MMRA Meets with Metro • Seeks to Shift Nighttime Utility Relocations to Daytime Hours

 

MMRA Meets with Metro

Seeks to Shift Nighttime Utility Relocations
to Daytime Hours

Miracle Mile Residential Association President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon met with representatives of Metro and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation [LADOT] on January 27, 2015 to discuss the noise and vibration impacts of ongoing nighttime utility relocation work.

At the meeting the MMRA presented a letter to Metro with suggestions for how nighttime noise disturbances could either be eliminated or better mitigated. The letter stated “It is clear after a year of Advanced Utility Relocations (AUR) that nighttime construction in the Miracle Mile – one of the most densely populated urban corridors in the country – cannot be done without disturbing the peace. Such work requires a super-human level of noise mitigation that has been demonstrated to be impractical to achieve on a consistent basis.”

The MMRA requested that LADOT grant Metro permission to work during morning and evening peak hours so that the majority of utility relocations could be shifted to daytime.

In a written reply, Kasey Shuda, Metro Construction Relations Manager, replied: “If the Los Angeles Department of Transportation was to approve peak hour exemptions for the project, from 6AM-9AM and 4PM-7PM, they would require two lanes of traffic remain open in each direction. This would cripple the ability of the contractor to complete a majority of AUR [advanced utility relocation] work due to the current condition of Wilshire Blvd. In order to keep two lanes of traffic open in each direction the project would be required to complete street reconfigurations including landscape removal, median demolition, signal relocation and street lighting relocations. These activities are not scheduled to take place until just prior to pile drilling. Pile drilling is the first activity of major subway construction. It is scheduled to take place first at the Wilshire/La Brea station in late 2015.”

The MMRA’s position is that since street reconfiguration is already in the plans to allow for the construction of the underground subway stations at La Brea and Fairfax, this reconfiguration should take place sooner than later to allow utility relocations to be done during daytime hours.

At the meeting Metro representatives acknowledged that it is nearly impossible to assure that nighttime construction won’t keep some residents awake, but that their goal was to disturb as few residents as possible. The MMRA takes issue with this calculation, which measures the success of mitigation by how many people are kept awake. We believe that every resident living along the Wilshire corridor has a fundamental right to sleep at night and that the only effective means to ensure this right is to stop subway construction between 11 PM and 7AM.


Click image to view video.

In its letter the MMRA also discussed proposed mitigations at the four subway construction sites to be located in the Miracle Mile. “Metro needs to go beyond mere compliance with the minimal requirements of the noise code if they want to generate good will in the community,” said Hixon. “Nine years of subway construction is going wear nerves thin, especially when nearby residents are kept awake all night.”

To date over 750 people have signed the “Sleepless in the Miracle Mile” petition opposing nighttime subway construction. The MMRA will continue to work with Metro and its contractors to make this lengthy project go as smoothly as possible, but we will not alter our opposition to nighttime construction. Nighttime subway construction and a good night’s sleep are inherently incompatible goals.

MMRA Letter to Metro, 27 Jan. 2015

Metro Letter to MMRA, 3 Feb. 2015

For additional information:

Park LaBrea News/Beverly Press: Noise from subway work rattles nerves at night

MMRA website: Subway Construction page

 

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Pin the Tail on the Donkey (The CD 4 Council Election) • A Message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

Pin the Tail on the Donkey

(The CD 4 Council election)

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

Back in 2011–2012, when redistricting was underway, many of us were scrambling to figure out how the boundaries of the new city council districts would be drawn. That was especially true for many of us in Council District 4. The original redistricting proposal had many of the older Wilshire corridor neighborhoods from the Miracle Mile to Hancock Park in CD 5, but the map quickly morphed again into what it is today: A convoluted carpet stain that meanders from the Miracle Mile and Hancock Park to Sherman Oaks via the Hollywood Hills with side stops in Silverlake and Toluca Lake. It is the byproduct of City Hall sausage making at its worst.

So, now that it’s time to elect a new CD4 council member we are scrambling once again to figure out how to select someone to represent a district with such far flung neighborhoods. Some issues are universal, but the complexity of CD 4 with its many different community plans will present a daunting task for the next council member. Whoever is elected will have to hit the ground running on day one and, frankly, if they need a “learning curve” their education will occur while dodging incoming rounds. CD 4 is a battlefield of angry voters who are beyond frustration with City Hall.


Council District 4. Click on map to enlarge.

 

I have attended four-and-counting debates trying to determine what each candidate brings to the table. We have community activists (some who have worked for the City and some who haven’t), several candidates who have worked in County or State government, and a couple that I can’t quite figure out yet.

So far the debates have been interesting, but they are set pieces that have done little to help voters evaluate who would be the best person to replace Tom LaBonge. After the first debate all the candidates start sounding alike – particularly given their habit of  “borrowing” the best lines from their competitors.

By design, the debate format is too constrained to be little more than a regurgitation of bullet points that create in the viewer a sensation akin to Attention Deficit Disorder. At best, debates provide candidates an opportunity to make a first impression, which is helpful – but not particularly telling because candidates tend to be very skilled at making first impressions. But debates are woefully lacking in supplying substantive information that voters need to make a truly informed decision. And often debates send people home with more misinformation than real information. The hard truth is there are certain things a council member can do on their own and many other things that require the compliance of the full council (and as a result are practically impossible to achieve). The lines between these two points are so blurred at some debates that candidates can promise anything and not get called on it.

