Miracle Mile Spotlight: Craft and Folk Art Museum

Miracle Mile Spotlight:
Craft and Folk Art Museum

In 1965 two cultural institutions arrived in the Miracle Mile, launching Museum Row: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and what in time would be known as the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM). LACMA made its debut with national media coverage and the cream of the city’s high society in attendance. But the real buzz was created by a new café and gallery a few blocks east on Wilshire called “The Egg and Eye.”

“Well, the original concept for The Egg and The Eye was to serve the omelets upstairs and while people waited they would go in the gallery. When they were in the gallery, they would encounter maybe a pot on a pedestal,” explained its founder Edith R. Wyle (1918-1999) in a 1993 interview. “The fact that it was a pot on a pedestal would lead people to understand that this must be art, and I think they got the message. This was a first. People did not display crafts or folk art in an artistic manner in a display setting.”

UCLA-educated, Wyle was an artist with a deep passion for folk art. Her enterprise was an immediate hit and in 1973 it evolved into a non-profit organization with a new name: the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

The inexhaustible Wyle initiated exhibits, workshops, educational programs, and created the Festival of Masks, a multicultural festival. In the process, CAFAM became a dynamic community center in the Miracle Mile – a place not only to see indigenous crafts and objects, but a place to learn weaving, jewelry making, and other skills. This tradition continues today under the guidance of Executive Director Suzanne Isken.

Isken [photo right], former Education Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art, came to the museum four years ago. Her bold and imaginative leadership has expanded scope of its exhibits and classes. Craft and folk art, in her perspective, are not relegated to the past – it is something that is being created today in dynamic new ways. The energy of the museum is obvious to even those passing by on Wilshire Boulevard. A façade project initiated by Isken serves as a very public canvas for Los Angeles-based artists, most notably when the front of the building was “yarn bombed” with knitted granny squares.

“When I first came here everyone kept telling me that the museum was a hidden gem and my reaction was: to hell with the hidden,” Isken says. “Our gift shop has always been very popular, but many people didn’t understand that there was a museum upstairs. That was part of our decision to bring the museum downstairs closer to the street.”

A native of Los Angeles and a mother of four, Isken exudes curiosity and enthusiasm. These qualities are evident in the wide range of craft exhibited at the museum – from the work of male quilt makers to an upcoming show featuring shoe designer Chris Francis.

“I came from a contemporary art museum. My vision, given my experience, was to look at more contemporary craft. We have an important place in L.A. at a time when craft is getting a lot of attention. People are really into making things and that is a natural audience for us: the makers.”

Isken views the Miracle Mile as a unique area with a great deal of vitality. “We see ourselves as a ‘hands on’ neighborhood museum. We keep our ticket prices as low as possible. We offer a craft night every Thursday night. We have free admission on Sundays. We try to stay connected to the community.”

Today the hot trend in automobiles, smart phones, and museums is to promote themselves as being “interactive.” But being truly interactive – a museum where you can get your hands dirty shaping a pot or prick your finger learning to embroider – has been a decades-old mission at CAFAM. It has always been a place that appeals to all of the senses, including a sense of community.

Craft and Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-937-4230

For additional information:

Craft and Folk Art Museum website: www.cafam.org

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution: Oral History Interview with Edith Wyle, March-September 1993

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Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You: The Academy Museum

Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You:

The Academy Museum

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

On May 6, the City’s Planning Department recommendations on the Academy Museum project were released.  As expected, the department declared that everything is fine with the project and you – the community groups and Neighborhood Council – have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. The traffic created by the project is fine. The inadequate parking is fine. The digital sign district is fine… Everything is just fine!

Of course, it is the Planning Department that’s wrong and they’ve now guaranteed that one more case will join the courthouse queue, attempting to force the City to obey its own rules.

A few weeks ago, I felt a bit of hope – guarded, of course – after a meeting with members of the Academy Museum team, including Managing Director Bill Kramer and attorney Bill Delvac. I told them there was support in the community for the museum but not for the attached 1000-seat special event center [illustration below]. I made the argument that people have been waiting many years for a motion picture museum and it was within reach if they could abandon the event center. There would still be traffic and parking issues with the 5,000 visitors a day, but I believed we could find a solution and I made several suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Since its inception in 1983 the Miracle Mile Residential Association has been making good deals that work for the neighborhood and developer alike. We have always practiced the art of compromise. Kramer and Delvac said they would get back to me, but they never did. That’s too bad because there was a deal to be made by people of good faith. Now there is only the legal route.

