Lactose-free Politics • a message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

Lactose-free Politics

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

 

• July 2014: Sunset Blvd. water main rupture floods UCLA
• Sept. 2009: Coldwater Canyon water main rupture floods Ventura Blvd.
• The city replaces water mains once every 315 years
• 42% of Los Angeles’ 10,750 miles of sidewalks are in disrepair
• L.A. pays $3 million to $5 million a year for sidewalk injury claims
• 33% of the streets in the city have a score of D or worse
• Estimated cost of repairing these streets: $4 billion

The circa 1921 water main that spectacularly ruptured a few weeks ago on Sunset Boulevard and flooded UCLA with 20 million gallons of water reminds us that Los Angeles’ infrastructure is collapsing and there isn’t enough money to fix it. Not pipes, not roads, not sidewalks, not bridges, not fire department response times – not much of anything is getting improved, repaired, or replaced these days. It raises the obvious question: Where did all the money go that was supposed to maintain our infrastructure?

It is particularly interesting to me because many of the homes in the Miracle Mile were built in the 1920s. How much of our infrastructure was installed then – and how much of it is cracked or corroded and at the breaking point?

You would think there would be a place to look up current information on the state of our infrastructure, wouldn’t you? But there isn’t. And there’s a reason why such information is not readily available: because real estate development is the brightest star in the City’s overall dim economic firmament and if people really knew the truth about the state of our infrastructure they could use that information to slow or stop new development until the infrastructure issues are remedied. But this “no build” option is anathema to City Hall. As they say, money is the mother’s milk of politics – and to say “no” to developers would deprive politicians of a critical source of daily nutrition.

The City hasn’t always swept these facts under the rug. Back in 1996, when L.A. upgraded its general plan, the City made plans to chronicle infrastructure information and issue a yearly report so decision makers could prioritize public expenditures to ensure that our infrastructure could support development and jobs. It was, as the City declared at the time, an “elegant solution” to marry infrastructure with development.

Within a couple of years the City found this solution less than elegant. It became a source of acute political indigestion when the powers-that-be realized there wasn’t enough money to make sure neighborhoods had sufficient infrastructure to ensure public safety or quality of life. But they wouldn’t dare to publically admit that.

So, they declared to the taxpayers that the planning department has the discretion to determine the manner by which the monitoring and reporting requirements of the general plan are done. That “not all plan policies can be achieved in any given action, and in relation to any decision, some goals may be more compelling than others. On a decision-by-decision basis, taking into consideration factual circumstances, it is up to decision makers to decide how best to implement theadopted policies of the general plan in any way which best serves the public health, safety and general welfare.”  

That’s a mouthful. Let me translate for you.

What the city leaders really mean is they don’t want a little thing like failing infrastructure to prevent them from approving more and more high density real estate projects ­– they would miss the wonderful clinking sounds from the bottles of fresh milk that are delivered to their doorsteps every morning.

The City continues to hold the line that monitoring and reporting on infrastructure is optional. They are deploying that argument with a project in the Miracle Mile currently going through the Environmental Impact Report process.  This is an absurd spin on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This is “you can ask, but we can’t tell you because we don’t know – and even if we do, we don’t have to tell.”

Absent comprehensive and transparent monitoring and reporting on the state of the City’s infrastructure, how can we prioritize on what gets fixed and when? How do we budget our resources?

How many water mains could have been replaced with the money the City now must expend to compensate UCLA for the flooding of their campus? How many broken arms and collarbones must pedestrians endure before we come up with a rational plan to repair our jagged sidewalks? How large must the City’s annual budget deficits grow before we get a strong grip on city salaries and pensions?

The truth is hard to take. Behind the scenes, politicians say the public can’t handle the truth. That’s their way of rationalizing the artful way they dodge the facts about our infrastructure (and everything else). I think it’s the politicians who can’t handle the truth – for fear of being placed on a lactose-free diet.

 Sunset Blvd. sinkhole [Courtesy of KTLA]. Click image to enlarge.

For additional information:

Los Angeles Times:
Steve Lopez; A Case Study in L.A.’s Crumbling Infrastructure

Bloomberg Businessweek:
L.A. Faces $15 Billion Bill as Pipes Spring Leaks

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Subway Construction Update: A United Front

Subway Construction Update:

Beverly Wilshire and La Brea/Hancock
Homeowners Associations
Endorse MMRA Position on
Nighttime, Sunday, and Holiday
Subway Construction

Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and the La Brea/Hancock Homeowners Association have both approved motions endorsing the policy of the Miracle Mile Residential Association on work hours exemptions for subway construction.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon met last week with the board of directors of both neighborhood associations and shared the MMRA’s position that no variances from work hours regulations should be granted for nighttime, Sunday, or holiday subway construction until such time that all three organizations have had an opportunity to meet with the contractors for the project and satisfactorily resolve all questions and issues regarding noise and vibration.