As they are currently configured debates do not work ­– imagine a bookstore that only sold book covers. It’s a fool’s errand to buy a book solely based on the author’s photo or the typeset of the title. We need a more intelligent and rational way to evaluate candidates, especially when we have an open seat with 14 candidates.

The Council District 5 Homeowners Coalition has devised a method of reviewing candidates and their positions that is worthy of replicating here in CD 4. It starts early in the campaign process: Candidates for every City office are asked the same set of questions and graded on a sliding scale based on their answers. The answers are posted without a recommendation, but the grading system leaves little doubt about who answered the questions and who did not. They also hold recorded debates that include detailed follow up questions.

The primary election for a new CD 4 councilmember is coming to an end, but it is past time for the community groups in our district to form our own coalition to help our residents make truly informed decisions about future candidates seeking City offices. The MMRA is committed to joining with other residential and homeowner associations in organizing the Council District 4 Community Coalition; not only to help better educate voters, but also to serve as a lobbying force for the many issues our communities share in common.

But where does that leave us right now – with so many candidates and so many questions unanswered? We have been a day late and dollar short on getting serious looks at the candidates in the primary, but that will not be the case in the runoff. (And it is the clear consensus that there will be a runoff.) The MMRA will produce video interviews with the remaining two candidates, which will comprehensively address issues relevant to the residents of the Miracle Mile and to CD 4 as a whole. We promise to give you the information and insight you need to make a well-educated decision in the runoff election. And if a runoff candidate declines to participate in these interviews, we’ll let you know and you can factor that into your decision.

In the small comfort category: I was so disturbed by what I saw at the early debates that I devised a transparency pledge and asked each candidate to sign it. Twelve of the 14 candidates have signed it and we will see who keeps their word once they are in office. But make no mistake, everyone is watching. And whomever wins will be sitting in a chair with a built in ejector should they prove to be ineffective or tone deaf to the needs of CD 4. You know folks are riled up when they are already talking recall before the election even takes place. It is a sign of the times.

The Council District 4 Candidate Transparency Pledge

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Another McMansion Underway in the Miracle Mile

Another McMansion Underway
in the Miracle Mile

While the Community Waits for City Approval 
of a Temporary Demolition Ban

 A house at 936 South Burnside Avenue was demolished last week to make way for another McMansion. The 1,836 sq. ft. home on a 7700 sq. ft. lot was a probate sale that fetched $1.2 million in October 2014. The property was purchased by Skyan Holdings, LLC., a local development company.

It is readily apparent from the plans submitted to the Department of City Planning that a new two-story McMansion will be constructed on the site. [Here is a link to the plan check and permits issued to date.]

In a conversation with a representative of the developer, a neighbor learned that the developer had rushed to secure a demolition permit in December 2014 because they were aware that the Miracle Mile is on a list of neighborhoods to be included in a pending two-year Interim Control Ordinance [ICO] that would impose temporary restrictions to stop or limit demolitions in areas with pending applications for either a Reduced Floor Area District [RFA] or an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ].

The ICO was presented at the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management [PLUM] Committee in October 2014. The MMRA submitted a request to create an RFA to Councilmember Tom LaBonge last September to serve as a stopgap measure to allow time for implementation of the Miracle Mile HPOZ. LaBonge placed the Miracle Mile on the ICO list, which includes 14 other communities throughout Los Angeles.

A draft of the ICO was released on February 12, 2015. In the proposed ordinance the Miracle Mile is grouped with South Hollywood, La Brea Hancock Neighborhood, Larchmont Heights, and Old Granada Hills, it reads: “… no building permit shall issue for a Project … unless the proposed structure’s Residential Floor Area does not exceed 120% of the prior existing structure’s Residential Floor Area.”

The MMRA is confident that the Draft ICO, if enacted as written, would effectively stop mansionization in the Miracle Mile. Although, we are continuing to examine the Draft ICO to make certain it contains no loopholes. The MMRA is also concerned that it still allows McMansions in the very early stages of the permitting and approval process to proceed; we will lobby to have these exceptions tightened.

Map of Miracle Mile ICO. Click image to enlarge.

The PLUM Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the ICO on February 24 at 2:30PM. The committee will take public comments and will vote to send the ICO to the full City Council for approval. It appears certain that the Council will adopt the ICO once it is sent to them, but it is critical that the Miracle Mile community turnout in force at the PLUM hearing to ensure that the ICO is not watered-down to accommodate real estate speculators and developers.

Meanwhile, while ICOs are lazily drafted and approved in slow motion, the McMansion developers are playing a game of beat the clock.

A recent New York Times article on mansionization in Los Angeles stated: “… the destruction of thousands of classic homes is disrupting and dividing neighborhoods, raising alarm among civic leaders about potentially irreparable damage to handsome, historic and architecturally distinctive communities that they argue define Los Angeles as much as Hollywood or Venice.

“The phenomenon has left some homeowners living under the shadow of looming block houses that push up against their property lines. Often, the first warning that a neighbor’s home is about to vanish comes from the beep-beep-beep of bulldozers that arrive overnight and can turn a home into a pile of wood and stone by lunchtime.”

That was certainly the case for the neighbors of 936 South Burnside Avenue.

