Q & A: An interview with Mindy Lake and Michael Cortez, members of Metro’s Construction Relations Team

Q & A:

On the Front Lines of

Subway Construction in the Miracle Mile

An interview with Mindy Lake and Michael Cortez,

members of Metro’s Construction Relations Team

After almost two years of advanced utility relocation (and a couple more to go at Wilshire and Fairfax), the main event will begin soon at La Brea and Wilshire as preparations are made for underground subway construction. The Purple Line extension from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard is a massive and complex endeavor. The multi-billion dollar, nine-year construction project through one of the most densely populated urban corridors in the country is fraught with potential impacts on nearby residents and businesses. It is the job of Mindy Lake [below right] and Michael Cortez [below left] to serve as a liaison between Metro and the community and help ensure that the mitigations implemented during the subway work go as well as possible.

 

Lake and Cortez talk about their jobs, the proper way to make a complaint about subway construction, and Metro’s Eat-Shop-Play program to support local business during the building process. They were interviewed June 8, 2015. The interview has been edited for length.

Q: What exactly are your jobs?

Lake: My official title is Senior Construction Relations Officer, Section One, West Segment. Which, in plain English, means I handle construction-related issues for the Purple Line Extension for the area west of Hauser Boulevard to La Cienega Boulevard, which includes the Fairfax station and the La Cienega station.

Cortez: And I’m the Senior Construction Relations Office for the East Segment. I cover everything east of Hauser to Western, which includes the La Brea station, the Crenshaw staging yard, and the tie-in to the station at Wilshire and Western.

Q: Mindy, what are your qualifications for this job?

Lake: Over 25 years of community activity and activism stemming back to the mid-1980s in this neighborhood, particularly west of Fairfax: from organizing the first Neighborhood Watch to being a founding member of Mid City West Community Council. I was also the co-chair of the Wilshire Division’s Community-Police Advisory Board for four years. I was born in the neighborhood and went to schools here. I’m basically a dyed-in-the wool community person. I took this job because I thought I had the qualifications to understand the needs of this community – and I thought I could be helpful to Metro with this transformative construction project.

Q: Michael, what are your qualifications?

Cortez: I have over 11 years experience working in the public sector. I worked many years for the Community Redevelopment Agency in the Hollywood and Central region. Prior to that I worked for two elected officials. I was born and raised in Canoga Park. I was president of my neighborhood council and engaged in community activism in the Valley. I believe in the importance of community engagement in the planning process all the way through to the construction of a project.

Q: Now that that a principal contractor –a design-builder in Metro jargon – has been engaged, how do you two specifically fit into the construction process?

Lake: We liaison with all of the entities connected to subway construction. We work with Metro’s project management; we work with community relations; we work with the community; we work with the design-builder and the sub-contractors still working on utility relocations. Our job is to keep an eye on what’s going on so that we can deliver that information to the community – and be available when there are issues or complaints. We try to stay out in front of everything so that we can anticipate if something might create a problem for the community.

Q: It seems that one of the problems Metro sometimes had keeping the noise disturbances under control during nighttime utility relocation work was the large number of sub-contractors involved. Each contractor had to be educated on proper noise mitigation methods. Will it be easier for you to control this problem now that you are dealing with only one main contractor for the actual subway construction?

Lake: Absolutely. I think the challenge with the utility relocation sub-contractors was that what we asked of them was so much more than they were accustomed to providing. It required us to really stay on top it. We had a heightened degree of mitigation measures we were implementing. It was a learning curve for them and a trust issue for us. We had to work very closely with them to make sure the understood the community they were working in.

Q: Speaking of which, how do you find this community to work in?

Cortez: I would say I’ve been able to work well with the community. I’ve started to build relationships with various organizations. I go the community council meetings. I meet with folks individually. I want people to have a face they know during the construction process. Here in the La Brea area I’ve been introducing myself to all the businesses. I am available to them and try to keep them informed. Like Mindy, I respond to anyone who contacts me by phone or email in 24-hours or less.

