A Perfect Storm • Battle Lines are Drawn on the Proposed Neighborhood Integrity Initiative

A Perfect Storm •
Battle Lines are Drawn on the Proposed
Neighborhood Integrity Initiative 

~ a word from the Editor

Thunderstorms are an infrequent occurrence in Los Angeles. Last November all sides in the ongoing and often litigious development wars in Los Angeles – those who see density as a cure for all that ails us and those NIMBYs who want to embalm L.A. as it was 20 years ago – were caught off guard by the sound of thunder. A group named the Coalition to Preserve L.A. proposed a ballot measure that would establish a moratorium of up to two years for any development project that does not adhere to existing planning regulations or requires a City Council vote to change the zoning of a particular site.

In simple terms, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative would hit the pause button on the “spot zoning” that allows a project to be bigger, taller, or have less parking than the existing rules permit.

At first, both friends and foes of development were puzzled and asked each other was that thunder? Then, when it was learned that Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, was spearheading the effort, everyone realized that a perfect storm was approaching.

Curiosity pivoted to alarm because Weinstein had recently demonstrated his political muscle and savvy by launching a successful ballot initiative to require condom use at adult film shoots. He’s brought former L.A. Weekly editor Jill Stewart on board as campaign director, so this shapes up to be a battle royale.

The battle-weary individuals and groups who have been fighting mega-developments for years reacted to proposed ballot measure quickly with astonished, but grateful relief: the cavalry was on the way. The proposed two-year moratorium on spot zoning offers a much needed cease fire. It is a game changer that would force the city to play by the rules.

It took a little longer for the pro-density, pro-development factions to realize that the not-so-distant thunder was actually the sound of incoming cannon fire.  A poll revealing that 2 out of 3 residents support the proposed initiative was a real wake-up call. Recently opponents have mustered their forces and begun to fight back [see links below].

Construction trade unions and affordable housing advocates are rallying their troops, too. And, Mayor Eric Garcetti suddenly hired a new city planning director and now professes a willingness to craft some compromise with initiative backers in hopes that a deal could derail the measure, which must collect over 60,000 signatures to get on the November 2016 ballot – a prerequisite that no one doubts will be met.

The distress of the pro-density group is compounded by the fact that all sides in the development wars acknowledge that spot zoning is the worst possible way to do urban planning – and its elimination is the most salient and sellable aspect of the ballot measure. But opponents of the initiative argue that the zoning rules are outdated, that it’s too difficult and time consuming to revise the community plans that establish the guidelines for new development.  The only way that L.A. can change or grow to accommodate new housing, they say, is by granting parcel-by-parcel exemptions.

Initiative supporters counter that elected officials are trading these zoning exemptions for campaign contributions from real estate developers. The system is broken and they’re calling for a time-out to repair the procedures and restore trust in the planning process.

It is, indeed, a perfect storm. Both sides of the battle are beyond frustrated, they are furious with each other. The future of Los Angeles and its quality of life is at stake.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association is a non-partisan organization. Our most important responsibility is to provide the information our residents need to make well-informed decisions. In this issue of our newsletter we feature an opinion piece by Tim Deegan, a longtime community activist in the Miracle Mile, in support of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, as well as a video interview with Jill Stewart, the ballot measure’s campaign director.

The MMRA is committed to fully exploring all sides of the issue and as editor I look forward to providing those who oppose the initiative a full opportunity to make their case, whether it be in this newsletter or via an video interview on the MMRA Channel on YouTube. Consider this your invitation. This is a debate that is long overdue. I welcome it. And I encourage the residents of the Miracle Mile – and the city at large – to do their homework and take a stand on what sort of Los Angeles they want to live in.