      
808 South Ridgeley Drive • Before and After

For additional information:

Los Angeles City Attorney ICO Report 

Draft ICO, 12 Feb. 2015

New York Times, 6 Feb. 2015: In Los Angeles, Vintage Houses Are Giving Way to Bulldozers

Los Angeles Times, 30 Jan. 2014: McMansions Eat Up Traditional Backyards as Interiors Trump Exteriors

CityWatch L.A., 30 Jan. 2014: Dirty Little Secrets about Mansionization in Los Angeles

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MMRA Board Endorses Miracle Mile HPOZ

   

MMRA Board Endorses Miracle Mile HPOZ

Tom LaBonge Sponsors Council Motion
Launching Adoption Process

The Miracle Mile Residential Association Board of Directors endorsed the recommendation of the MMRA HPOZ Committee at its February 5th board meeting and adopted a motion supporting the creation of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ].

“The Miracle Mile is in the midst of an onslaught of over-development,” remarked HPOZ Committee co-chair Jeremy Matz, “HPOZ is the only way we can save our neighborhood.”

The proposed boundaries of the Miracle Mile HPOZ are Wilshire Boulevard on the north, San Vicente Boulevard on the south, La Brea Avenue on the east, and Fairfax Avenue on the west. Commercial properties and certain recently constructed large apartment complexes would be excluded.

The first step in the process is to have the adoption of the Miracle Mile HPOZ initiated by a council motion. MMRA President James O’Sullivan reached out to Councilmember Tom LaBonge who quickly agreed to sponsor the motion. “It is only fitting for Tom to do this and put his stamp indelibly on the Miracle Mile,” said O’Sullivan. “As he caps his long career in service to the City, I can’t think of a better ending than to help us preserve our neighborhood for generations to come.”

The Miracle Mile HPOZ has garnered the endorsement of the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber values the special character of the residential area and fully supports the HPOZ effort,” said Steve Kramer, President of the Chamber.

The HPOZ also received a strong endorsement from Mid City West Community Council. Cary Brazeman, Chair of Mid City’s Planning and Land Use Committee, stated, “Mid City West Community Council is pleased to have voted overwhelmingly to support the study and establishment of a Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone that should include single-family and multifamily residences.  The neighborhood is an under-appreciated gem right in the heart of Los Angeles, with architectural history and community character that is abundant.  We encourage the expeditious adoption of the Miracle Mile HPOZ.”

There are many steps in the lengthy process of adopting an HPOZ, including a historic resources survey of the area and extensive community meetings and workshops. [See chart below.]

Click on chart to enlarge.

“This is all about outreach and community involvement,” said HPOZ Committee chair Mark Zecca. “Working within the guidelines of the Department of City Planning, the community needs to design the Miracle Mile HPOZ to meet their goals. There is leeway in an HPOZ preservation plan and it’s up to all of us to determine how restrictive or permissive we want the rules to be.”

Property owners and renters alike will participate in the HPOZ process. MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon commented, “The demolition of older rent stabilized duplexes and apartment buildings are steadily reducing the last vestiges of affordable apartments in the Miracle Mile. As luxury apartments replace older buildings, the neighborhood loses not only its architectural character but its neighborly spirit. Long-term renters in historic apartments sink deep roots into the community. Luxury apartments, which force them out, attract well-paid but transient tenants who are much less likely to develop those kinds of ties to the neighborhood.”

Zecca said that the HPOZ Committee is making plans for a series of meetings to educate residents on HPOZ and to gather their input. The committee will also develop a fund raising campaign to subsidize the costs related to pursuing HPOZ.

The HPOZ Committee is currently reviewing bids from historic preservation consultants who will prepare the historic resources survey of the Miracle Mile. They will make their recommendation to the MMRA Board of Directors at the next board meeting on March 5, 2015.

“It’s not a matter of whether will we still recognize the Miracle Mile in 50 years if we don’t pursue HPOZ protection for our neighborhood,” said MMRA Vice President Alice Cassidy, “it’s a matter of whether we still recognize it five years from now.”

Click on image to view video.

 For additional information visit the “HPOZ & RFA Info” page on the MMRA website: MiracleMileLA.com.

MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ Survey
Participate in the survey
View the results

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Council District 4 Candidate Transparency Pledge

In the January 2015 newsletter MMRA President James O’Sullivan wrote in “Council District 4 Players Guide” of the frustrations residents encounter with the opacity of council offices. The strong response the article generated from community activists and residential and homeowners groups throughout the city inspired Jim to create a “transparency pledge” [see below] that was distributed to all the candidates for Council District 4.

To date the following candidates have signed the pledge:

Tara Bannister

Jay Beeber

Teddy Davis

Sheila Irani

Wally Knox

Fred Mariscal

Tomas O’Grady

Joan Pelico

Carolyn Ramsay

David E. Ryu

  Rostom Sarkissian

Steve Veres

•••

These candidates have yet to sign the pledge:

Michael Schaefer

Step Jones

•••

The pledge:

TO: The Council District 4 Candidates

FROM: James O’Sullivan, President

Miracle Mile Residential Association

DATE: January 17, 2015

Dear Candidate:

Hopefully, as you travel around the different neighborhoods that make up

Council District 4, you are hearing of the many issues that are impacting

residents and businesses. There are some issues that you can resolve on

your own – and many more that will require the support of other council

members.

Some of these matters are relatively simple, while others are much more

complex – but there is one action you can take immediately upon your

election that will go a long way to correcting many of the problems we face

in our various neighborhoods. You can throw open the windows in your

new office and let in fresh air and sunshine. For far too long the Council

Districts have been run as absolute fiefdoms. Much of what goes on in the

Council offices remains secret and off limits to the residents and businesses

that the Councilmembers are supposed to be serving. This process did not

begin with you – but it must end with you.

