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

 

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

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

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