Ken Hixon, MMRA Newsletter Editor
newsletter@MiracleMileLA.com

For additional information:

Neighborhood Integrity Initiative PDF

Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan 2016: Ex-Mayor Richard Riordan Endorses Ballot Measure Against Mega-Developments

StreetsBlogLA, 1 Feb 2016: Coalition Grows in Opposition to Proposed No-Growth Ballot Initiative

California Planning & Development Report, 2 Feb 2016: Ballot Initiative Takes Aim at Planning in Los Angeles

CityWatch, 4 Feb 2016: How to Smoke Out Flacks for Luxury High-Rise Projects Who Masquerade as Friends of the Down-and-Out

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Tom LaBonge’s Spending Spree

Tom LaBonge’s Spending Spree

by James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

By the time Tom LaBonge [photo below] termed out of the City Council in June 2015 his City Hall office was a mess. Shades of the fall of Saigon, file cabinets were emptied and records were shredded or just vanished. Not a single piece of paper was left for the incoming David Ryu administration. Council District Four residents who had been asking for assistance with problems or filing complaints were out of luck because there were no records for Ryu’s staff to respond to.

To make matters even worse LaBonge had gone on a last minute spending spree. He promised to hand out over $600,000 in discretionary funds to various groups with no documentation to show how these expenditures had been earmarked or why.

When those of us who closely follow City Hall found out that LaBonge had emptied the CD 4 bank account we were stunned because the use of discretionary funds had been a major issue in the runoff election between Carolyn Ramsey, LaBonge’s former Chief of Staff, and David Ryu. For many voters LaBonge passing out money like Halloween candy was the last straw that pushed them into Ryu’s camp. Ryu won the election hands down. (We can only speculate if those funds and files would have been left intact if Ramsey had been elected.)

In order to bring some sanity to the situation, on his first day in office Councilman Ryu filed motions to have LaBonge’s spending spree rolled back. On July 28, 2015 the City Council voted 15-0 to do just that. They cancelled LaBonge commitments and declared that these funds were unencumbered. Ryu then appointed a committee of stakeholders to advise him in this effort to review LaBonge’s pledges, but with no paperwork to go on the effort has been extremely daunting. The committee has been diligently trying to help the Councilman examine the requests and appropriately reallocate funds. But the task is complicated. Did the groups listed by LaBonge as needing public funds actually apply for them or was this LaBonge’s peevish attempt to empty the coffers before he left office?

There are legitimate and pressings needs for discretionary funds in CD 4: trees to be trimmed, potholes to be filled, sidewalks to be fixed, and the list goes on! Which of the projects on LaBonge’s list should be funded, which should not?  This is public money and each group should have to step forward and make their case for the funds to the Council office – and to the public.

The list of LaBonge’s giveaways ranged from Parent Teacher Associations to museums. It also appears that some funds were earmarked for projects outside of  Council District Four – these are probably the most egregious items.

The amounts on LaBonge’s list range from $2500 to $50,000. Some names are recognizable while others are not. All are just a simple line entry on  a page that lists the names and amount. There are no supporting documents illuminating why one group was to get money and others were not. To many this is the perfect example of a slush fund: opaque, arbitrary, and subjective.

One name and amount on LaBonge’s ledger immediately jumped off the page: Museum Associates was to get $50,000 to finance a way-finding project involving signage along Museum Row.

I had to look at it several times to make sure I was really seeing what I was seeing. Museum Associates is a privately owned 501(c)(3) non-profit doing business as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This group receives around $30-million a year from the County to run LACMA and is also slated to get another $125-million from the County to build its new museum on Wilshire Boulevard. Museum Associates also owns the old May Company property were the Motion Picture Academy is being built – as well as its Spaulding parking lot and 6006 Wilshire Boulevard. So, the first thought that came to mind was does LACMA really need $50,000 from the CD 4 discretionary fund and if so, why?

In a letter LaBonge submitted to the City Council on July 28, 2015, he asked them to leave his financial gifts in place and not return the funds to Councilman Ryu. LaBonge claimed he was fulfilling a $ 100,000 commitment to Los Angeles County by giving $50,000 to LACMA and $50,000 to the Ford Museum. That actually should be fairly easy to check out. An inquiry to the County should turn up something that references such a commitment.

Museum Associates should also be of help as they have a personal service contract with an independent contractor detailing plans for a way-finding plan to promote LACMA and other Miracle Mile museums. That contract mentions a grant from the city that will be used to pay the contractor. Surely there is something in writing that Museum Associates can produce that details the conditions of such a grant? The project may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but what elevated it above all the other needs in CD 4?