Q: Let’s talk about complaints. If residents or businesses are having issues with dust, noise, construction traffic, or any other subway related problems, what is the proper way to get Metro’s attention?

Lake: We have are hotline phone number, 213-922-6934, which can translate into an immediate, real-time response if its an urgent construction related matter. Or we can be reached by email. [See below.]

Q: What determines urgency and prompts a real-time response?

Lake: My definition of urgent, for example, would be if you were experiencing an extraordinarily loud construction disturbance at night or your driveway was blocked by a truck during construction. You would call the project hotline; go through the menu options; indicate that it is urgent; a live operator will come on the line; you tell them where you are located and what the issue is; they would call or text me or Michael; and we would respond right then and there.

Q: And then you or Michael would contact someone at the construction site to find out what’s going on?

Lake: Yes. Or, in my case, I live in the Miracle Mile, right here in the construction zone, so, often I’ll just go to the site to investigate the problem.

Q: That was a big mistake, wasn’t it? Moving into the Miracle Mile when you took this assignment? You didn’t put much distance between yourself and your job.

Lake: (Laughing.) It speaks on some level to either my insanity or my commitment to this project. I think it’s the only fair way, that when I say to someone that I know what you’re going through, that I can be perfectly honest.

Cortez: When there is a complaint or problem, we sit down with the contractor and discuss the situation – and remind them to continue to implement our mitigation efforts.

Q: So, simply put, the best way to complain is to call the project hotline: 213-922-6934.

Lake: It’s been a very effective method. The response time is excellent. Michael and I are on top of it. We also cover for each other if one of us is indisposed.

Q: The Miracle Mile Residential Association has a keen interest in supporting small businesses and restaurants. Obviously, the enterprises located closest to the staging sites at La Brea and Fairfax are going to be economically impacted by subway construction. Metro has created a marketing program called Eat Shop Play to promote these businesses to help counteract any damage to their bottom line. What sort of response have you been getting from Miracle Mile business owners?

Lake: Once they wrap their heads around the idea of what we’re doing – and understand that this is something we’re providing to them at no cost – they are quite engaged. They have to grasp the potential construction impacts; right now they’re not really feeling it. So, we’re trying to be pro-active and educate them. Once we get through that process, they are very interested in participating. We’ve had very positive responses.

Q: Have you gotten many Miracle Mile businesses to participate in the program?

Cortez: Yes, so far almost 50 businesses in the La Brea, Fairfax, and La Cienega areas.

Q: I know you promote the Eat Shop Play program online, but will you promote it in other media outlets – like local newspapers?

Lake: Yes, we’ve also bought pole banners for Wilshire Boulevard. We’ll also advertise on billboards and bus shelters. Our official launch for the program is July 1st. That is why we want to reach out to all of our community partners. We want to get word out.


Metro Purple Line Extension
Construction Relations

24-hour telephone: 213-922-6934

Mindy Lake (west segment; Hauser Blvd. to La Cienega Blvd.):
LakeM@metro.net

Michael Cortez (east segment; Hauser Blvd. to Western Ave.):
cortezmic@metro.net

Metro Purple Line Extension links:

http://www.metro.net/projects/westside/
Twitter: @purplelineext
Facebook: facebook.com/purplelineext

 

“Sleepless in the Miracle Mile” Update:

The MMRA collected nearly 800 signatures in our petition campaign to stop nighttime subway construction in the Miracle Mile. Although we have not yet succeeded in stopping all nighttime work (which we continue to oppose) our well-publicized campaign did motivate Metro to limit or rearrange nighttime construction to minimize complaints.

Now that a prime subway contractor has been engaged – Skanska, Traylor and Shea (STS) – officers of the MMRA are meeting regularly with representatives of Metro, STS, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and the Los Angeles Police Commission (which issues permits for nighttime construction).

The MMRA is adamant that the community have a direct voice in how subway construction in general is conducted in the Miracle Mile, including: the selection of haul routes; sound mitigation at the staging yards; loss of public parking; and protecting our small business and restaurants.