I hope that everyone reading this who had concerns about the impacts of the Academy Museum on our communities understands that the City really doesn’t care what you think. Our elected officials loudly profess to value you at election time, but otherwise they do whatever they want – and then dare you to stop them.

There are good people who work at City Hall – but their reasonable voices are drowned out by the “go along to get along” mantra of the Wizards of Spring Street. When Los Angeles residents raise their voices to object to a project they are politely thanked for their comments and the project is routinely blessed with the magic words that sweeps all of our objections under the rug, “No significant impact.”

That is what the Academy purchased with the million dollars they spent lobbying City Hall: the City’s Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

The Planning Department’s recommendations are cause for celebration for all those supporting the Academy Museum and its special events center – but that feeling will be fleeting. Sooner or later they will be on the other side of the argument and they won’t know what hit them. Every neighborhood in this city is prey to overdevelopment, traffic intrusion, and infrastructure on the brink of collapse. The boosters of the Academy Museum will find themselves in our shoes one day, battling some gargantuan project that will dramatically impact their own neighborhoods.

They too will learn what “no significant impact” means. It is not a merely a technical phrase for grading a particular aspect of a project, it is also an apt description for the effect that the concerns of the residents have on City Hall.

The courtroom is now the only forum where the residents of Los Angeles are having a significant impact. The City has lost case after case: the 2012 Hollywood Community Plan Update was rescindedconstruction was halted on a Target Store at Sunset and Westernthe CIM Group high rise on Sunset had its occupancy certificate revoked and its tenants evicted; and recently a judge ordered a re-do of the Environmental Impact Report for the Millennium skyscrapers surrounding Capitol Records.

So, don’t be surprised when you see the Academy Museum project on that roster, too.

For additional information:

Los Angeles Department of City Planning: Academy Museum Recommendation Report

Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, 4/16/15: Mid-City West Nixes Museum’s Sphere

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HPOZ Update: Historic Resources Survey Underway

Boundaries of the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Click on map to enlarge.

 HPOZ UPDATE:

Historic Resources Survey Underway

 MMRA VP Ken Hixon Speaks on the Miracle Mile HPOZ
at Chamber Commerce Economic Forum

The Historic Resources Survey of the 1600-plus parcels contained within the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) began two weeks ago. The Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA) engaged the services of Architectural Resources Group (ARG) to perform the survey, which is a prerequisite for applying for HPOZ status.

Katie Horak, ARG executive in charge of the survey, reports that there are two teams doing the fieldwork and that each team is averaging about 30 properties per day. It is estimated that it will take approximately four more weeks to complete the survey.

The Miracle Mile HPOZ Committee is preparing a mass mailing to property owners explaining the many benefits of HPOZ. “Outreach is key to the success of the HPOZ,” says committee member Jeremy Matz. “We are planning a door-to-door campaign, house parties, and other meetings to capitalize on the groundswell of support that the community displayed at our January meeting and on our online survey.”

HPOZ Committee Chairperson and local realtor Mark Zecca says, “Many homeowners aren’t aware of how HPOZ enhances the value of their property. Buyers are attracted to stable and well-protected areas. It’s important that we spread this message.”

MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon was a speaker at the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum on May 13. The Chamber endorsed the creation of the Miracle Mile HPOZ and Hixon was invited to address the topic at the assembly of business and civic leaders.

Hixon’s speech explained how an HPOZ would stop McMansions and the wholesale eradication of rent-stabilized rental units. He also spoke on how the history of our neighborhood is a tangible part of its appeal. “The history of this place is what provides us with our sense of place.” Hixon said. “This sense of place is what makes the Miracle Mile such a great community to live and do business in.”