Recently, City Controller Ron Galperin initiated “Control Panel,” an online

source of information about expenditures, revenues, payroll, special funds

and other data. A similar system could be utilized to achieve transparency

in the Council office.

All of you are trying to carefully parse your answers regarding contributions

from real estate developers, but the real issue has to do with access to the

Council office coupled with the frequent disregard for the policies

contained in the Community Plans and Framework Element that are

expressly designed to guide your decisions.

Time and time again, we have been forced to defend our neighborhoods

through legal actions when the City disregards these plans to our detriment.

We will no longer accept vague promises and slaps on the back. It is long

past time to level the playing field. This is why each candidate must commit

themselves to complete transparency in all their actions as our

Councilmember.

We, the voters of Council District 4, must know exactly where you stand on

these critical matters when we head to the polls on March 3rd. So, I

respectfully request that you endorse this pledge:

I ____________________________ candidate for the office of

Councilmember for Council District 4, pledge to:

 Immediately disclose whenever my office is approached about a

development project in CD 4, whether by the developer or any person

or group representing the developer. This information will be posted

on my Council office website. Neighborhood Councils and other

groups (homeowners/residential/business) in the area of the project

will be promptly notified to check for information on this website.

 Follow up meetings with me or any of my staff regarding the project

will also be posted.

 Immediately post any changes contemplated in CD 4 by any City

Department that would make changes to the Community Plans, i.e.

Bike Plan, Mobility Element, and Recode LA. Too often the majority

of stakeholders receive no advanced notice of these changes.

 Faithfully follow the policies for decision makers as outlined in each

Community Plan in CD 4, as well as Policy 3.3.2 of the Framework

Element.

 Require the City to officially document and demonstrate that the

infrastructure in the area of any contemplated project (requiring

discretionary approval) will not be threatened in relation to user

needs. This would include particularly critical services, such as water

and sewerage, as well as public schools, police and fire services, and

transportation infrastructure.

Candidate Signature: __________________________________

Date: _______________________________

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Miracle Mile Spotlight: Candela Taco Bar & Lounge (AKA Leonardo’s Nightclub)

 

Thirty-seven years ago two brothers from Northern Mexico, Armando and Leonardo Lopez, opened their first nightclub in a former dance studio at 831 South La Brea Avenue. They named their establishment Leonardo’s and built a large clientele of working-class Mexican and Latin Americans seeking the live music, dancing, and food of their homeland.

The Lopez brothers answered a demand that led them to expand to 12 Leonardo’s nightclubs from Downtown L.A. to Oxnard to Lancaster. Several years ago the brothers went their seperate ways and Armando took ownership of the flagship La Brea Avenue club while Leonardo took possession of property across the street to develop a retail center. And this is where Armando’s daughter, Maria Lopez, enters the picture.

A graduate of Cal State Northridge with a major in International Business, Maria had a plan to realize the full potential of the popular nightspot. She wanted to preserve its existing customer base while expanding its appeal to the residents of the Miracle Mile. But first she had a major obstacle to overcome. “We’ve always been a family business,” she explained. “All of my brothers and cousins grew up working here, but the girls not so much. It was a very Mexican business; the men ran it. I was the first to challenge that.”

Her father’s traditional ways were no match for Maria’s intelligence, charm, and energy. Seven years ago she became actively involved in the business. When asked if her father is easy to work with, Maria replied: “It’s a hard balance between the old school and the new school. But I think he trusts me now. I’ve proven myself.”

Maria’s first innovation was the creation of Candela Taco Bar & Lounge, “The intention behind Candela was to build a bridge between our Miracle Mile neighborhood and our traditional Mexican-American nightclub business.” The restaurant’s success launched an expansion into catering and hosting a wide array of functions for local businesses and organizations.

What used to be a predominantly Mexican-American nightclub that was only open on weekend evenings is now a dynamic, seven-days-a-week enterprise that has attracted a broad range of customers. This reinvention of the business inspired the name change from Leonardo’s to Candela – although the weekend nightclub is still commonly referred to as Leonardo’s or the La Brea nightclub.

Candela Taco Bar & Lounge has earned high marks for the quality of the food, full liquor service, and its home-like feel. The popularity of $1 taco Wednesdays compelled Maria to open the restaurant at 11:30 AM on Wednesdays; the rest of the week the restaurant operates from 4 PM to midnight.

“I was raised to appreciate that customer loyalty is the most important thing in this business,” she emphasized. “It’s such a fine line between growing a business and honoring our long-time patrons.” This continuing customer loyalty is very evident given the popularity of “Tango Tuesdays” and the many hundreds of nightclub patrons dancing every weekend to the live music of popular Mexican and Latin American performers.

Maria grew up in Encino – a regular commute that her father still makes – but the daily demands of managing the restaurant inspired Maria to move to the Miracle Mile a year ago. “It’s changed my life in so many aspects,” she states. “I relate to my customers better because I’m a local now. I frequent other restaurants. It’s very much a neighborhood vibe around here.”

In turns out that Maria was a trailblazer for another woman in her family: her mother, Consuelo Lopez. “We were very fortunate to have a stay-at-home mom when we were growing up. About four years ago, she was suffering from empty nest syndrome and she came to me and said, ‘Please, let me have a job with you.’ The kitchen is her thing. She’s been an incredible help. We develop new dishes together and she helps a lot with our catering business.”

So, now Armando Lopez finds himself working side-by-side with both his daughter and his wife. But it is a wise man who can change with the times – and a lucky man to have a daughter like Maria, who knows what needs to be changed.

Maria Lopez (center) with her parents, Armando and Consuelo Lopez.