Again, these are public funds and there must be a paper trail documenting the basis for this grant. Without that the specter of quid pro quo will forever hang over all of these funds and projects.

David Ryu is committed to an open and transparent process in this matter. He promises to come up with a grant proposal system that all must comply with. There is already a template that many Neighborhood Councils use to help them in this process. Whether a Neighborhood Council or a Council Office, there needs to be a rational and fair way to vet the expenditure of public money. After all, it’s our money – not Tom LaBonge’s.

Photo of Tom LaBonge courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

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Three-Card Monte and Bike Lanes

Three-Card Monte and Bike Lanes
by James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

Three-card Monte is a confidence game in which the victim (the “mark”) bets that they can find the “money card” – typically the queen of hearts –among three face-down playing cards. It’s a shell game without the shells. Dealers employ sleight of hand and misdirection to prevent the mark from finding the queen. The bottom line is that the mark always loses.

City Hall plays a variation of this classic con game on its residents. They do so by constantly changing the rules, granting exemptions to the rules, or by changing the definition of the rules. And if all else fails they declare that they cannot afford to follow the rules. The rules are the queen of hearts in their version of the game: always moving and never what you think they are.

An example of how this sleight of hand works is in the General Plan, which in many parts says the city shall or will do something. In the real world shall or will mean that if a person or entity doesn’t do what they say they will do they can be held responsible.

The city puts that kind of language into their grand plans to misdirect the citizens. The public thinks they have an iron-clad agreement, that they are protected, that they know exactly where the queen of hearts is. But, of course, they don’t.

When defrauded citizens challenge the city in court for not delivering promised mitigations or protections, the city argues that they don’t have to do what they said they would do because they don’t have the money to do so. And more times than not – out of respect for the legislative branch – the courts let the city of the hook.

Most voters do not understand the difference between political promises and iron-clad implementation. But the politicians do. Like a wise three-card Monte dealer, they always have an escape route in mind.

Sometimes they get really creative, as they did with their latest con game – Mobility Plan 2035 (MP 2035) – and they throw in new wrinkle or two. The plan’s authors designated it as “visionary” and “aspirational” in bold type. These words imply that the plan is nothing to be worried about, that it’s just a harmless wish list – akin to a child’s letter to Santa Claus. But those words were carefully selected to distract our attention from the real goal of MP 2035: to create bike lanes all over Los Angeles to serve the 1% of people who cycle to and from work or school.

Now, here’s a test. Try to follow the queen of hearts:

When the city’s bike plan was adopted in 2010 it became a part of the Transportation Element. It was an ambitious plan that proposed to add 1,684 miles of bike lanes all over Los Angeles. Many of us were caught off guard when we were not included in the early stages of the plan. But we were assured that there was no cause for alarm. So, we stepped up, engaged in the process, and made meaningful improvements to the plan. That resulted in the promise that every street that was to lose parking or traffic lanes had to go through an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

But then our leaders in Sacramento changed the rules of the game by removing the requirement to do an EIR for a bike lane with Assembly Bills (AB) 2245 and later 417. They still required a traffic and safety study and a mandate to provide mitigations, if called for.

Then along came MP 2035, which claimed to include the entire bike plan, but it does not include the promised protections contained in AB 417. There is absolutely no language in MP 2035 requiring compliance with AB 417. This means that the city will have the ability to create road diets by removing traffic lanes anywhere and anytime they desire without traffic or safety studies – and without any mitigations. They have already picked the streets and the treatments they intend to use (bike lane, bike track, or shared use). It’s all ready to go.

Did you know this? Of course not. How could you when the queen hearts is not even on the table. It’s in the dealer’s palm.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association has asked Councilmember Ryu to include an amendment to MP 2035 requiring conformance with AB 417 when the plan it goes back to the Planning Commission on February 11th. But we will be very surprised if the powers-that-be will allow it.