La Brea/Hancock residents living near La Brea and Wilshire and Beverly Wilshire residents near Fairfax and Wilshire have already experienced sleepless nights from utility relocation work at these intersections. The unanimity of the board members of both organizations in adopting motions endorsing the MMRA’s position reflects how deeply the impact of subway construction is felt in adjacent neighborhoods.

“Metro is always shrugging off the impact of subway construction by dragging out the old adage that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” MMRA President Jim O’Sullivan remarked. “Our retort to that has always been that the Miracle Mile is a neighborhood – not a frying pan. And now it’s clear that the Beverly Wilshire and La Brea/Hancock neighborhoods don’t care to be a frying pan for Metro either. It’s a united front now.”


The MMRA’s ongoing petition campaign to stop nighttime, Sunday, and holiday subway construction continues to gather signatures as more and more people experience the disturbances ensuing from the utility relocations currently underway in the Miracle Mile – which have served as an unpleasant preview of coming attractions.

Metro will not listen to us – and our concerns over 10 years of 24/7 subway construction – if we don’t make our voices heard:

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LACMA: The Sky’s the Limit • Commentary by Greg Goldin


[Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.]

 

LACMA: The Sky’s the Limit

Commentary by Greg Goldin

[Editor’s note: Last month, LACMA Director Michael Govan announced a proposal to build what he hopes will be a Frank Gehry designed skyscraper on Wilshire, across from the museum’s campus. This project would serve as a sort of exclamation point to LACMA’s plan to bridge Wilshire with a new museum designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.]

It may be another decade or so before the Purple Line extension is complete, and riders emerge from the subway stop at Orange Grove and Wilshire, but the oncoming train is already changing the landscape at the west end of the Miracle Mile. If the money can be found, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will inflate a glass kidney bean off the backside of the former May Co. building and LACMA’s oil-slick-inspired $650 million-and-counting blob will ooze its way out of Hancock Park to bridge Wilshire and occupy their Spaulding parking lot. Just added to complete the troika of architectural razzle-dazzle could be the city’s tallest skyscraper, rising above the Wilshire/Orange Grove subway portal.

The hotel and condominium tower, presumably designed by Frank Gehry, would also have LACMA galleries, with a new architecture and design museum, as well as Gehry’s own archives. LACMA head Michael Govan told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m jealous that New York has a Gehry tower [left] and we don’t. My dream is some beautiful piece of architecture with an architecture and design museum at the base, which would add to Museum Row.”  Never mind that much of Museum Row is being decimated in no small part owing to LACMA’s maneuvering the subway portal onto the very block where buildings housing the A+D Architecture and Design museum and two other private art galleries must now be demolished to make way for subway construction.

LACMA owns approximately one-quarter of the 350-foot frontage on the south side of Wilshire between Orange Grove and Ogden, and hopes to forge a development deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority [Metro], Millennium Partners, and landowner Alan Sieroty before the subway construction site is reconfigured as yet another relentlessly dull Transit Oriented Development.

The LACMA chieftain’s instincts may be right – nobody wants another badly-designed building above another badly-designed subway portal – but Govan’s not taking any chances by trying to sell architecture solely on its own merits. Instead, he put a politically correct spin on the proposal. Once Metro opens the block for development, he said, “We know that density is the key to urban living and to the maximization of mass transit — and key to the environment. And so for all the right reasons, this is the right place” for a high-rise.

Thus, Govan shrewdly positions his “dream” as a civic virtue. No one believes this more than LACMA itself, which, like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, would become a major real estate developer. The reassuring urban planning rhetoric is meant to neutralize any opposition by making naysayers into nabobs opposed to leveraging a multi-billion investment in public transportation.

While no one doubts that some kind of building will rise once Metro pulls its construction trailers and tunnel boring machinery off the site, LACMA’s ambition is as naked as it is vainglorious. A Frank Gehry skyscraper, looming directly across the street from LACMA’s main galleries, would be, like Trajan’s Column in Rome [right], a triumphal commemoration of the museum’s self-conceived importance not just in the surrounding neighborhood or city – but in the global marketplace of art.

By adding Gehry to the list of Pritzker Prize winning names on the museum’s all-star roster (Renzo Piano and Peter Zumthor being the other two), the museum will have clothed itself in the raiment of “great buildings.”  Who, indeed, will ever again question the eminent stature of a cultural institution that once made the mistake of building an unfashionably dated and decidedly Hollywood version of the Kennedy Center and dared to call it a landmark destination.

The William Pereira designed LACMA campus, circa 1965.