Candela Taco Bar & Lounge
831 S. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Telephone: 323-936-0533
Website: CandelaTacoBar.com

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Q & A: Are Burglaries Up or Down in the Miracle Mile?

Interview with L.A.P.D Senior Lead Officer Perry Jones
and the Wilshire Division Cyber Support Unit

The MMRA annual surveys reveal that burglary tops the list of crime concerns for Miracle Mile residents. Lately, there have been rumblings that burglaries seem to be on the increase. We decided to get the facts from the L.A.P.D. Senior Lead Officer for the area covering the Miracle Mile. Perry Jones is known for his professionalism and his strong relationships with the community. As an example of this, to accommodate the deadline of this newsletter Officer Jones came into the station on his day off for this interview and insisted on putting on his uniform for the photo that accompanies this article [below]. We met at the L.A.P.D Wilshire Division.

Officer Jones, what is a Senior Lead Officer?

A Senior Lead Officer is basically a person that is assigned to a certain geographic area in the City of Los Angeles, we’re responsible for the good and bad and indifferent. We take care of all the problems in the community and we are the liaison between the community and the police department. So, we are the ones that bridge the gap. We get the resources to fix a problem or we fix them ourselves.

How long have you been the Senior Lead Officer for the Miracle Mile area?

I’ve been at the Wilshire Division for twenty-three years and a Senior Lead Officer for the past twenty years. They re-did the geographic area about six or seven years ago and that’s when I inherited the Miracle Mile area. The Wilshire Division is divided up into nine Basic Car Areas and the Miracle Mile is in Basic Car Area 7A33 [see map below].

Is it fair to say that sometimes the perception of the crime rate seems to be in the eye of the beholder, regardless of what the actual statistics might be?

If I’m the victim of a crime, crime is at an all-time high and if I live three blocks over – and it doesn’t effect me – crime is at an all-time low. I can give you the numbers in my area, but numbers don’t mean anything to me. If I have one crime victim in my area I have a problem. I prefer to have zero crimes. So, for me to say that crime in my area is down 24% over last year is only mildly interesting if I have a crime victim on South Ridgeley. I’m not numbers driven. Having been a victim of crime myself, of burglary and car theft, I know personally what I want when someone steals from me: I want that person caught, I want them arrested, and I want my stuff back. And I want to feel safe – and that’s what we’re striving to do at Wilshire Division.

What is the truth about the crime rate in the Miracle Mile?

Overall, in Basic Car Area 7A33, we’re down 23.4% from last year. I’ve had 92 total burglaries this year, last year at this time I had 127. We’ve had a dramatic reduction in burglaries.

What do you attribute this reduction in burglaries to?

Community involvement and education. We’ve passed out close to 20,000 flyers this year about burglary prevention. We’ve been walking foot beats. We’ve been dedicating our resources to what we call our ‘dots on the map’ and when we get a cluster of dots in a particular area that’s where we devote our resources.

Do you find that burglars concentrate on a particular area where they’ve had success? Do they return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, to commit more burglaries?

The easier it is to get into a home, the more visible valuables inside the home are, the more concealed it is by shrubbery, the more poorly illuminated, no alarms, no dogs, with high fences – anything that would buy more time for a burglar to break in and give them cover to get out – those are the homes that burglars target. It takes a burglar a few seconds to get inside and they’re out of your house in two-to-three minutes. That’s a lot faster than we can ever respond.

Click map to enlarge.

We always hear that the best defense is neighbors looking out for neighbors.

The way we catch bad guys is a combination of burglar alarms and the eyes of the neighbors. The eyes of the community have allowed us to catch a lot of bad guys this year.

How do alarm companies interface with the police department?

When your alarm goes off the alarm company contacts our dispatchers, they try to get as much information as they can, and then we get the call. It takes about three-to-four minutes. But by the time we get the call and get the helicopter overhead, the bad guy is usually gone. But when we have a neighbor that sees them going in, we get that call quicker than we get a call from an alarm company. The neighbor can give us a description of the suspect. That’s the kind of call we look for. We have a much better chance of getting that guy.

So, residents shouldn’t hesitate calling the police, even if they’re not certain if a crime is being committed?

Anytime you sense something is suspicious or out of the ordinary it never hurts to call us. If we show up and catch a bad guy, wonderful. If we show up and nothing bad is going on, that’s wonderful, too. It gets people in the habit of communicating with the police department and that deters a lot of crime. And knowing your neighbors and looking out for each other is the best determent against crime.

Would it be useful if residents included surveillance cameras in their security systems?

Cameras are very, very helpful for us – particularly if they’re placed in the right positions on the exterior and interior of the property. The first thing we do in an investigation is look for video footage.

How important is having an inventory of your possessions if you are burglarized?

Keep it all: serial numbers, photographs, receipts – anything that helps to identify your personal property. We recover a lot of things, but we need documentation to link it back to you. We recover an enormous number of bikes, but we don’t know who they belong to, because the owners didn’t know the serial numbers. I’ll stop a guy with seven iPads in his backpack and I know they’re stolen, I’ll run the serial numbers, but they come back clean because the folks they were stolen from didn’t have the serial numbers when the reports were made.

What should people do if they come home and they see that their residence has been broken into? 

Call 911. Don’t go inside or you could become a victim of more than just a burglary. Call us. Let us do our job. Our number one priority is protecting life. Let us come and clear the property and make sure the bad guy is gone and that you’re safe. If you go in and check it out yourself and then call us, well, then it’s just a reporting call for us and it might take us some time to get there depending on how busy we are. We protect people first and property second. Don’t clear your home yourself; let us do it.