For additional information:

Miracle Mile Residential Association website: HPOZ Information

Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum, 13 May 2015: Miracle Mile HPOZ speech by Ken Hixon

Office of Historic Resources: Historic Preservation Overlay Zones

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Subway Construction Update: Violent Robbery Complicates Effort to Keep Bank of America Parking Lot Open

 

Northwest corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. [Google Maps]

 Subway Construction Update:

Violent Robbery Complicates Effort to Keep
Bank of America Parking Lot Open

Work is underway at the northwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea to prepare a staging yard for the Purple Line Extension. The project contractor, Skanska Traylor Shea, is constructing a temporary alley between Carling Way and Detroit Street. The new alley will redirect traffic west to Detroit, closing the alley exit to La Brea permanently for the remainder of the project.

Later this month, the artwork on the exterior of the former Metro Customer Service Center will be removed and stored for future use at another Metro location. Demolition of the Service Center, the former Blockbuster store, and the former Lawrence of La Brea rug store will occur in late June – and sound wall construction will follow.

Another staging yard will be located on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard. Metro plans to take possession of the Bank of America property at the southwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea by the end of May. Mitigation of any interior environmental hazards will be completed before the bank building is demolished. Metro is in the process of acquiring the property to the west of the Bank of America, which houses Albertson’s Wedding Chapel and other businesses. Metro expects to complete this acquisition by Fall 2015.

Wilshire/La Brea subway construction staging sites. [Courtesy Metro]
Click on image to enlarge.

The staging site at the southwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea will be the most active of all the sites required for the construction of the subway extension. All of the dirt from the tunneling operation – from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard – will be conveyed underground to this location for removal. The site will also house a plant to manufacture the grout that will seal the concrete tunnel lining.

In April, officers of the Miracle Mile Residential Association met with representatives of Metro and the contractor, Skanska Traylor Shea, to discuss noise mitigation at the staging sites, haul routes, and work hours. The MMRA is closely monitoring all aspects of the subway construction and continues to staunchly oppose nighttime work.

The MMRA has requested that Metro make the Bank of America parking lot available to residents and nearby businesses for as long as possible. The east end of the Miracle Mile is experiencing a sharp decline in available parking created by Metro’s activities and the construction of large infill apartment projects on the surface parking lots behind the Desmond’s and Dominguez-Wilshire buildings.

Unfortunately, this request has been complicated by a violent robbery that occurred at this location on May 7. This crime prompted the Bank of America to close the parking lot. The MMRA will make every effort to work with Metro and the L.A.P.D. to enhance safety and security measures so that this parking lot can be re-opened until such time that Metro requires its fulltime use as a construction staging site.

Metro will hold its next Purple Line Extension community meeting on Thursday, May 21, 5:30 PM at the Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Boulevard.

For additional information:

Metro Purple Line Extension Newsletter – May 2015

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Preliminary Results of Miracle Mile Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Plan

Preliminary Results of Miracle Mile
Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Plan

In October 2014 the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] commissioned a “Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Plan” of the Miracle Mile. The MMRA selected Gibson Transportation Consulting, Inc. to prepare a comprehensive study of the area with special focus on 8th Street between La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue. The study includes collecting traffic counts, reviewing accident reports, and making recommendations for traffic controls.

The MMRA’s principal objective for this traffic plan is to improve the safety of our streets for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists alike. Short of barricading the entire Miracle Mile, there is very little that can be done to reduce the overall volume of traffic. The implementation of the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit curb lanes on Wilshire Boulevard and impending subway construction will only add to the number of vehicles coursing through our residential streets – a situation already exacerbated by Waze and other way-finding apps that send motorists shortcutting through the Miracle Mile.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon met with Patrick Gibson, President of Gibson Transportation Consulting, Inc., and Ben Seinfeld, Field Deputy for Council District 4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge, to review preliminary results of the traffic study on April 1, 2015.

The MMRA is pleased with Gibson’s thoroughness and professionalism. The study is a work in progress and the initial research answers some questions and raises others. Of course, devising improvements is one thing – financing the cost of their implementation is a much more difficult challenge that will have to be addressed by the community at a later date.

Gibson is continuing their work on the study and once the final Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Plan is completed it will be shared with the entire community.