This, indeed, is an essay into the ways in which the rich and powerful need to express the glories of so much accumulated money and power. Culture is the playground of the moneyed classes – whose wallets, and egos, are the ripe targets of the monument builders. What better way to supply a secular crown than with a building, by a world-renown architect, which bears your name?Nothing new, actually, is happening here with this proposed skyscraper.  From infancy LACMA has regarded itself as not only separate, but also above the status it retains as a publicly funded and owned art institution.  Embossed in the public record is the dirty secret that when the County Museum of Art spun itself off from its parent, the Natural History Museum, the new museum’s board of trustees first aim was to leave Exposition Park for the greener (as in, the color of money) environs of the Miracle Mile, then quaintly situated on the Westside – which nowadays, along with the money, has moved much further west.

When County Supervisor John Anson Ford offered the newly separated art museum a downtown plot of land – speculation is that the site was atop Bunker Hill, where the Catholic Cathedral now sits – LACMA’s board rejected the plan. “[I]t was recognized…that the location…would not attract the enthusiasm of potential donors from the west side.”

This quote, from the board minutes of January 21, 1958, was the sort of blunt comment made by civic leaders before the present era of milquetoast public relations statements. The museum’s leaders could not fathom leaving Exposition Park – and its surrounding black ghetto – only to be thrust into a downtown neighborhood populated by the city’s poor and elderly and black and Native American citizens. Westside money was hardly going to flow toward a location redolent of the city’s intractable underclass.

And, so, the museum spent several years lobbying G. Allan Hancock [right], the wealthy oilman who’d given the county the park that bears his name and contains the La Brea Tar Pits. Repeatedly, they tried to convince him to cede a piece of the 23 acres for their art museum, although it had been Hancock’s express wish to build a “fossil museum” dedicated to displaying the park’s unique Ice Age finds. In 1959, Hancock finally relented, agreeing to give the art museum 7 acres, and no more. The moment the plans for the new museum were unveiled – the William Pereira designed complex that is now destined to be demolished – LACMA began its long effort to aggrandize pieces of the park.

Time and again, LACMA sought to nibble away at the park that Hancock deemed should be permanently set aside for public enjoyment and scientific exploration. In the late-1960s, an attempt by the museum to expand further into Hancock Park met with a global protest. From Kenya, Louis Leakey, the world’s most famous paleoanthropologist and archaeologist, urged the museum to halt its plan, saying that no one would consider building atop a site where the first evidence of mankind was discovered, so why would they build atop the largest outcropping of Ice Age life anywhere on the face of the Earth? That effort flopped, but 20 years later the Bruce Goff designed Pavilion for Japanese Art was completed, taking another bite out of the park.

By then memories had faded, along with the county assurances that Hancock’s final wishes would never be violated. But LACMA never stopped eyeing the park. The first iteration of Zumthor’s modern design for a new museum covered – literally – several of the tar pits themselves. Only when the Natural History Museum, which administers Hancock Park, strenuously objected did LACMA retreat and come up with this latest version spanning Wilshire Boulevard.

In a sense, all of this is prologue, evidence that from the moment LACMA left Exposition Park to the present, an arrogant self-regard has been the chief characteristic of the museum’s stance. Now, in projecting its skyward dreams in the form of a Gehry tower, LACMA demonstrates all of its inherited insouciance, that blithe unconcern that comes with believing your own message and knowing that when you’ve got the money and the power to back it up the sky’s the limit – or maybe not. Actually, there are no height limits along Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile.

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Greg Goldin is the coauthor of Never Built Los Angeles and a curator at the A+D Museum. From 1999 to 2012, he was the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine. He is a longtime resident of the Miracle Mile and was featured in the MMRA Channel’s YouTube presentation: The Miracle Mile in Three Tenses: Past, Present, and Future.”

For additional information:Los Angeles Times:
LACMA, Metro Discussing New Museum Tower on Wilshire Blvd.

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MMRA Declares War on McMansions!

MMRA DECLARES
WAR
ON McMANSIONS!

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] has launched a three-front battle to stop mansionization. The Miracle Mile has become an easy target for builders of McMansions due to the fact that surrounding neighborhoods have successfully thwarted such development by becoming Historical Protection Overlay Zones [HPOZ] or Reduced Floor Area Districts [RFA].

A “super-sized” home under construction at 808 South Ridgeley Drive has galvanized the community [see "before" and "after" photos above]. Such development presents a clear threat to the historic fabric, scale, and livability of the Miracle Mile. After consulting with residents, real estate professionals, and other land use experts, the MMRA Board of Directors has concluded that, indeed, the Miracle Mile is a prime target for speculators looking to make a fast buck by demolishing older homes and replacing them with McMansions. Immediate action is critical to protect our community.

Because of the urgency and fluidity of this situation, the MMRA Board of Directors has developed a three-pronged effort to stop mansionization in the Miracle Mile:

Reform the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO]: 

The City adopted the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] in 2008 to prevent McMansions, but developers have skillfully exploited loopholes in the ordinance to circumvent restrictions on height and square footage. This resulted in a surge of mansionization in the Beverly Grove and La Brea/Hancock areas. Desperate to stop the destruction of their neighborhoods, these communities pursued becoming Reduced Floor Area Districts [RFA] to plug the many loopholes in the BMO.

