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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New Demolition Notification Law Adopted

From the MMRA Newsletter, March 15, 2015:

The former Moderncraft Laundry building under demolition.

New Demolition Notification
Law Adopted

In November 2014 the Los Angeles City Council approved a Demolition Notification Ordinance that requires public notification to demolish buildings older than 45 years. Effective January 2015, the City will not issue demolition permits for buildings meeting this age threshold until the applicant has a posted a demolition notice on the property, sent letters to abutting neighbors, and notified the applicable City Council office at least 30 days before demolition.

This 30-day delay gives the community and elected officials additional time to seek historic designation of buildings before they are razed. This will prevent “stealth” demolitions of historic, but undesignated buildings in Los Angeles. Preservationists and other community groups have long complained about demolitions involving buildings that do not require environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or Los Angeles preservation regulations, but may have historic significance.

If you receive a notification of demolition for a neighboring property or see a notice posted on a property please promptly contact the Miracle Mile Residential Association so we can investigate and make certain that all rules and regulations are being observed.

You can contact us at: info@MiracleMileLA.com

The sudden unannounced demolition last year of the Mole-Richardson building at 900 N. La Brea Avenue – to clear way for a new mixed-use apartment project – triggered outrage in the community. Build in the 1920s for ModernCraft Laundry, it was designed by Morgan, Walls and Clement – architects of many iconic Art Deco Los Angeles buildings, including the Security Pacific Bank and the Dominguez-Wilshire Building in the Miracle Mile.

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How “Density Bonus” Laws Cut the Community Out of the Loop

How “Density Bonus” Laws Cut the Community Out of Loop

Appeal Denied on 742 South Ridgeley Drive
Apartment Project

A 12-unit condo (foreground) and 45-unit “bonus density” apartment building
(background) under construction on the 700 block of South Ogden Drive.

 

Approval of a new apartment project at 742 South Ridgeley Drive [photo below] was reaffirmed at a February 26, 2015 meeting of the Planning Commission. The commission denied an appeal by Khosrow Ganjianpur, a neighboring property owner.

The project’s developer added two “very low income” units in order to take advantage of the City’s Density Bonus Affordable Housing Incentives to gain a 35% increase in allowable Floor Area Ratio from 3:1 to 4.05:1. The density bonus also allowed a height increase from 45 feet to 56 feet. The 25-unit building will have 46 parking spaces.

“On menu” density bonuses are granted over the counter without public hearings and can only be appealed by abutting property owners or occupants. Mr. Ganjianpur filed an appeal because he felt the project was under parked and would exacerbate already strained on-street parking resources. But the density bonus ordinance permits such projects to supply the minimum amount of parking.

Mr. Ganjianpur also feared that the increased height of the project would create shadow issues for his property. But the City does not require shading impact studies on projects below 60-feet in height and the new building on Ridgeley missed that threshold by four feet.

Apartment developers in the Miracle Mile routinely add low-income units to qualify for automatic increases in height and square footage that circumvent community input or opposition. The ordinance is expressly designed to prohibit appeals by community organizations such as the Miracle Mile Residential Association.

742 South Ridgeley Drive. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

The “social good” of encouraging low-income affordable housing in otherwise luxury market rate apartment buildings is undermined by the City’s notoriously lax enforcement of conditions placed on developers. No one knows for certain whether low-income units are actually being rented to deserving tenants or being occupied by friends and family members of the developers.

John Schwada reported in a recent MMRA Newsletter that he fears “…that the public could be getting badly hoodwinked – we are allowing the developers to super-size their projects, to work-around our community plans, to create new environmental impacts and yet we don’t have a very firm fix, I believe, on whether we’re getting the benefit of low-income units being rented to eligible tenants.”

The MMRA has a long and successful history of working with developers to mitigate an array of issues including height, shade and shadow, parking, and traffic impacts. But now State and City density bonus laws have cut us out of the loop. We have been silenced.