From what I understand, vehicle burglaries seem to be, by and large, crimes of opportunity. People tempt smash-and-grab thefts by leaving smartphones or laptops in plain view.

Numerous times walking through the Miracle Mile I have seen people who have left their smartphones inside their cars plugged into their chargers with the cord leading to the console or under the seat. The thief sees that cord and thinks: ‘I’ll take a chance breaking into this car.’

[Accompanying Officer Jones to the interview were Officers Robert Davenport and Joe Armstrong with the Wilshire Division Cyber Support Unit; the interview continues:]

Officer Davenport and Officer Armstrong, what are your assignments with the L.A.P.D?

Armstrong: We are the Cyber Support Unit for the Wilshire Division. The unit has been around for about two years. We are tasked with monitoring social media. Each L.A.P.D. division has their own social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We disperse important information to the public

Davenport: We try to get the pulse of the community and to support the community and the businesses. We don’t just do crime prevention tips, we also want to let everyone know that Officer Jones is out there meeting with the community, that he’s available to the community. That we’re not just guys in uniforms who only care about placing people under arrest. We live in this community. Social media gives us a chance to demonstrate that we are human and that we’re just trying to help people navigate through their day.

It seems that what the Cyber Support Unit is doing is extending the principles of community based policing into the 21st Century.

Davenport: Yes, our problem was that the police department was slightly behind the times because the digital revolution came on so fast. When Captain Leslie first came onboard he promised that Wilshire Division would have a larger footprint in the social media world and when Officer Armstrong joined us he challenged us to do that. He created a website for the Wilshire Division and we’re the first division in L.A.P.D to have our own website. He also created a phone app for Android and iPhones. We’re the first to do that as well.

Armstrong: We have about 7,000 followers on our Twitter account. We have an Instagram account – people like to have photos. We have a Facebook account and we’ve started creating videos for our Vimeo account.

Davenport: If you repeat the same message over and over it becomes dull. The unique thing we do is to try to keep it fun as well as informative. We keep it interactive with maps and a community events calendar. It provides the community with a digital forum where they can talk to us.

Armstrong: Wilshire Division has a smartphone application available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Search for “LAPD Wilshire” on either store and you can download it for free.

•••

Los Angeles Police Department, Wilshire Division
4861 West Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
213-473-0476
Emergencies: 911

Website: www.lapdwilshire.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lapd.wilshire.5

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lapdwilshire

Instagram: http://websta.me/n/lapdwilshire

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/lapdwilshire

L.A.P.D. Burglary Prevention

L.A.P.D. Holiday Crime Advisory

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The Council District 4 Players Guide

The Council District 4 Players Guide

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

  • Abbott: Strange as it may seem, ballplayers nowadays have very peculiar names.
  • Costello: Funny names?
  • Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third.
  • Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
  • Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third…

Don’t look now but we are less than two months away from electing a new Councilmember for Council District 4, which includes the Miracle Mile. Do you have any idea who you will vote for? How many of you reading this right now can name more than a couple of the 14 certified candidates? To be honest with you, having followed this stuff closely, even I am challenged to name more than a handful. That should change soon as yard signs start popping up and our mailboxes are stuffed with campaign flyers.

Conventional wisdom has it that none of these candidates for CD 4 will win a majority of votes in the March 3rd primary – resetting the clock for a May 19th runoff between the top two contenders, but I’m not sure about that. Several candidates have already raised some serious money and more will be collected before the primary ends. City matching funds will add $50,000 to $100,000 to each candidate that qualifies, but someone could decide to self-finance – which would blow the lid off and throw conventional wisdom out the window.

Trying to find the best candidate by reading their comments and pledges in newspapers (the few statements that can be found) hasn’t been very helpful so far. Even a search for their positions on their websites (which many don’t have yet) is an exercise in frustration. Candidates know that the average person wants their streets and sidewalks fixed, their trees trimmed, and adequate police and fire protection, so they promise to deliver those things. The obvious, boilerplate promises; there’s nothing new here.

The problem is that most of their promises – boilerplate or otherwise – are beyond their ability to deliver. Most of the things being promised – protecting neighborhoods; alleviating traffic congestion; solving pension and healthcare issues; bringing film and TV production back to L.A.; adding more bike lanes; and a whole laundry list of other items – require the approval of 14 other council members to get done.

Once elected, our new councilmember will be introduced to the odd and uniquely L.A. political process that delivers unanimous council votes almost 100% of the time. Individuality is not encouraged on the City Council. It’s a go-along-to-get-along sort of place. But each Councilmember does wield considerable control over their district and related funds. This is where real issues arise and hard questions need to be asked.

Recently, a hubbub arose when the LA Times reported that Councilman Tom LaBonge was sponsoring an 80th birthday party for Elvis Presley at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood. Unsubstantiated rumors quickly went viral about funding attached to this sponsorship, prompting many to wonder if those funds couldn’t be put to better use – like repairing a root-damaged sidewalk?

My interest in this issue led me to do a search of funds controlled by CD 4. That search yielded results that were as clear as mud.

A question I would like each CD 4 candidate to answer is this: Will you frequently post online simple-to-read reports detailing where the money under your control comes from, where it is goes, and who it benefits?

Many hundreds-of-thousands of dollars are transferred into – and out of – these funds to pay for a variety of things and I can’t figure out what the hell is going on. Many of the expenditures may well be for things that really benefit the community, but it would be nice to know that with some certainty.