Homeowner and residential associations, as well as other community organizations, have recently increased the pressure on the City Council to fix the BMO so that RFAs would not be needed to stop mansionization. Having an ever-growing number of RFAs created throughout L.A. would strain the already threadbare resources of the Department of City Planning. Reforming the BMO would protect Los Angeles neighborhoods and save the taxpayers money.

The MMRA has been lobbying City Hall to enact speedy reform of the BMO. The City Council Planning and Land Use Management [PLUM] Committee held a public hearing this month that attracted a large showing of community representatives clamoring for revisions to the BMO. The PLUM Committee gave the Department of City Planning a month to come back with suggestions on how to change the ordinance.

The MMRA is closely monitoring the actions of the PLUM Committee and will continue to exert pressure to eliminate the loopholes in the BMO.

Creating a Reduced Floor Area District [RFA] in the Miracle Mile:

Should the City Council falter or fail to eliminate all of the loopholes in the BMO, it is the consensus of the MMRA Board of Directors that the Miracle Mile should immediately seek the protections of RFA status. A Residential Floor Area Overlay district [RFA] is a zoning tool available for single-family residential neighborhoods to tailor citywide size and height development regulations to the particular needs of the community.

At its next meeting on September 4, 2014, the MMRA board will assess whether sufficient progress has been made by the City Council to reform the BMO. If – at that time – there is no evidence of movement towards substantial reform of the BMO, the MMRA will launch an outreach and petition campaign to create the Miracle Mile Reduced Floor Area District. The MMRA would pursue the same regulations contained within the Beverly Grove RFA, which was instituted in October 2013. [Click here to read the Beverly Grove RFA.]

An RFA can be created in much less time than an HPOZ – and time is of the essence in stopping mansionization. Hopefully, reform of the BMO will make this step unnecessary.

Creation the Miracle Mile Historical Protection Overlay Zone [HPOZ]:

The Miracle Mile is currently being subjected to a tidal wave of new development – mansionization is just one aspect of the many threats our community confronts. The MMRA created an HPOZ Committee last May to explore HPOZ protection for the Miracle Mile. The committee was instructed to do fact-finding, seek the input of residents and property owners, and report on how an HPOZ might be designed and implemented.

Although the committee’s work is in the preliminary stages, it is already apparent that an HPOZ is the only means available to ensure the historic continuity, appearance, and scale of our community. An HPOZ would help to level the playing field that is heavily weighted in favor of real estate speculators and developers – and the politicians who depend on their campaign contributions.

The push for an HPOZ has just begun in the Miracle Mile and it could take anywhere from two-to-four years to complete the intricate process of creating an HPOZ.  So, although an HPOZ would be the most effective way to stop mansionization – as well as institute design standards that would preserve the fabric of our neighborhood – it is not a “quick fix.”

Reform of the BMO and/or the creation of a RFA would stop mansionization and buy the community time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of an HPOZ. Mansionization must be stopped now – or there will be even less to preserve.

For additional information:

MMRA Newsletter [May 2014]:
Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile

MMRA Newsletter [July 2014]:
Los Angeles Times Finally Starts to Report on Mansionization Story

 What’s your opinion? 

Miracle Mile Residential Association launched an online survey last May to solicit residents’ opinions regarding mansionization and the creation of an Historical Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ] and/or Reduced Floor Area District [RFA].

Take the “Mansionization–RFA–HPOZ” Survey

Read the survey results…

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LACMA Wants to Bridge Wilshire

LACMA Wants to Bridge Wilshire with Revamped Museum Design

 

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has revised his “ink blot” design for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA]. The original design received a great deal of criticism for overshadowing the La Brea Tar Pits. The Miracle Mile Residential Association objected to the earlier plan for encroaching on the tar pits and on valuable green space at Hancock Park.

The revised design avoids impinging on the tar pits by spanning Wilshire Boulevard to an anchoring pavilion located on a LACMA owned parking lot on the south side of Wilshire at Spaulding Avenue. This new design retains the original 400,000 square foot single-floor concept, which will be elevated 30-feet above street level.

Although bridging Wilshire would eliminate impact on the tar pits and help to reduce LACMA’s expansion into Hancock Park, the reconfigured plan raises a slew of new questions and concerns for the community.

New York Times article on the revised design explained: “The museum receives about a third of its $70 million annual operating budget from Los Angeles County and uses county buildings on county land. The City of Los Angeles must approve construction within its limits and air rights above Wilshire Boulevard. Mayor Garcetti and county supervisors were among the first apprised of the design change, suggesting how much this project depends on the support of politicians and governmental agencies.”

The cost of the project is the subject of speculation. LACMA Director Michael Govan has maintained that the razing of the original museum campus and the construction of the new Zumthor structure – along with an endowment fund – would cost around $650 million. Many architects and experts estimate that the price tag would be closer to $1 billion. The cost of this new design – as well as environmental, seismic, and land use issues – will be analyzed in a feasibility study to be completed in spring 2015.