Here is a summary of key elements of the preliminary findings:

Additional stop signs or traffic signals on 8th Street

Installation of stop signs and/or traffic signals is governed by standards dictated by the State of California. Traffic counts along 8th Street are not sufficient to meet state requirements for the installation of additional stop signs or lights between La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue.

Continental crosswalks

Continental crosswalks – broad  “Zebra stripe” crosswalks – have been proven to reduce injuries and deaths by making pedestrians more visible to motorists.  Gibson recommends that continental crosswalks be added to every 4-way stop and traffic signaled intersection along 8th Street.

Cochran Avenue and 8th Street is a priority as this intersection is used by children attending Cathedral Chapel School. The pedestrian signals at this location need to be updated to modern “count-down” models, as well.

“Line of sight” issues along 8th Street

North/south streets between La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue intersect 8th Street at an acute angle that can make it difficult to see cross traffic and ascertain whether it is safe to cross or turn onto 8th Street. This “line of sight” problem is a historic source of accidents.

Gibson surveyed every intersection along 8th Street and observed that overgrown foliage on some corner lots obstruct the field of vision for motorists and cyclists. Gibson is preparing an inventory of these properties with foliage that exceeds code limits for corner lots.

Gibson’s investigation revealed that the intersection of Masselin Avenue and 8th Street does not conform to minimum standards for adequate line of sight. Northbound vehicles on Masselin Avenue must pull well out onto 8th Street to check for oncoming cross traffic, making it dangerous to cross 8th Street or to make a left turn [see Gibson charts linked below].

Removing three-to-five parking spots on the south side of 8th Street just east of Masselin Avenue would improve line of sight, but restricting northbound traffic on Masselin Avenue to right turns only at 8th Street might be a better solution. Gibson is analyzing both options.

Olympic Boulevard

The Los Angeles Police Department only takes reports of accidents that involve personal injury. This skews the official accident tally by not including the majority of accidents: Those that do not result in physical injury to motorists.

A review of LAPD accident reports indicates the risks of crossing or making left turns onto Olympic Boulevard, particularly during “peak hours” (morning and afternoon rush hour periods). Restricting traffic on north/south streets intersecting with Olympic Boulevard to right turns only during peak hours would lower the number of collisions. Gibson is studying which Olympic Boulevard intersections this mitigation might be called for.

Parking

Construction of major “infill” apartment developments on the former surface parking lots behind the Desmond’s and Dominguez-Wilshire buildings, as well as the closing of the public parking lots on Detroit Street (north of Wilshire Boulevard) for use as subway construction yards, have created a severe parking shortage at the eastern end of the Miracle Mile.

Parking at the western end of the Miracle Mile is strained by visitors to Museum Row, new apartment and condo developments, and by older multi-unit buildings with little or no off-street parking.

This parking crisis will be worsened with the commencement of major subway construction along Wilshire Boulevard, which will eliminate some parking spaces near the subway construction sites.

The MMRA is collaborating with Metro, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and Council District 4 to explore adding diagonal parking to streets between 8th Street and Wilshire Boulevard. Gibson is preparing studies on how many new parking spaces would be gained and what impact it would have on traffic patterns.

Gibson recommended that those streets in Miracle Mile without Preferential Parking seek that status and those with Preferential Parking petition the City for 24-hour/seven-days-a-week permit parking only. The MMRA strongly endorses this recommendation and has been encouraging the residents to take action for the last year or so.

The MMRA has created a “Preferential Parking Primer” on its website to aid residents seeking Preferential Parking for their block and for those who desire to change their respective permit parking restrictions.

For additional information:

Gibson Transportation Consulting, Inc.: Miracle Mile Study Graphics and Charts

Larchmont Buzz: Wilshire-Detroit Parking Lot Closure

KPCC – Southern California Public Radio: People Finding their ‘Waze’ to Jamming Once-Hidden Streets

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First Academy Museum Public Hearing Held


First Academy Museum Public Hearing Held

MMRA Protests Digital Sign District, Special Events Center,
and Lack of Parking

On March 16, 2015 the first public hearing on the proposed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and special events center was held at City Hall. Hearing Officer Luciralia Ibarra took public testimony on the many zone changes, variances, and special approvals the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is seeking. The new museum and events venue will transform the former May Co. at the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] supports readapting the May Co. building for use as a motion picture museum. However, we strongly oppose the Academy’s request for the creation of a digital sign district, which circumvents the hard-won guidelines of the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay District and will convert the historic landmark into an electronic billboard. We also oppose the demolition of one-third of the historic building to make room for an adjoining 1,000-seat theater that will be heavily promoted for celebrity premieres, screenings, and large events.