The density bonus laws have also impeded the community’s ability to negotiate mitigations for new condo developments. If condo developers seeking public support for variances feel that the neighbors are being too “demanding” they can threaten to switch to a density-bonus apartment project. Indeed, this was the case last year when a proposed condo project at 938 South Orange Grove Drive suddenly became an apartment building to evade opposition from nearby residents.

The “gag order” aspect of density bonus laws, allowing unchecked development in our community, contributed to the MMRA’s decision to include R-2 and R-3 zoned multi-family buildings in our pending Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

The use of the Ellis Act to evict longtime tenants from historic duplexes and small apartment buildings coupled with Density Bonuses incentives are encouraging the steady destruction of the last vestiges of “affordable” housing in the Miracle Mile. These smaller, older, rent stabilized buildings are being replaced by large high-end apartment projects that are “pricing out” working and middle class tenants.

The MMRA represents renters and homeowners alike. An HPOZ is the only way that the community can be guaranteed any voice in new apartment or condo development in the Miracle Mile. And it is the only way to protect our longtime renters.

For additional information:

MMRA Newsletter, January 15, 2015: Density Bonus Law…City Hall’s Hidden Nightmare

Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2015: In L.A., Conditions Placed on Developers Go Unheeded

MMRA Newsletter, August 15, 2014: Two Projects Under Construction on South Ogden Drive

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Miracle Mile Spotlight: Milk Jar Cookies

From the MMRA Newsletter, March 15, 2015:

Miracle Mile Spotlight:

Milk Jar Cookies

It’s not just the assortment of delicious cookies and the playful rustic touches of the décor that make you feel like you’re back home again in Indiana when you visit Milk Jar Cookies, it’s the personality of its ex-Hoosier proprietor, Courtney Cowan [photo below].

Courtney grew up in Indianapolis and she has the Midwestern knack for friendliness and hard work. She came to California pursuing a career in television post-production, but her real passion began long before she left Indiana.

“I was always baking as a child. I read the recipe on the back of the bag for Toll House cookies and I made chocolate chip cookies all the time. It was just something I enjoyed doing. And then in my teens I came up with my own cookie recipes and people really liked them. Then after college, and I started working, I’d bring my cookies into the office – and people would mistake them for bakery-made cookies. And I thought, maybe there’s something to this.”

Opening her own cookie shop became Courtney’s long held “official dream,” as she describes it – one that became a reality in April 2013 when she opened Milk Jar Cookies. “It was a big leap of faith,” she explains. “I was nervous, but I have the mindset with any goal I have to just put my blinders on and go for it.”

Fortunately, Courtney had previous managerial experience she could utilize running her own business and handling employees. Her Midwestern values came into play, too. “I know I have people counting on me and I have a really amazing group working for us. I found good, solid, and intelligent people. It’s very family-like here. Aside from the quality of our cookies, the customer experience is very important.”

There is nothing corporate or cookie cutter (pun intended) about the shop. “Everything is homemade, from scratch, fresh every day, all day long. I also want the employees to really interact with the customers and not sound like robots.”

The Miracle Mile was a natural place for Courtney to realize her dream. She and her television editor husband have lived in the neighborhood for four years. They found the shop’s location, stripped it bare, and – working very long days – built it from the floor up. “It was so much fun and so stressful at the same time,” she remarks. “But my husband believes in me and in my cookies. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

The only real obstacle to operating a small business in the Miracle Mile is parking – or the lack thereof – says Courtney. The construction of the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit lane was maddening she explained because the contractors give little to no notice. “We would just show up in the morning and find the street torn up into pieces. It wasn’t very good on the City’s part, it was very disrespectful of the business owners along Wilshire. But, we handled it with creativity, advertising a back-alley pick-up option and brought customers’ cookies out to them.”

