review? Where were the protections that would keep this kind of oversized and completely out-of-context building from going up anywhere in our neighborhood?
What was to keep the Miracle Mile from falling prey to what I’d seen happen in San Pedro, my home town for the last 25 years? I warned people that the Miracle Mile was going to follow in the footsteps of San Pedro where cheap and haphazard development has been allowed to occur in the absence of any preservation efforts. Rents and home values in San Pedro have not kept pace with the rest of the city.
And, so, imagine my surprise when I received a “Notice of Demolition” two weeks ago for the property two doors down from my fourplexes. The 1930s, 1,400-square-foot, single-story Spanish revival, just south of the horseshoe where Masselin divides into Carmona, had been purchased by a speculator. In place of the modest home [photo above
], he would now build two, three-story duplexes. Nothing on the entire block approaches this height or density. The tallest building on Carmona and Masselin is two stories.
What I had been warning about – the San Pedro phenomenon – suddenly is about to happen on Carmona. My street!
Judging by the asking prices for similar condos on Dunsmuir, south of San Vicente, the developer will be marketing his units at $900,000 each. His profit might be $1.5 to $2 million. Meanwhile, my property value will take a financial hit, as will others on the block. The mere proximity of these behemoths will affect the appeal of my modest, period-charm apartments. No one wants to live in a neighborhood threatened with this kind of upheaval and transformation. And while the developer scores big, I suffer a loss. This is the scenario we may all soon face.
Why? Because the property on Carmona — like many others in the proposed HPOZ — is zoned RD 1.5 and is not subject to the Interim Control Ordinance (ICO). On my block, developers have zero constraints. Once the ICO expires, in March 2017, developers will be free to buy up houses throughout the rest of the Miracle Mile and begin the overnight process of turning single family parcel after single family parcel into that awful building on the corner of Curson and Olympic.
That’s why the little house at 1113 Carmona is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Developers are poised to take Miracle Mile by storm. Without an HPOZ, they’ll pick off every building on the market. And what is happening to me, will happen to you. This is not an idle threat: The owner of the teardown on my block owns five other properties in the area. All he needs is for our HPOZ to fail, and he’ll soon begin the process of eroding the integrity of our neighborhood, house by house, block by block.
Please drive or walk by 1113 Carmona. Imagine how things will be with not one but two three-story structures crammed onto one lot. Needless to say our street — our community — will never again look like a Hollywood movie set.
The twin fourplexes owned by Pete Haidos at Masselin and Carmona.
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An Architect's Perspective on HPOZ
An Architect’s Perspective on HPOZ
By Lisa Landworth, A.I.A
Thirty years ago my husband and I, and my sister and brother-in law, bought a duplex together in the proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ area to raise our families in. We purchased in this particular area because it contained a mix of single family and multifamily housing with cohesive, historically significant architecture.
I’m an architect and am particularly sensitive to the elements which makes a historic neighborhood and I would be devastated if the “developer style pseudo modern” and “Cape Cod” over-scaled houses started to pop-up in our neighborhood, which is relatively untouched at the moment. What makes our neighborhood cohesive is not so much the unique architecture style of the houses and the multifamily buildings but the consistent massing, scale and level of detail. Establishing a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone would help to ensure that these elements are maintained in both additions and new construction.
Specializing in residential design, my classmate from USC Architecture School, Philip DeBolske, and I opened our architecture office 30 years ago, also in the Miracle Mile area. I have served on the Miracle Mile North HPOZ Board as well as the Westwood Design Review Board. Philip is now serving as the Chairperson for the Carthay Circle HPOZ. Both of us feel that historic preservation has contributed to good design in both of these communities.
I’m now part of the group that’s working on simplifying the guidelines for the Miracle Mile Preservation Plan. The guidelines should be a helpful tool to guide a homeowner or developer to design a structure that would be compatible with the neighborhood not a restrictive document that poses a hardship for the community. I am in strong support of the Miracle Mile HPOZ and urge you to support it too!
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Closing Comments from Richard Barron, Chairperson of the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission
from Richard Barron,
Chairperson of the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission
“I am sorry for the people who are fearful of the HPOZ,
I really am. I think your fear is misplaced…”
This past September, the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) certified the Miracle Mile Historic Resources Survey and recommended that the City Planning Commission approve the HPOZ boundaries and Preservation Plan.
The CHC is a mayoral-appointed commission that considers nominations of sites as city landmarks, reviews HPOZ applications, and serves as the city’s primary forum for the discussion of historic preservation policy. Recommendations of the CHC are forwarded to the City Council for final action.
Richard Barron [photo left
] is the Chairperson of the CHC. He has practiced architecture in Los Angeles for 30 years and specializes in the rehabilitation of historic structures for affordable housing. As a founding member of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, he helped spearhead the passage of a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) for Highland Park, and has served on the Highland Park HPOZ Board since its inception.
After a sometimes contentious hearing on the Miracle Mile HPOZ in September, Mr. Barron concluded the meeting with these thoughts:
“I am familiar with this area and I am familiar with HPOZs. I sat on an HPOZ board for 13 years and I think there is a lot of misconception with the people who are afraid of the HPOZ. There is nothing to say that you can’t put in double-paned windows. There’s nothing to say that you can’t completely gut the inside of your house and put in a modern kitchen and modern bathroom and create an open plan within the house. There’s nothing to say that you can’t put in air conditioning and there’s nothing to say you can’t put in a master bedroom and master bath to the back of the house or even to the side of the house. There’s a lot that can happen in a HPOZ.
“The goal of the HPOZ – and there are 30-some HPOZs in the city –are, as expressed by the people who are for the HPOZ, to create some continuity and try to maintain some kind of continuity within the neighborhood. And what we have seen and the reason why people want HPOZs is because of some of the things that have occurred with new development in historic neighborhoods.
“The City of Los Angeles is comprised of many, many neighborhoods. People from outside of Los Angeles, who don’t know Los Angeles, don’t understand the neighborhood quality of our city. It’s comprised of many small neighborhoods and those neighborhoods are very important. They are like little working models of texture that create communities and as the community is more together, as expressed here, you have bigger patterns of socialization within that community because they have an identity to that community.
“As far as property values go, the National Trust of Historic Preservation, and you can go online and you can look it up, has determined that areas that have preservation zones across the United States have greater property values and hold their property values better in recessionary times than properties that don’t.
“What I always say to people who are a little questionable about the HPOZ [is] yes, you are going to give up something to have an HPOZ. There’s no question about that. But what you are going to gain is that when you wake up one morning the house across the street from you or next door to you is not going to be torn down and a giant monstrosity is going to be put up next to you. That’s what you gain.”
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