The New York Times article quotes critics of the design who feel “it would be too dark” — “monolithic” or “cavelike” — for a city as sunny as Los Angeles.” It is a criticism that Zumthor feels he has addressed by creating open-air courtyards in the center of the five glass cylinders that would support the main building.

But Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne feels that the revised plan is “perhaps misguided.” Having such a large structure bridging Wilshire had Hawthorne musing on “…what will it be like to walk beneath it? Will it feel like you’re trudging under a freeway overpass? How will the underside of the building be detailed and illuminated?”

It is too early for the MMRA to take an official position on LACMA’s proposal to bridge Wilshire with a new museum. MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon was interviewed on LACMA’s revised plan by The Architect’s Newspaper: “As we’ve painfully learned the devil is in the details. We’re not the design police. We want good design. We want good architecture. But it’s all about the connective tissue.” For now, he [Hixon] points out, such issues — like the museum’s relationship to local housing, available parking, preservation, street life, and, of course, construction—have yet to be specified. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project is still far off.”

 

The dotted line shows the original shape of a planned LACMA building, jutting out over a tar pit. The solid line, which stretches over Wilshire Boulevard, is the revised design.

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What is your initial reaction to LACMA’s plan – is it a bridge to the future, a bridge over troubled water, or a bridge too far? Take our survey and let us know. We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Poll participants are completely anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. Just click on this link:

 

LACMA Bridge Over Wilshire Poll

Top and bottom graphics courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner; middle graphic courtesy of LACMA.

For additional information:

New York Times:
A Contemporary Design Yields to the Demands of Prehistory

Los Angeles Times:
Peter Zumthor’s L.A.-LACMA vision in need of update

The Architect’s Newspaper:
For Neighbors, Jury Still Out on Zumthor’s New LACMA Plan

The Miracle Mile Residential Association:
Tar Pits Threatened by LACMA Expansion; MMRA Approves Motion to Preserve Green Space in Hancock Park

 

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Miracle Mile Spotlight: Black Dog Coffee

Miracle Mile Spotlight:

Black Dog Coffee

Bradley Gold had what he thought was a “lifetime career” working in operations for a restaurant chain when he was laid off at age 53. So, he walked away from corporate life and entered the world of sole proprietorship when he opened Black Dog Coffee in 1998.

It was an opportunity right in his back yard. Brad lived six blocks away and, at that time, his wife had an office in the Wilshire building where the restaurant is located. According to Brad the previous owner was “a motivated seller” – and, given his sudden joblessness, Brad was obviously a motivated buyer.

“So, I changed the name, changed the menu, changed everything,” he explains. “I think up until I came along most of the places that had been in here were geared toward the people working in the office buildings and the residents were given less attention. All the places around were always closed on Saturdays and Sundays. And I knew from the get-go that I wanted it to be a seven-day-a-week business – because you can’t be a neighborhood business if you close on the weekends.”

Brad [behind counter at left] knew what he was doing. With outdoor seating and free wi-fi, Black Dog Coffee is one of the most popular eateries in the area. The menu features a variety of breakfasts and sandwiches – and, of course, great coffee.

Brad attributes his Miracle Mile location as key to Black Dog’s success. There are thousands of residents within easy walking distance and close to 3 million square feet of office space within a two-block radius of the coffee shop. “You couldn’t do any better than that if you were a single operator in Century City,” Brad remarks.

Brad grew up in the restaurant business. His parents operated an Orange Julius stand in Burbank for 25 years. He worked there when he was in high school. “And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more fun working for myself than it was working for my dad,” he laughs.

Approaching his 70th birthday – the father of two grown children and the grandfather of three – Brad represents the end of the line for the restaurant business in his family. His daughter is a realtor and his son is a journalist – and he is enormously proud of them.

What began 17 years ago as a remedy to forced early retirement has now become a pleasant working retirement for Brad. “I’m very grateful that the restaurant turned out the way it has. In the beginning I worked around-the-clock, but now I’ve got seven employees and four of them have been here ten years or more,” he said, knocking on wood. Having such a stable and trustworthy staff allow Brad and his wife to take vacations to Europe and Asia.

“I’m going to continue to work, because I’m not working that much anymore. And it gets me out of the house every morning –makes me shave.”

Photos courtesy Black Dog Coffee.

Black Dog Coffee
5657 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 323-933-1976
Email: blackdog5657@gmail.com
Website: http://www.blackdogcoffee.com
Hours:
Monday–Friday 7 AM–6 PM
Saturday–Sunday 8 AM–4 PM

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.