Instead, the city will do as they always do and fervently promise to include the public in the process of creating these bike lanes and the road diets necessary to achieve them. But they won’t be inclined to include AB 417 in the deal, because it would paint them into a corner of compliance. And, as I said, three-card Monte dealers always have an escape route in mind.

If that happens we are asking Councilman Ryu to continue being the voice of the people and vote no when MP 2035 comes back to the Council for approval.

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A Call to Arms: Public Hearings Begin on Proposed Amendments to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance

A Call to Arms:

Public Hearings Begin on Proposed

Amendments of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance

by Ken Hixon

The first step in the long awaited reform of the City’s infamously ineffective Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) has arrived with a flurry of public outreach meetings beginning December 2, 2015. The dates and locations of these meetings – as well as important information about the proposed amendments – can be found on the NoMoreMcMansionsInLosAngeles.org website.

The Planning Department is aiming for Council adoption of the amendments sometime late next summer, following a comment period, environmental analysis, more public comment, a staff report, and hearings before the City Planning Commission and the Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Shelley Wagers, who has spearheaded the fight against mansionization, discusses the pros and cons of the proposed amendments in a recent video interview for the Miracle Mile Residential Association’s MMRA Channel on YouTube. Wagers issues a call to arms to the opponents of McMansions to make their voices heard at these public hearings, “It’s very important for people who care about mansionization in their neighborhoods and on their blocks to hang together and hang tough.”

This new video, “Amending the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance – A Conversation with Shelley Wagers,” recorded November 28, 2015, is a follow up to an earlier video interview with Wagers recorded last July: “Reforming the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance,” which details the history of the BMO and how the original ordinance was riddled with loopholes that failed to stem the tsunami of McMansions in Los Angeles.

Click on image to view video.

Shelley Wagers is a resident of Beverly Grove and a board member of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association. Ken Hixon is a Vice President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association and the editor of the MMRA newsletter.

 

Posted in News

Metro Delays Decision on Wilshire Closures for Cut-and-Cover Work

Metro Delays Decision on Wilshire Closures for Cut-and-Cover Work

Councilmember Ryu Backs Community Groups
Demanding Traffic and Noise Studies

Metro has agreed to do a full study on the traffic impact of their recent proposal to accelerate the completion of the cut-and-cover work on Wilshire Boulevard for the construction of the underground La Brea subway station. Originally, Metro planned to accomplish this task over 22 weekends, but last month they changed course and pushed a proposal to shut down Wilshire Boulevard from La Brea to Highland for seven full weeks to accelerate the portion of the work immediately east of the La Brea intersection to just east of Orange St. The accelerated seven week schedule would be in lieu of 16 weekends. The portion of the cut-and-cover work from Detroit through the actual intersection at La Brea would take place over six weekends regardless of the closure option chosen.

At its November meeting, the MMRA Board of Directors voted unanimously not to support the accelerated seven week closure until such time that Metro could produce a traffic study and traffic mitigation plan. “We cannot fly blind,” said MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon. “We need the facts to make an informed decision. It is crucial that we are able to fully weigh the two options and compare their pros and cons, whether it be noise levels or traffic congestion.”

Mid City West Community Council and Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council have tabled a decision on the closure options pending the delivery of Metro’s traffic and noise studies. La Brea/Hancock Home Owners and Sycamore Square rescinded their earlier support of the seven week closure and will reconsider the two options once their organizations have had an opportunity to review the studies, which are due in January 2016.

 Click on image to enlarge.

On 12 November 2015, Metro and Councilmember David Ryu conducted a community meeting on the closure proposals at John Burroughs Middle School. A video of the meeting has been posted on the MMRA Channel on YouTube [see link below]. At the meeting Metro and construction officials presented a PowerPoint presentation [see link below] that provides details on the two closure options. Councilmember David Ryu spoke at the meeting and emphasized that both he and the community must have all the facts before making a decision. Ryu also challenged Metro to improve their community outreach efforts.

The decking Wilshire is a very complex process – as is understanding the two closure options on the table. We encourage residents to watch the video of the meeting so that you can be better informed.