The well-worn issue of accepting campaign contributions from real estate developers recently took a turn toward the ludicrous with the candidates parsing which are the good developers (the small ones) and which are the bad developers (the large ones) – as if virtue could be measured by square footage. One candidate even made the classic error in a debate by saying he would never take money from a developer…after he already had. Of course, he then returned the contribution post haste.

While campaign contributions are not a big issue for me, I understand why many voters are concerned. For years we have watched money from developers flood political races while noticing that the doors to City Hall are held wide open to every real estate project that crosses the threshold. Conversely, many residents who feel that their neighborhoods are under siege find the welcome mat is not rolled out for them.

It would help ease the perception of impropriety between political contributions and project approvals if the playing field were leveled. One key means to achieve this would be for each candidate to pledge complete transparency. If elected they would:

  • Immediately disclose whenever their office is approached about a development project in CD 4, whether by the developer or any person or group representing the developer. This information should be posted on the council website and the Neighborhood Councils and homeowners/residential groups should be promptly notified about the project, from its conception.
  • Disclose any follow up meetings with the Councilmember or staff regarding the project. All too often projects gallop out of the starting gate without the community’s knowledge.

And speaking of knowledge as power:

  • Advocacy groups are constantly meeting with the Planning Department and LADOT on issues – from bike lanes to rewriting the zoning code – and the public is left out in the cold. Any changes contemplated in CD 4 should be clearly and concisely posted on the Council website. There should be full disclosure in real time so that everyone is informed.

Would a CD 4 candidate who agreed to do all of the above get my vote? Yes, if they also agreed to:

  • Faithfully follow the policies for decision makers as outlined in each Community Plan in CD 4, as well as in the Framework Element.
  • Require the City to officially document and demonstrate that the infrastructure in the area of the contemplated project is not threatened in relation to user needs. This would include particularly critical services, such as water and sewerage, as well as public schools, police and fire services, and transportation infrastructure.

My point is, I don’t want promises, I want answers – and so should you.

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Strong Community Support for Miracle Mile HPOZ

Large Turn Out at January 10th Meeting

Approximately 100 residents attended the Miracle Mile Historic Protection Overlay Zone [HPOZ] Meeting on January 10th at Candela/Leonardo’s Night Club. Sponsored by the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] and hosted by Mark Zecca, MMRA board member and chairperson of the HPOZ committee, the meeting featured a panel composed of Shannon Ryan from the L.A. Office of Historic Resources-HPOZ Unit and Robbie O’Donnell, a founder of the Wilshire Park HPOZ.

Last May the MMRA board of directors created an HPOZ committee to do fact-finding, gather the input of residents and property owners, and report on how an HPOZ might be designed and implemented. The board’s action was sparked by the spread of mansionization into the Miracle Mile.

The HPOZ committee conducted a series of informal meetings with residents and consulted with experts – including Michelle Levy, head of the HPOZ Unit at the Department of City Planning, and Katie Horak, Senior Associate with Architectural Resources Group, Inc.

From left: Shannon Ryan, Robbie O’Donnell, Mark Zecca

The committee also launched an online poll [MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ Survey] to gauge community support. At the November 2014 MMRA Annual Meeting, which was attended by over 130 residents, a large showing of hands demonstrated interest in pursuing HPOZ protection for the Miracle Mile.

After months of research, outreach, and preparation, the HPOZ committee presented its findings to the community at the January 10th meeting. The advantages and disadvantages of an HPOZ were discussed in detail in a question and answer session following the opening presentation.

The meeting was videotaped and posted in two parts on the MMRA Channel on YouTube. Residents who did not attend the January 10th meeting are encouraged to view the meeting on YouTube. It offers a comprehensive examination of the benefits of HPOZ to our community and honestly examines the impact on property owners – and does so at greater length than can be recounted in this newsletter.

Click on image to view video.
 A

The residents attending the January 10th meeting demonstrated nearly unanimous support for seeking HPOZ status. This support is also reflected in the results of the online survey. As a result, the HPOZ committee will recommend to the MMRA board of directors at its February 5th meeting that the HPOZ application process be initiated and a motion to that effect will be introduced for adoption by the board.

The HPOZ committee will be holding a series of future community meetings to iron out the many details involved in creating an HPOZ: boundaries, design guidelines, financing the required architectural review, etc. For the latest updates and additional information visit the “HPOZ & RFA Info” page on the MMRA website: MiracleMileLA.com.

MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ Survey
Participate in the survey
View the results

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Interview with Neighborhood Prosecutor Mehrnoosh “Nooshi” Zahiri

[Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter, November 2014:]

Q & A:

Interview with Neighborhood Prosecutor

Mehrnoosh “Nooshi” Zahiri

Earlier this year City Attorney Mike Feuer revived the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program, which had been disbanded in 2010 due to budget cuts. The program attaches a Neighborhood Prosecutor to every police division in the city to serve as a liaison between law enforcement – as well as other city agencies – and the community. The prosecutors are tasked with overseeing a range of quality of life issues from nuisance abatement and code enforcement to gang activity and other threats to public safety.

Mehrnoosh “Nooshi” Zahiri was assigned in May 2014 as the Neighborhood Prosecutor for the LAPD Wilshire Division [see map], which includes the Miracle Mile. A native of Los Angeles, Zahiri attended UCLA and the Southwestern School of Law and previously worked for a firm that provided prosecutorial services for cities in Los Angeles County. Ms. Zahiri was interviewed November 12, 2014 at the Wilshire Division police station:

What is a neighborhood prosecutor?