Architectural critics have described the project as “a special events center masquerading as a museum.” The array of variances, zoning changes, and conditional use permits requested by the Academy lends credence to this charge: How many museums require catering facilities to host private affairs for 1,350 people? Or rooftop terraces seating 800 people? Or their very own digital sign district?

Some museum experts predict that the new museum will attract a million or more visitors per year – yet the Academy is unwilling to build any new off-street parking for the project. They maintain that the adjacent Los Angeles County Museum of Art has ample parking to spare. Residents of the Miracle Mile find this ludicrous. Visitors to LACMA frequently park on nearby residential streets when LACMA’s underground garage and/or Spaulding Avenue parking lot are full (or just to avoid paying for parking). The idea that a million new visitors to the Academy Museum will not create parking intrusions into the Miracle Mile defies common sense.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan submitted detailed written arguments against granting the approvals and zoning changes. He attended the hearing with MMRA Vice Presidents Alice Cassidy and Ken Hixon, who voiced their opposition to the project as proposed. Cassidy questioned the public benefit of a special events center intended principally to host private events.

Carthay Circle Homeowners Association and Beverly Wilshire Homes also had representatives at the hearing to express their opposition to the project.

[Top image courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.]

For additional information:

City of Los Angeles, Depart of City Planning: Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Science Museum Notice of Public Hearing

Miracle Mile Residential Association: Position Statement Prepared by James O’Sullivan for Academy Museum Zoning Administrator Hearing, March 16, 2015

Transcript: Zoning Administrator Hearing on Academy Museum Project, March 16, 2015

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Betrayal in the Council District 4 Race • One Person’s Opinion

Betrayal in the Council District 4 Race
One Person’s Opinion

by James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

In the Western classic, One Eyed Jacks (1961), starring Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, one line really jumped off the screen and has stuck with me over the years. Early in the movie Malden’s character betrays Brando’s character, resulting in hard time in a Mexican prison for Brando and riches for Malden. Five years later, Brando escapes and goes after Malden – who has used his wealth to become sheriff of Monterey California. In the twists and turns that follow, a violent confrontation takes place between Brando and Malden. Malden uses his position as sheriff to frame Brando and have him locked up. Knowing that Brando’s character will be hanged in two days, Malden has one last private talk with him and attempts to excuse his earlier betrayal, to which Brando replies: “You may be a one-eyed jack around here, but I’ve seen the other side of your face.”

To me this line encapsulates the age-old story of betrayal.

In real life betrayal is rarely that clear cut or dramatic, but sometimes it’s close. What follows is my reflection as the author of the Transparency Pledge signed by 12 of the Council District 4 candidates.

On Monday, March 16th, a whole bunch of us trooped down to City Hall for a hearing on the Academy Museum and event center project (at the former May Co. at Fairfax and Wilshire). This project has caused great concern in the community and we were there to make sure our voices were heard.

To the great dismay of members of the Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA) who were in attendance, Carolyn Ramsay arrived and promptly set about expounding on how wonderful the project would be and completely cut the legs out from under all the neighbors who had just testified.

It was like we had not been there, that we were invisible. Among other things, she stated that “the Miracle Mile went from kind of a – there were tumbleweeds blowing down Wilshire 20 years ago. There was nothing happening. And now it has really blossomed.”

Yes, she said tumbleweeds – you can’t make this stuff up.

She also said she was happy to see that the Academy was working so closely with the neighborhood. Now, maybe she meant the business types or film buffs from all over L.A. who showed up to testify in favor of the museum, because she could not have been talking about those of us who live within a few blocks of the project.

She closed her statement with how it is important that the Academy listen carefully to the community and that they’ve done this so far. Again, I’m not sure what “community” she is talking about.