 

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Angry Residents Confront Metro Officials at Noise Meeting

Subway Construction Update

Angry Residents Confront Metro Officials at Noise Mitigation Meeting

Grinder

On May 27, Metro held a meeting of the Purple Line Extension advisory group at the Petersen Museum. On the agenda was Metro’s mitigation plan for construction noise and vibration in the Miracle Mile. Metro’s PowerPoint presentation on the topic can be seen here.

The proposed mitigations offered to the community did not pass the “common sense” test with numerous residents in attendance. Nighttime work currently underway for utility relocations at Wilshire/La Brea and Wilshire/Fairfax sparked complaints from residents of the La Brea-Hancock area and from those living on Orange Street near Fairfax.

A mother of young children displayed a smartphone video she made of Metro contractors grinding welds on temporary steel plates covering a trench near La Brea and Wilshire; the late night work woke her children blocks away.

A professional recording engineer living on Orange Street argued that Metro was trying to snow residents by claiming that nighttime subway construction would not exceed nighttime ambient noise levels by more than 5 decibels. He pointed out that while that might seem to be only a slight increase in volume to the uninformed, in fact, a 5 decibel increase would nearly double the perceived nighttime ambient noise levels.

A Windsor Square resident complained that a long promised sound wall surrounding the subway construction yard at Crenshaw and Wilshire had yet to be completed – despite the fact that the utility relocation crews headquartered there began using the site many months ago.

Others inquired why nighttime utility relocation work recently detoured eastbound Wilshire traffic to 8th Street for two nights in a row; a situation that had idling and honking vehicles stacked up at the intersections of Genesee and Ogden late into the night – without traffic control officers present. Even Metro’s 720 bus was diverted to 8th, adding to the traffic noise that disturbed a number of nearby residents.

A Metro official admitted that they were having difficulty implementing practices designed to require the various utility relocation contractors to reduce nighttime noise; that it is a challenge for Metro to ensure that every construction vehicle has a low volume back-up alarm; and that, on occasion, a construction worker pulls up to the work site in the middle of the night with their car stereo blaring. This official was also unable to explain why workers were grinding welds at such a late hour, despite Metro’s often-repeated assurances that noisier work would be confined to the earlier hours of the evening.

The experiences of residents enduring the disturbances of nighttime utility relocations serves to reinforce the MMRA’s opposition to permit 24/7 activities at the Miracle Mile subway station construction sites. In their PowerPoint presentation Metro admitted that the greatest amount of noise would be generated at their Wilshire/La Brea yard, which will house a slurry recovery facility and a grout manufacturing plant – as well as serve as the location where all the dirt will be extracted from all of the tunneling from Western to La Cienega.

Once again, it was reiterated at the meeting that the contractor of the subway extension is solely responsible for mitigating noise and vibration. That the mitigations Metro touted at the meeting were only examples of mitigations that might be provided. This is why the Miracle Mile Residential Association maintains that until such time that Metro actually engages a contractor it is pointless to discuss specific noise mitigations for the subway construction sites at Fairfax and La Brea. Time and time again, the MMRA has informed Metro that it will not sign a blank check on work hours exemptions that will be cashed at the expense of the residents of the Miracle Mile.

The only way to guarantee that the neighborhood has a voice in how subway construction is conducted in the Miracle Mile is to sign the online petition opposing nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction. This petition campaign, which has been underway since last February, has already compelled Metro to ask the Los Angeles Police Commission for a “time out” in considering their application for an exemption from work hours rules at the Miracle Mile subway construction sites.

Subway Petition Lawn Sign

The MMRA’s “no blank check” stance appears to have gained traction with the Police Commission. Recently, the commission began requiring all contractors seeking work hours exemptions in the Miracle Mile to consult with the MMRA before they will consider applications for variances. This is a requirement that the commission didn’t enact before they granted permission to allow nighttime utility relocation work. Obviously, our petition campaign has provoked this policy change and the MMRA is pleased that the commission is being so responsive and respectful towards our community.

The MMRA’s petition campaign has gotten a lot of attention – and some criticism from those who mistakenly believe that we oppose the subway extension. Our objective is to balance the fundamental right of thousands of residents to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own homes with the enormous demands of a massive, decade long, multiple billion-dollar construction project. Neither side is going to get everything they want, but the MMRA will not allow the needs of the residents to be ignored no matter how important or worthy the cause.

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

Click here to download the printable petition

We also invite you to visit the Subway Construction page on the MMRA website. It is frequently updated with links to media coverage on our petition campaign, official correspondence, construction fact sheets and reports, YouTube videos of subway construction techniques, and other information.

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Miracle Mile Spotlight: Urban Florist

Miracle Mile Spotlight: Urban Florist

 Bryan

Bryan Brayton [photo above] is very much a Connecticut Yankee in the Miracle Mile. He’s an even-tempered, friendly, and contented man. He opened his florist shop on the south side of 8th Street, just a short distance from La Brea Avenue, in 1986. Urban Florist is one of the oldest small businesses in the Miracle Mile, despite a less than promising start:

“I remember the first day I opened, my family came and we pulled up to the shop and the whole front was spray painted with graffiti,” Bryan laughs at the memory. “We were from a little country town in Connecticut and my father said, ‘What kind of neighborhood is this?’”