Though she is excited about public transportation and the growth of the neighborhood, she worries that parking will become even more difficult once major subway construction begins. The situation is worsened by the large infill apartment project under construction in the former parking lot behind the Desmond’s Building, with a similar project to begin soon behind the Dominguez-Wilshire Building. These projects have left employees and customers of these buildings scrambling for on-street parking spots. “My customers often do complain about parking,” Courtney says.

But the many advantages of being located in the Miracle Mile far outweigh the challenges she remarked, especially the relationships she’s developed with other independent business owners like Christine Johnson, owner of Miracle Mile Toys & Games, and Rebecca and Sandy Clark, owners of Rascal. “They’re such great people, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them,” Courtney states. “Everyone looks out for each other.”

Milk Jar Cookies has a thriving online ordering business, including their “Cookie of the Month Club,” which they launched a year ago. “Online shopping is clearly becoming one of the favorite ways for people to shop,” she says. “We’re very proud of the user-friendly nature of our website.”

And the brick-and-mortar enterprise is doing well, too. “Our business is growing, every month gets a little bit bigger and better. And the weekends are great; it’s like a party in here.”

“That was part of why we wanted to be here in the Miracle Mile, to be part of a real neighborhood,” Courtney explains. “To be a go-to spot, and with that comes the desire to know our neighbors. Once we got a dog, we got to know a lot of people,” she laughs. “It was a drastic difference when we moved here. People are so much nicer in the Miracle Mile. There’s a real sense of community. We love it.”

“I always pictured having a shop on Main Street when this was all still just a dream. And a week after we signed the lease here an article came out in the Los Angeles Times about how Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile is L.A.’s Main Street.”

How’s that for a dream come true?

Click on image to view Milk Jar Cookies’ videos on Vimeo.

Milk Jar Cookies
5466 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90036
Phone: (323) 634-9800
Fax: (323) 634-9810
Email: hello@milkjarcookies.com
Website: milkjarcookies.com
Hours:
Sun. 12pm–5pm
Closed Monday
Tues.– Thurs. 11am–8pm
Fri.– Sat. 11am–11pm

The MMRA newsletter does not solicit or accept advertisements. Our support of local businesses is a matter of principle ­– for which we receive no financial compensation or consideration of any kind.

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Miracle Mile HPOZ Update • March 15, 2015

From the MMRA Newsletter, March 15, 2015:

Miracle Mile HPOZ Update

 

A prerequisite to applying for a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) is the preparation of an Historic Resources Survey. According to the Department of City Planning’s Office of Historic Resources:

The survey details the historic and architectural significance of the neighborhood and identifies structures and features 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.

Once the historic resources survey is completed, it is reviewed by Department of City Planning staff for completeness and accuracy. The Department of City Planning also holds public workshops and hearings in the community before taking the HPOZ through the adoption process. An HPOZ becomes effective only after the completed Historic Resources Survey is certified by the Cultural Heritage Commission. Because the HPOZ includes changes to zoning within the proposed area, it must be adopted as an ordinance by the City Planning Commission and the full City Council, following full public hearings.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association’s HPOZ Committee is currently reviewing bids from two firms that specialize in conducting Historic Resource Surveys. Chair Mark Zecca and C0-Chair Jeremy Matz will present the committee’s recommendation to the MMRA Board of Directors at their next meeting on March 19, 2015.

It is expected that the board will take prompt action and that the survey will commence shortly thereafter. It is estimated that it will take six months to complete the survey of the approximately 1600 properties within the proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ boundaries.

The HPOZ Committee’s next task will be to develop a comprehensive outreach and fundraising campaign. The MMRA has limited resources and it is imperative that property owners and renters contribute to subsidizing the cost of commissioning the Historic Resources Survey – an HPOZ will protect the interests of everyone in the Miracle Mile.

If you have questions or would like to participate in helping to secure HPOZ protection for the Miracle Mile please contact HPOZ Committee chair Mark Zecca: phlaidian@gmail.com

For additional information:

Office of Historic Resources: Historic Preservation Overlay Zones 

Miracle Mile Residential Association website: HPOZ & RFA Info

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