Carolyn’s cheerleading for the Academy Museum and event center was just after the Vice Presidents of the MMRA and I had described our fears about traffic, neighborhood intrusion, parking issues, the sign district, and other infrastructure problems. Representatives of Carthay Circle Homeowners and Beverly Wilshire Homes also had voiced similar concerns. Words like fearfulstrikes fear, and terrified peppered the testimony from those living closest to the project.

Yet, Carolyn didn’t offer the slightest acknowledgement of the community’s concerns as she gushed over the Academy Museum and event center. It was clear that she had given no consideration to the residents most impacted by this project. Her blind endorsement of the project could only be explained in one of several ways: Either she is oblivious to the issues voiced by the community or she will support big development no matter what the consequences to the neighborhood.

I have known Carolyn for a long time and never in my wildest imagination did I suspect she would so completely turn her back on the community. I had just witnessed another side of Carolyn Ramsay.

Given that Carolyn is presenting herself as a champion for our neighborhoods and as the candidate who will work for the community and hold City Hall accountable, I found her assessment of the Academy Museum and event center project beyond flawed.

But this was one of the reasons why I developed the Candidate Transparency Pledge. I wanted a document that spelled out how they would go about making decision on land use matters and more. I wanted to be able to hold their feet to the fire and in my opinion, as its author, Carolyn had just violated the pledge. She signed a document saying– among other things – that she would base her decisions on policies as outlined in the General Plan and require that the City officially document and demonstrate that there is sufficient infrastructure to support new development.

We all know what is happening with infrastructure in this City. Some of it is visible like crumbling streets, buckled sidewalks, and untrimmed trees – while some things like cracked water and sewer pipes, as well as aging power systems are not.

New development requires all kinds of infrastructure to support its use. Some issues like our water supply scream from the headlines every day and we know we have to make do with less, not more. So the pledge was to ensure that new development not overburden the infrastructure for the residents and businesses in the neighborhoods.

Maybe Carolyn believes that because she hasn’t been elected yet that the pledge doesn’t count. Well, in my world you either protect neighborhoods because it is the right thing to do or you do not.

If Carolyn could be so cavalier about a project with such serious impacts to the neighborhood how could we ever trust her to advocate for us on anything? I have concluded that I, for one, can’t. Carolyn can get all the endorsements in the world saying she is a protector of neighborhoods, but actions speak much louder than words. Unfortunately, her action at the hearing demonstrated that she is all about “business as usual.”

On the way back from the hearing, I was asked why I thought she did it – why she showed up to speak about a project that has the potential to be catastrophic to the neighborhoods surrounding it? I could only answer that I believed it was a command performance, one she felt she could not ignore. What a shame.

The Miracle Mile is not the only neighborhood with huge projects on the drawing board. Sherman Oaks has the Sunkist building expansion; Hollywood has 8150 Sunset Blvd.; Windsor Square/Hancock Park has the CIM Group Park Mile Specific Plan project; and those are just a few off the top of my head. All require sufficient infrastructure including public safety and mitigation against traffic intrusion into their neighborhoods.

All of us need and deserve more than business as usual!

For additional information:

Council District 4 Candidate Transparency Pledge

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Govan Eyes Residential Area of Miracle Mile for Future LACMA Expansion

 

“That’s the Only Way to Go…”

Govan Eyes Residential Area of Miracle Mile
For Future LACMA Expansion

Overlay of latest Zumthor design of LACMA. Map courtesy of Google.

The latest iteration of the Peter Zumthor design for a new Los Angeles County of Art was revealed last month. The original oil blob concept has been squared off and its roof has been perforated by rectangular protrusions to allow for taller galleries. The “horizontal skyscraper,” as L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne describes it, still bridges Wilshire Boulevard.

Its footprint south of the boulevard – on what is now LACMA’s Spaulding Avenue parking lot – appears to have swollen in size to accommodate its new function as one of only two entrances to the museum and as the location of a ground floor 300-seat theater. Thirty to forty feet above this will be a south facing open-air plaza overlooking the Wilshire Galleria condominiums located north of 8th Street between Spaulding and Stanley Avenues.