Click on image to view video.

For additional information:

Click on image to view the Metro PowerPoint presentation.

Larchmont Buzz, 13 Nov 2015: Metro Confirms Delay on Wilshire Boulevard Closure Decision and Clarifies Project Details

Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, 11 Nov 2015: Metro Still Seeking Input on Impending Wilshire Closure

MMRA Newsletter, 14 Oct 2015: Metro Proposes 7 Week Closure of Wilshire for Subway Construction

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Metro Proposes 7-Week Closure of Wilshire for Cut-and-Cover Work

Illustration of cut-and-cover work depicting the installation of beams to support street decking.

Metro Proposes 7-Week Closure of Wilshire

for Cut-and-Cover Work

Share your opinion via our online poll…

Metro is seeking community support to close Wilshire Boulevard from La Brea Avenue to Highland Avenue for 7 weeks in early 2016 to install temporary street decking to speed up construction of the Wilshire/La Brea subway station. Originally, Metro had proposed doing the decking over 16 consecutive weekends.

The “cut-and-cover” process would begin in November 2015 and involves the installation of piles – vertical steel posts drilled into the ground – along both sides of Wilshire, followed by the removal of the pavement on Wilshire from Detroit to just east of Orange Drive. Once the pavement is removed, a trench 10-to-12 feet deep is excavated. Then horizontal beams are affixed atop the piles to support temporary concrete deck panels which will form a new street surface. The closures for street decking would begin next Spring. Once the temporary roadway is in place, the underground station will be constructed beneath the decking.

Click on image to enlarge.

As depicted in the illustration above, Metro’s proposed 7-week accelerated schedule would only apply to the section in green – immediately east of the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea to just east of Orange Drive.

The cut-and-cover construction from Detroit through the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire (shown in purple) is not part of the accelerated proposal. Because this is a major intersection the decking of this section will be done over a total of 6 weekends, which will require around-the-clock construction from 8 PM Friday evening to 6 AM Monday morning. During the first 3 weekends Metro crews will deck Wilshire from Detroit to just west of La Brea; the following 3 weekends the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire will receive its deck.

Metro’s accelerated 7-week proposal to close Wilshire from the intersection at La Brea to Highland will allow for a 7-days-a-week schedule with the noisier work conducted from 7 AM to 11 PM and quieter underground work beneath the concrete deck panels from 11 PM to 7 AM.

Although through traffic on Wilshire between La Brea and Highland would be detoured, local access to businesses and residences will be maintained. Eastbound Wilshire traffic will be detoured south on La Brea, east on Olympic, and north on Highland. Westbound Wilshire traffic will be detoured south on Highland, west on Olympic, and north on La Brea. Neither 6th St. or 8th St. would be utilized as detour routes. Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) traffic officers would be deployed throughout the area to direct traffic. These detour routes will be used whether or not the accelerated 7-week schedule or the original 16-weekend schedule is chosen.

The MMRA has not yet taken an official position on this accelerated 7-week proposal. MMRA officers have met with Metro to discuss the proposal and are now consulting with local residents, business owners, the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, La Brea/Hancock Homeowners Association, and other community organizations. Residents and local business owners can weigh in on this issue via our online poll below.

The advantages of the 7-week schedule for Metro are obvious – it is a far more efficient way of accomplishing this complicated task. The advantage for the nearby residents is that it greatly reduces noise disturbances between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM. The time constraints of limiting this work to weekends would require that pavement demolition and excavation be conducted all night long over a 16 week time period.

The MMRA’s position opposing nighttime subway construction is well known. Our “Sleepless in the Miracle Mile” petition campaign generated strong support from the community. But the MMRA has always acknowledged that the weekend cut-and-cover work at major intersections required nighttime activity and our opposition to nighttime work purposely exempted this particular aspect of subway construction.

However, there are cons to this proposal.  A 7-week closure could magnify the economic impact on local businesses. The MMRA is particularly concerned for small businesses that are popular with our residents. Larger corporate owned entities have the financial resources to withstand a sustained 7-week interruption of through traffic on Wilshire Boulevard. The independently owned and operated stores and restaurants are much more vulnerable.