But the Miracle Mile suited Bryan. He discovered the area when he came west on vacation and decided to stay. Flowers have always been his passion. Back east he had studied floriculture, design, and the business aspects of the trade. So, he found work at a florist shop on Doheny. After three years there, he decided he could run a shop on his own and, with a loan from his father, Urban Florist opened for business.

At the beginning he was a one man enterprise: “I would answer the phone, make the arrangement, turn on the answering machine, get in the car, go deliver it, come back, get the messages, call the customers back…” He shakes his head and chuckles.

Now he has two employees: a designer and delivery driver. Although, he temporarily increases his staff to meet the demand on Mother’s Day and Valentine Day.

One of the things Bryan enjoys most about his profession is going downtown to the flower mart three mornings a week. He typically arrives there at 5 AM, although the wholesale market opens at 2 AM. “It’s a whole other world,” he says. “It’s lucky I was born a morning person.”

The florist business has changed since he first opened his establishment. “Thirty years ago people went to florist shops to buy flowers. Now they go to Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s. There used to be all these ‘bucket shops’ with rows and rows of flowers and that’s where you went to buy your flowers. But now Costco does weddings and once that happened all the bucket shops disappeared.” Fortunately, 90% of his business comes from internet orders or over the phone.

The shop is open six days a week. “You’re almost married to the business,” he states. “I do this more than I do anything else. And I like it. I haven’t had a summer vacation in ten years or more. But I’m very lucky. I grew up with a dad who said, ‘Kids, if you’re going to do something, make sure you like it,’ because he wasn’t happy with his corporate job with General Electric. He said, ‘Be happy with what you do, because you’re going to be at work more than you’re going to be at home.’”

Local customers respond positively to the fact that the shop is not a cookie-cutter franchise design. “People walk in and say, ‘this is so quaint, what a sweet little shop.’ You can almost hear them take a sigh of relief.”

“Fortunately, for me, all these new apartments buildings going up in the Miracle Mile are going to help a lot.” He’s been contracted to provide weekly flower arrangements for the leasing office and community spaces in the new mixed-use apartment building on the southeast corner of Wilshire and La Brea. “And, of course, Park La Brea has always been good for me. We do a lot of deliveries there.”

At this point in the interview, a delivery of small potted succulents was made, which prompted Bryan to remark: “At the end of the school year the moms order thank you gifts for their kid’s teachers. It’s another great part of being a little neighborhood florist: I get to see the circle of life. I’m on the second generation now. I’ve done kid’s proms, weddings, and now they’re having babies. I love it. It makes me feel small town. How wonderful to have people walk by every day and stick their head in the door and say, ‘Good morning, Bryan.’”

But the flip side of being in business of celebration is accommodating those who are in mourning. “I can’t tell you how many folks who were my original customers and their families will call me to say that they have passed away. It can be very upsetting. I’ve known them for years and all of a sudden they’re gone. I’m very attached to this neighborhood, there are some great people here.”

Urban Florist
5310 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hours:
Monday–Friday: 9 AM–5 PM
Saturday: 9 AM–2PM
Closed Sunday
Phone: 323-937-7100
Fax: 323-937-0774
Email: UrbanFlorist@sbcglobal.net
Website: urbanflorist.net

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.

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LaBonge Signs Off on Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan

LaBonge Signs Off on Miracle Mile

Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan

Traffic Jam

Councilmember Tom LaBonge and Miracle Mile Residential Association President James O’Sullivan met Monday, June 16, 2014, to finalize details for the Miracle Mile Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan [NTMP].

The MMRA has been seeking to implement the plan since last October – working in close cooperation with LaBonge’s Field Deputy, Ben Seinfeld, and Jeannie Shen, Transportation Engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s Hollywood-Wilshire District office.

Area-wide congestion has gridlocked Wilshire Boulevard, Olympic Boulevard, and 8th Street during rush hour periods and resulted in more cut-through traffic on north/south streets. Traffic accidents are on the rise and so are complaints from the residents. The Miracle Mile is a hotbed of new development – with more major projects on the horizon – and the advent of Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit lanes on Wilshire Boulevard, as well as a decade of subway construction, will only add to our traffic woes.

The MMRA feels strongly that the Miracle Mile needs a comprehensive traffic safety study that will analyze traffic counts, vehicle speeds, and line-of-sight problems with intersecting streets along 8th Street. This study, which will cover Wilshire to Olympic from La Brea to Fairfax, will provide a rational basis to evaluate possible mitigations – and avoid the unintended consequences of “one-off” traffic fixes.