While that question sounds easy to answer, I am learning that it can mean a variety of things. On a daily basis, I answer and look into a multitude of issues. What I’ve been telling the community is to contact me, give me the information, and if it is something that I can have an impact on, or help with, then I’m more than happy to contribute. Many issues, for example, auto repair on the street, have departments enlisted to enforce the applicable regulations. In these cases, it might involve me calling that department and explaining to them what is going on, as well as the seriousness of the issue. Further, I can explain to these departments that I will ultimately participate in the enforcement actions, should voluntary compliance not be obtained. In the past, a lot of these cases sort of got lost in the system. With a Neighborhood Prosecutor at the station, and aware of the particular issues, we can ensure that the issues are given the care and attention they need in order to be resolved.

Often the frustrations of the residents are compounded by not knowing who to complain to. There are so many different departments: animal services, building and safety, parking enforcement. Isn’t one of your roles to educate people in how to complain?

Yes. I am continuously learning about the different departments and agencies in the City, as well as the available services. If a community member has a particular issue they are unsure of where to direct, I can most certainly guide them to the appropriate department. 3-1-1 is also a wonderful resource. One of the things I’m learning is that many of the departments are overwhelmed. Therefore, complaints sometimes do not get answered as quickly as we’d like. And due to the lapse in time between a complaint being submitted, and then addressed, once an investigation is conducted the issue might not be present. If I know about the issue, and know the possibility of the particular agency being unable to investigate the situation, I can work to get another department or agency involved in order to address the issue. I can also be in touch with the complainant in order to ensure we have all necessary details.

That raises an interesting question in terms of the hierarchy of complaints. So, when you have a situation with multiple agencies involved, who is on first, who is on second, or does the City Attorney’s office trump them all?

My advice is, if it’s a new complaint and you have not yet referred it to the agency that is meant to address that particular issue–start there. File a complaint. If you don’t feel that it’s being addressed, then let me know and if there is something I can do, I will.  As I mentioned earlier, many of these agencies are overwhelmed and knowing that there is an attorney who will be there once they have conducted their investigation helps. They know that once they get a package prepared, it’s going to get the attention it deserves.

Prop 47 was just approved, which shifted a number of felony crimes downwards to misdemeanors. Will that have an impact on the neighborhood prosecutors?

It is too early to say. At this point, the cases will probably go through our normal misdemeanor channels. Due to the number of cases that will now go to the City Attorney’s office based on Prop 47, we will be there to assist and contribute in any way we can to ease the process. It is likely that new Deputy City Attorneys will be hired to assist with the new case load.

Many people don’t realize that the City Attorney handles criminal cases.

We do, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office handles all misdemeanor filings in the City. These misdemeanors can include anything from DUI offenses, to family violence cases, to drug cases.  Many crimes are considered “wobblers.” This means they can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. In this regard, the City does handle very serious criminal cases.

Are you getting hit with a lot of these quality of life issues?

Very much so. I ‘ve attended various Neighborhood Council meetings, as well as other neighborhood association meetings, and much of the community has gotten to know me – and how to contact me with their issues. Additionally, I intentionally sit beside the Senior Lead Officers when I’m at the station so that I have immediate contact when they are getting complaints and I can be aware of them.

Do you spend most of your time downtown or at the Wilshire station?

It’s sort of a mix. I have a desk at both locations. There are benefits with being at both locations. If I’m filing a complaint, or need to brainstorm with other Neighborhood Prosecutors, it is great to be at City Hall. While being at the station allows me to have direct contact with the community and the officers.

If you file a complaint are you the attorney handling it at court?

Yes. As a Neighborhood Prosecutor, vertical prosecution is a great tool. A lot of times after general quality of life crime makes their way through all the necessary channels, and to court, the appearing attorney cannot be aware of the significance of the issue, or the particular sentence that can abate and remedy the issue for the community. And because we are in the community, and have directly filed that case, we are aware of its significance, and the best way to handle it.

Given the budget cuts that the courts have gone through – the backlog of cases – does it have an impact on your work?

It does. Although prosecution is a tool, and for many cases the only tool, we as Neighborhood Prosecutors can use other tools and methods to obtain results without necessarily filing cases and prosecuting them in the court.

So you directly interface with the parties involved in a complaint?

Yes, I usually have directly interfaced with the individual who brought the original complaint. And if the complaint can be resolved without utilizing the court system, then we will go that route.

That would seem to be very effective, because you are implying that we can resolve this here or in court.

It is. Many times, explaining the law, as well as the possible repercussions to failing to comply can resolve an issue. If the problem can be resolved this way, then we can save the time and resources it takes to get something before a court. Our goal is not to go to prosecute, but to abate the issue in an effective manner.

Give us a short lesson in how to properly complain.

Start off with complaining to the right department. If you don’t know which department to contact, either contact me or call 3-1-1, they’ll help you. Keep records, and take photos if possible. Of course, never put yourself in any kind of danger while gathering evidence. Check back with that department to find out who the inspector assigned to your case is, and you can contact them directly if you need further information. For many issues, it can be appropriate to bring me in from the beginning. It’s important that people feel free to contact me, that’s my job: to serve the neighborhood.

What’s the best way to contact you?

Email is definitely the best way.

•••

Mehrnoosh “Nooshi” Zahiri
Wilshire Neighborhood Prosecutor
mehrnoosh.zahiri@lacity.org
(213) 978-2220

Useful City Phone Numbers

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