Traffic impacts on Highland Avenue might also be considerable. Highland narrows to one lane in each direction south of Wilshire and detour-related bottlenecks could push traffic onto all the feeder streets in the surrounding blocks, particularly 8th St.

Neighborhood schools may be hit the hardest. Children at Wilshire Crest (Sycamore and Olympic), Cathedral Chapel (8th and Cochran), Wilshire Private (Longwood and Wilshire), and John Burroughs Middle School (McCadden and Wilshire) will be exposed to the general crush of continual traffic. Burroughs students, in particular, may provoke the ire of already frustrated drivers, when they cross on foot at the intersection at Highland and Wilshire. The corner has the potential to become a perfect storm between pedestrian and automotive traffic.

In relative terms, the original plan of weekends-only closures would likely mean less traffic intrusion into our neighborhood. Weekday car trips – which include employees going to and from work in the Miracle Mile, parents ferrying school children, and such things as business deliveries – far out-number weekend journeys. Fewer cars equate to less cut-through traffic on residential streets and traffic jams at major intersections.

By November 12, 2015 Metro needs to determine whether to proceed with the accelerated 7-week schedule, or they’ll run out of time to seek approvals from various city agencies. The MMRA board of directors with make a formal decision on the proposal at its next board meeting on November 5, 2015.

The MMRA is a consensus based organization. We encourage residents and local business owners to share your opinions on this proposal. We use SurveyMonkey for our polls. It is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Poll participants are anonymous and your honesty is welcomed.

Wilshire Boulevard Closure Schedule Poll

[Poll Results]

For additional information:

Metro: Purple Line Extension Community Meeting Presentation, Sept. 17, 2015


Click on image to view an Animation of the Pile
Installation and Street Decking Process
Posted in News

Miracle Mile Spotlight: Olympia Medical Center Rehabilitation Services

From the August 2015 MMRA Newsletter:

Miracle Mile Spotlight:

Olympia Medical Center

Rehabilitation Services

The definition of rehabilitation is to restore to good health or useful life. But the definition is far simpler than its execution. A person recovering from a stroke, joint replacement, or other illnesses or surgeries may need a variety of therapies: inpatient, outpatient, physical, occupational, and speech.

It is Avi Amit’s job to see that people get the help they need to get back to the business of daily life. Avi manages the rehabilitation services for Olympia Medical Center at its newly remodeled location on the fourth floor at 5901 West Olympic Boulevard. This well-equipped facility, which offers dramatic views to the south, is where Avi and his team of therapists demonstrate their positive and compassionate attitudes for their work. It is obvious that they are deeply invested in achieving the best possible outcomes for their patients.

“It’s about an individualized plan for all our clients,” said Avi. “It all depends on the condition of the patient. We want to bring them back to as close to the same level as they were before. Making them as independent and mobile as possible is our goal. We need to get you back even if there are certain restrictions. We can’t ignore that you’ve had surgery or a serious injury, and different people need different amounts of time to recover.”

This is where the variety of services they provide comes into play. An orthopedic procedure calls for physical therapy to restore a sense of balance and range of motion; a stroke or neurological incident might require speech therapy; some patients need to relearn functional activities like bathing, dressing themselves, or preparing a meal; and others will need a combination of all of these tools. This comprehensive approach requires a highly skilled team. The open design of the clinic allows easy interface between all of the specialists, yet provides privacy when needed for speech or certain physical therapies.

Monica Becerra, Physical Therapist Assistant, and Avi Amit.

“We cater to older patients from here in the neighborhood,” Avi explains. “But we would like to promote our orthopedic and recreational sports injury program. That’s why we have this new facility and why we’ve added more exercise equipment. I’ll be honest with you, we have Cedars-Sinai nearby with all of their programs and there is a temptation to go to a bigger hospital because you assume they have better service – but once a patient comes here, they always come back to our clinic. And that’s what we want to be: the neighborhood outpatient rehabilitation clinic.”