On March 25, 2015, Hawthorne hosted an event, “Debating the New LACMA,” as part of his Third Los Angeles Project at Occidental College. The symposium featured LACMA Director Michael Govan, making a pitch for the new museum, and a panel of experts examining the pros-and-cons of the proposed re-do – including architecture critic and Miracle Mile resident Greg Goldin, a frequent contributor to this newsletter.

At the gathering it was emphasized that Zumthor doesn’t design on paper as much as he does with models. His process, we were told, is notoriously slow and involves numerous interpretations. But it is clear that regardless of the final design, the new museum will span Wilshire and invade a densely populated part of the Miracle Mile.

Wilshire Boulevard has always more-or-less served as a moat to shield the nearby residential area from the full brunt of disturbances from museum traffic, events, and noise. By lurching south of the boulevard into the Miracle Mile the largest museum west of the Mississippi River will become the hulking next-door neighbor to thousands of residents. This intrusion is fraught with problems – it is the museum equivalent of “mansionization” and will overwhelm the entire neighborhood.

Zumthor’s original design encountered stiff resistance for encroaching on the La Brea Tar Pits. “We love the Tar Pits,” Govan quipped, “but they didn’t love us back.” It is obvious that he has now set his sights on the residential area of the Miracle Mile. At the Occidental College event Hawthorne raised a frequent criticism of Zumthor’s elevated single-story plan for the museum: that it will not easily allow for future expansion.

Here is a transcript of the conversation that ensued:

Govan: To the question of you’re building a form, which came up, which is not easily – you can’t easily add on to. In the land area the only place you can go is up and . . . going up is not that practical. So, what is the future of expansion? One idea would be, if you bridge Wilshire Boulevard, you actually do annex – a hundred years from now, not now, not in the lifetimes of people we know – you could expand a park for Los Angeles in areas, that has been done before, with relatively low density spaces and rental apartments and things. So, you could expand that direction, where you can’t go into the Tar Pits. So, it does provide our successors, by a hundred years…

Hawthorne: [interrupting] So, you’re talking about on Wilshire Boulevard?

Govan: Well, on or around. You have to get across the boulevard to do that easily. Because of the way the Tar Pits frame and you have buildings on the other side. So, that’s the only way to go.

Translation: LACMA has nowhere to grow but south, into the residential blocks below Wilshire. Like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other museums with global ambitions, LAMCA would gobble up its neighbors.

Govan’s assurance that future expansion will not occur in this century is undercut by the fact that since opening in 1965 LACMA has been expanding (or trying to). By their very nature, major museums must grow or die – particularly in this age of monument building and star architecture. Govan knows this. By stubbornly adhering to the obvious limitations of an elevated single-story concept for a new museum, LACMA has no choice but to move into the Miracle Mile.

The welcome mat is not out.

Click on image to enlarge.

[Image of Zumthor model and bottom graphic courtesy LACMA.]

For additional information:

Los Angeles Times: Peter Zumthor’s Plan for LACMA Undergoes Makeover

Curbed Los Angeles: Peter Zumthor’s New LACMA Redesign is a Lot More Boring

YouTube:  “Debating a New LACMA” – Occidental College, March 25, 2015(actual event begins at the 1:40:00 mark)

MMRA Newsletter, November 2014: LACMA’s Billion Dollar Debt (and Michael Govan’s Very Good Day)

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Miracle Mile Demolition Ban Approved

Miracle Mile
Demolition Ban Approved
 

City Enacts Two-Year Interim Control Ordinance
to Stop McMansions

 Click map to enlarge.

On March 25, 2015, the Los Angeles City Council approved two Interim Control Ordinances [ICOs]: one ordinance prohibited demolitions and substantial alterations of single family homes in five proposed Historic Preservation Overlay Zones [HPOZ], and the second ordinance limits the scale of new home construction in 15 additional neighborhoods, including the Miracle Mile. Both ordinances took effect immediately upon adoption.

The ICOs were enacted for an initial 45-day period, during which they may be renewed in six-month periods for up to two years. Given that they were “urgency” measures adopted (by a vote of 15–0) as a result of intense political pressure from neighborhoods under attack throughout the City, it is highly unlikely that the City Council will not routinely extend the ICOs for a full two-year period – but the MMRA and other ICO communities will be vigilant.