At first it appeared that LADOT budget cuts and staffing shortages would prevent the NTMP from being executed in a timely manner. The MMRA successfully lobbied Councilmember LaBonge and LADOT to use a special fund designated for traffic mitigations in the Miracle Mile to engage an outside traffic consultant firm to perform the study. These funds were donated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA] to mitigate the Ogden Avenue “vacation.” Approximately 10 years ago, LACMA took over Ogden Avenue between Wilshire and 6th Street to unify their campus. LACMA agreed to create a special traffic mitigation fund because it was impossible at that time to predict the full impact of such a street closure on traffic in the Miracle Mile.

The MMRA has polled residents in the past and investigated every intersection within the study area to determine the scope of work to be performed by the traffic consultant. Our priority is safety. The NTMP will provide a professional overview of the area that will be invaluable when measuring the traffic impact of new development. It will also prevent pitting one street against another when residents propose various traffic solutions for their respective streets.

Final steps are underway to select a traffic consultant. It is estimated that the study will take six months to complete. The MMRA will share the results with the residents and continue to solicit their input on any proposed mitigations.

The MMRA is grateful to Councilmember LaBonge and his Field Deputy, Ben Seinfeld, for working so diligently to get this traffic plan launched. There are no easy fixes to traffic problems in the Miracle Mile, but a Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan will allow us all to make well informed decisions.

Posted in News

Miracle Mile Spotlight: Miracle Mile Toys & Games

[From the April 2014 edition of the Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter.]

Miracle Mile Spotlight:

Miracle Mile Toys & Games

As a child Christine Johnson must have been a very skilled curator of toys and games, because her shop contains a fantastic collection of quality merchandise. It is obvious that every item has been thoughtfully selected. Her eye for detail is readily apparent, from the custom-made shelves to the second-floor play area. Christine is a student of fun with a keen insight into children and what entertains them (and adults, too…).

Christine is a bright and personable woman with a very focused and pragmatic approach to business and community. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Massachusetts when she was 13. A graduate of Wellesley College, she married an attorney who had family and a twin brother living in Southern California.  So, after college she and her husband came west and, in time, settled into a home on South Ridgeley Avenue in the Miracle Mile. They sold the house last summer and now live in an apartment on Wilshire in Koreatown. “Which I like a lot, it’s bigger,” says Christine – space is imperative with three children under the age of 10.

Christine was drawn to brick-and-mortar retailing because: “ I like the idea of touching a product and selling a real product to a real person. And I think it’s important for the community to have those kinds of businesses here, because that’s what makes a community: interaction.”

Although the store has a website, she doesn’t sell online. “You don’t get the same community feeling if you don’t go into a store once in awhile – especially with toys. When you’re online buying toys you’re seeing an abstract of what everybody likes, you’re going to see the things that everybody buys. You can sort by most popular, best reviewed, but you’re not necessarily going to find little gems. Or something that might have gotten slammed in a couple of reviews but happens be a really fine product.”

Although Christine has placed ads in local papers she has found that the best advertising is word of mouth from moms and dads. “We do a lot on Facebook and Instagram has been really good for us. I post pictures of what’s happening in the store or a cute new product and people find it by the hash-tag.”

When asked about the impact of the impending subway construction on small businesses along Wilshire, Christine was blunt: “That is going to be chaos. It’s going to be dirty, noisy, messy. They [Metro] can definitely communicate better with businesses and residents. They’re not doing well with that at all. Nobody really knows what’s happening or when. I can’t plan my business if they’re not giving me any more details. But I came into it knowing all this. I opened the business knowing that Metro was coming. That’s why I picked this spot. And I knew it was going to be hell – for nine years, potentially. And I’ve never been naïve about the challenges.”

She commented that subway construction will diminish already limited parking for merchants and restaurants in the Miracle Mile. Her store has no off-street parking and is dependent on the metered parking on Wilshire. “I’m sure it’s a barrier for some people, I’m sure I’m missing people who maybe found me online, then drive through the area and decide not to stop. But most of my customers walk here or live within a few blocks. And I’m able to sustain the business with that level of locality. I think the business will be able to continue based on my ‘local love’ – fingers crossed.”

Christine [photo, right] is optimistic that others like her will take the plunge and start new businesses in the Miracle Mile. “I have customers who come in – and it’s inspiring, I guess, for them to see a new business like this. They have their own dreams about their own business and they ask me all kinds of questions: how did you do it, how do you manage it, how do you do it with three kids? Starting a business for some people seems absolutely daunting. It is emotionally daunting. But if you can get past the emotional aspect of it, it’s a nine-to-five job –okay, maybe it’s eight to midnight.”

By the way, Christine doesn’t sell toy guns – but she remarked, “I finally caved and got water guns, but they’re behind the register. You have to ask for them,” she laughed.

 

 

Miracle Mile Toys & Games
5363 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
310-651-1414
Hours: 10 AM–6 PM, Every Day
www.miraclemiletoys.com
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[Note: 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.]

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