Their location and free parking is very attractive to residents of the Miracle Mile. For patients living within a ten mile radius they provide free transportation to-and-from the clinic – a valuable service for patients with conditions that prevent them from driving.

“I go to events in the community,” Avi said. “I want everyone to know that we are here for the community. Whatever we can do, however we can help, we will do it.”

The philosophy of Avi Amit and the staff at the Olympia Medical Center Rehabilitation Center can also be easily defined: They really care.

Olympia Medical Center Rehabilitation Services
5901 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 407
Office: 323-932-5086

Avi Amit, manager: 323-932-5086

Website

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

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Inconvenient Truths at LACMA: Sweeping Debt, Dealmaking, and Dubious Design under the Red Carpet

Inconvenient Truths at LACMA:
Sweeping Debt, Dealmaking, and Dubious
Design under the Red Carpet

by Joseph Giovannini

 “…from the very beginning the ambitious project has been personality driven, based much more on Govan’s determination, enthusiasm, and charisma than on a compelling and original design or trustable financial facts.”
– 
Joseph Giovannini

The third, and final, installment of Joseph Giovannini’s brilliant dismantling of the architectural follies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, reveals a publicly-owned institution gone fiscally amuck. LACMA, in Giovannini’s view, has become a private fief subsidized by hundreds of millions in taxpayer money – $425 million is the latest infusion – without a shred of accountability.

LACMA’s present campaign to build Peter Zumthor’s zig-zag museum, bridging Wilshire Boulevard, Giovannini explains, is not just poor aesthetics, it is an unforgivable squandering of the Museum’s only substantial endowment: its real estate holdings. Going forward with the Swiss architect’s estimated billion dollar building means that LACMA, which already gave away a building of equal size – the May Company, now being converted into the privately-held Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences museum – will also shed the two-acre lot it owns on Wilshire Boulevard, at Spaulding. The lot, used today for parking, was intended by LAMCA’s board to be commercially developed, thus ensuring a steady revenue stream for the cash-poor, but land-rich, Museum.

Giovannini concludes with a stark warning: LACMA director Michael Govan’s love affair with Zumthor’s “conceptually flawed” design could put the institution in a financial tailspin. “Think of the mastodons sipping at the tar pits. LACMA now risks the same fate,” he writes. Giovannini has been leading a lone crusade to alert the city to the perils of LACMA’s present ambitions. We should heed his sobering account. – Greg Goldin

Top photo: John Fladd

Joseph Giovannini biography

Joseph Giovannini essays on LACMA:
 
Los Angeles Review of Books, 19 July 2015: Inconvenient Truths at LACMA: Sweeping Debt, Dealmaking, and Dubious Design under the Red Carpet

Los Angeles Review of Books, 19 April 2015: Peter Zumthor at LACMA: A Preacher in the Wrong Church

Los Angeles Review of Books, 20 July 2014: A U-Turn on Wilshire: Why Frank Gehry Should Design LACMA

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The Billboard Wars ~ A Conversation with Dennis Hathaway

Now Playing on the MMRA Channel on YouTube:


Click on image to view video.

The Billboard Wars
A Conversation with Dennis Hathaway

Regulating billboards has been a perennial battle in Los Angeles. It is described as a “David and Goliath” struggle for good reason: the political and legal resources of the billboard industry often place the residents of L.A. on the losing side. Now that members of the City Council are touting a new plan to allow digital billboards all over town the stakes are higher than ever.

Dennis Hathaway, President of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, has been fighting the good fight for nearly a decade. In this two part video conversation, Hathaway candidly discusses the battleground and what it will take to achieve effective regulation of the billboards.

Hathaway is equal parts affable and persistent. He has employed his skills as a former Iowa newspaper reporter to dissect and illuminate the sweetheart relationship between City Hall and the billboard industry. Hathaway and his volunteer organization have been an invaluable ally and resource to neighborhood organizations fighting billboards and sign districts, including the MMRA.