The ordinances are intended to provide immediate relief from demolitions in areas experiencing the deleterious impacts of new “super-sized” homes – providing time for the Department of City Planning to execute a much needed reform of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO], which has been wholly ineffective in stopping the spread of McMansions.

The ICO prohibits the issuing of any building permit in the Miracle Mile unless the proposed structure complies with the regulations set forth in the Beverly Grove Residential Floor Area District, which was adopted by the City Council in October 2013 to stop the unchecked spread of McMansions in that community.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association requested identical regulations when it applied for a Residential Floor Area District [RFA] for R-1 zoned properties within its boundaries in September 2014.

The Miracle Mile’s pending RFA application qualified its inclusion in the ICO. The MMRA is pursuing RFA status as stopgap measure to protect our community while we are engaged in the more time consuming process of creating the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Unlike RFAs, which only apply to single-family homes and have no design guidelines, an HPOZ would provide more exacting and durable protection for both historic homes and multi-unit apartment buildings.


The La Brea-Hancock area also received similiar ICO protection as the Miracle Mile. The graphic below depicts how their community has been overwhelmed by McMansions:


Click on image to enlarge. Courtesy of La Brea Hancock HOA.

For additional information:

MMRA website: HPOZ and RFA information

City of Los Angeles: Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) for 15 Neighborhood Conservation Areas

Los Angeles Times Editorial: Interim McMansion Law is a Fit Addition for Some Areas

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Historic Resources Survey of Miracle Mile Properties Launched

HPOZ UPDATE:

Historic Resources Survey of
Miracle Mile Properties Launched

A historic resources survey of Miracle Mile properties commenced this week, a prerequisite for the creation of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ]. The Miracle Mile Residential Association engaged the services of Architectural Resources Group, Inc. [ARG] to perform the survey. ARG will serve as a consultant to the MMRA and will prepare all of the documentation required by the City as part of the HPOZ adoption process.

Katie Horak, Senior Associate and Architectural Historian–Preservation Planner from ARG’s Pasadena office, will supervise the survey of approximately 1,628 parcels containing single- and multi-family residences within the boundaries of the proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ, an area defined by: Fairfax Avenue to the west, La Brea Avenue to the east, Wilshire Boulevard to the north, and San Vicente Boulevard to the south. The HPOZ will not include the commercial and institutional properties within these boundaries.

The survey will detail the historic and architectural significance of the Miracle Mile and identify structures as either “contributing” or “non-contributing” to the district. A contributing structure is a building that was constructed during the predominant period of development in the neighborhood and that has retained most of its historic features. A non-contributing structure is one that was either constructed after the major period of the neighborhood’s development, or has been so significantly altered that it no longer conveys its historic character.

The survey fieldwork involves a team of experts who will document the building styles, materials, and features of each property. This work is performed from the sidewalk and the surveyors will not enter private property. The findings of this survey will be incorporated into a Historic Inventory Report that will be submitted to the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources. This report will also include research on original building permits to gain important information about each building, including architect, builder, date of construction, and original owner.

Once the report is completed, the Department of City Planning will hold public workshops and hearings in the community before taking the HPOZ through the adoption process.

ARG has worked with numerous communities to further their goal of HPOZ adoption, both as advisors and consultants. Recently, ARG completed the historic resources survey of the Wilshire area for SurveyLA, Los Angeles’ first comprehensive program to identify significant buildings and homes throughout L.A.

The MMRA Board of Directors approved a motion to pursue an HPOZ last February. It is the only way to protect the historic character and livability of our community from McMansions and out-of-scale apartment and condo developments.

The cost of pursuing HPOZ protection is substantial: $60,000 – not including the cost of mailings and hosting informational meetings. The Miracle Mile HPOZ Committee is currently preparing an extensive outreach plan to educate the residents on the many benefits of HPOZ and developing a fundraising campaign to help the MMRA with the expenses involved. More information on these plans will be featured in next month’s newsletter.

For additional information:

MMRA Website: HPOZ and RFA Information

Office of Historic Resources: Historic Preservation Overlay Zones

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