For additional information:

Los Angeles Daily News, 28 June 2015: New Digital Billboard Laws Set for Consideration in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Times, 3 Dec. 2008 [Steve Lopez profile of Dennis Hathaway]: Pushing Back on Billboard Blight

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Subway Construction Update ~ August 2015

 

Click on image to enlarge.

Subway Construction Update ~ August 2015:

•Metro proposes converting Cloverdale and Ridgeley to one-way
streets north of Wilshire to create additional on-street parking

•MMRA protests Metro buses using 8th Street

At the Purple Line Extension Community Meeting on July 16, Metro introduced a proposal to make Cloverdale and Ridgeley one-way streets between Wilshire Boulevard and 6th Street in order to create additional parking. Metro is required to mitigate the loss of on-street parking spaces at the subway construction sites at Wilshire and La Brea. Converting Cloverdale and Ridgeley into northbound one-way streets would allow for diagonal parking that would add 15 new parking spaces on Cloverdale and 9 new parking spaces on Ridgeley. Both streets would remain two-way up to the parking lots of the commercial and retail establishments on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard – and both streets would retain their Preferential Parking District status [see graphics below].

Cloverdale Replacement Parking Plan.

Click on image to enlarge.

The eastern end of the Miracle Mile is enduring a severe parking shortage. Many of the historic apartment buildings north of Wilshire have very little or no off-street parking. Subway construction has shuttered the public parking lot on Detroit (north of Wilshire) and the former Bank of America parking lot. A large infill apartment complex is under construction on the former parking lot behind the Desmonds Building and a similar project is scheduled for the parking lot behind the Dominguez-Wilshire Building. The lack of parking – private and public – is having an impact on small businesses and restaurants, as well as residents.

The MMRA supports the proposed replacement parking plan. MMRA representatives Alice Cassidy, James O’Sullivan, and Ken Hixon met with Metro’s Construction Relations team on August 2 to review the plan. “Twenty-four new parking spaces won’t cure all of our parking problems,” said O’Sullivan, “but it will help the people living on those two streets.”

Ridgeley Replacement Parking Plan.

Click on image to enlarge. 

Metro’s plan must be approved by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and garner the approval of two-thirds of the property owners before it could be implemented. Metro will conduct block meetings to brief residents once the plan has received the necessary approvals.

It irked Hixon that renters had no vote in the matter. “The MMRA represents property owners and renters – I don’t like it when renters are treated as second class citizens,” he said. “I would encourage the tenants on Ridgeley and Cloverdale to put pressure on their landlords to approve this plan.”


MMRA Protests Metro Buses Using 8th Street

On the evenings of July 29, July 30, and briefly on August 4, Metro allowed eastbound buses from Wilshire Boulevard to use 8th Street due to unexpected lane closures caused by advanced utility relocation work at Wilshire and Fairfax. This violated an understanding between the MMRA and Metro Purple Line Extension officials that 8th Street would not be utilized as a detour for subway construction in the Miracle Mile.

Eighth Street is a narrow collector street running through a densely populated area with single family homes bordering it on the south and multi-family buildings on the north. It creates a significant noise disturbance to have the 720 bus lumbering along 8th Street at 1 o’clock in the morning. The MMRA is adamant that if Wilshire Boulevard traffic must be diverted – for whatever cause – it must be detoured to either Olympic Boulevard and/or 6th Street. These routes are suitable for buses, 8th Street is not.

In a letter to Metro, MMRA President James O’Sullivan wrote: “… it has taken [Metro] a lot of time and energy to forge a productive working relationship with the MMRA, but this relationship will quickly unravel if Metro dispatch allows buses to detour onto 8th Street.”

In a reply from Metro received on August 12, Kasey Shuda, Purple Line Extension Construction Relations manager, reaffirmed Metro’s commitment to work with the MMRA and offered assurances that dispatchers have been instructed not to allow bus drivers to utilize 8th Street in the future.

If you see a Metro bus using 8th Street please make note of the date and time and immediately contact the MMRA via email: info@MiracleMileLA.com.

For additional information:

Metro: Purple Line Extension, Section 1 Construction Community Meeting, July 16, 2015 – PowerPoint Presentation

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