The residents of the Miracle Mile welcome the Purple Line subway extension. The MMRA will work closely with all parties involved to help manage the impacts on our community – while continuing our efforts to stop the noise disturbances of nighttime work.

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

 

Subway Construction Update: A United Front

Subway Construction Update:

Beverly Wilshire and La Brea/Hancock
Homeowners Associations
Endorse MMRA Position on
Nighttime, Sunday, and Holiday
Subway Construction

Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and the La Brea/Hancock Homeowners Association have both approved motions endorsing the policy of the Miracle Mile Residential Association on work hours exemptions for subway construction.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon met last week with the board of directors of both neighborhood associations and shared the MMRA’s position that no variances from work hours regulations should be granted for nighttime, Sunday, or holiday subway construction until such time that all three organizations have had an opportunity to meet with the contractors for the project and satisfactorily resolve all questions and issues regarding noise and vibration.

La Brea/Hancock residents living near La Brea and Wilshire and Beverly Wilshire residents near Fairfax and Wilshire have already experienced sleepless nights from utility relocation work at these intersections. The unanimity of the board members of both organizations in adopting motions endorsing the MMRA’s position reflects how deeply the impact of subway construction is felt in adjacent neighborhoods.

“Metro is always shrugging off the impact of subway construction by dragging out the old adage that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” MMRA President Jim O’Sullivan remarked. “Our retort to that has always been that the Miracle Mile is a neighborhood – not a frying pan. And now it’s clear that the Beverly Wilshire and La Brea/Hancock neighborhoods don’t care to be a frying pan for Metro either. It’s a united front now.”


The MMRA’s ongoing petition campaign to stop nighttime, Sunday, and holiday subway construction continues to gather signatures as more and more people experience the disturbances ensuing from the utility relocations currently underway in the Miracle Mile – which have served as an unpleasant preview of coming attractions.

Metro will not listen to us – and our concerns over 10 years of 24/7 subway construction – if we don’t make our voices heard:

•••

LACMA: The Sky’s the Limit • Commentary by Greg Goldin


[Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.]

 

LACMA: The Sky’s the Limit

Commentary by Greg Goldin

[Editor’s note: Last month, LACMA Director Michael Govan announced a proposal to build what he hopes will be a Frank Gehry designed skyscraper on Wilshire, across from the museum’s campus. This project would serve as a sort of exclamation point to LACMA’s plan to bridge Wilshire with a new museum designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.]

It may be another decade or so before the Purple Line extension is complete, and riders emerge from the subway stop at Orange Grove and Wilshire, but the oncoming train is already changing the landscape at the west end of the Miracle Mile. If the money can be found, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will inflate a glass kidney bean off the backside of the former May Co. building and LACMA’s oil-slick-inspired $650 million-and-counting blob will ooze its way out of Hancock Park to bridge Wilshire and occupy their Spaulding parking lot. Just added to complete the troika of architectural razzle-dazzle could be the city’s tallest skyscraper, rising above the Wilshire/Orange Grove subway portal.

The hotel and condominium tower, presumably designed by Frank Gehry, would also have LACMA galleries, with a new architecture and design museum, as well as Gehry’s own archives. LACMA head Michael Govan told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m jealous that New York has a Gehry tower [left] and we don’t. My dream is some beautiful piece of architecture with an architecture and design museum at the base, which would add to Museum Row.”  Never mind that much of Museum Row is being decimated in no small part owing to LACMA’s maneuvering the subway portal onto the very block where buildings housing the A+D Architecture and Design museum and two other private art galleries must now be demolished to make way for subway construction.

LACMA owns approximately one-quarter of the 350-foot frontage on the south side of Wilshire between Orange Grove and Ogden, and hopes to forge a development deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority [Metro], Millennium Partners, and landowner Alan Sieroty before the subway construction site is reconfigured as yet another relentlessly dull Transit Oriented Development.

The LACMA chieftain’s instincts may be right – nobody wants another badly-designed building above another badly-designed subway portal – but Govan’s not taking any chances by trying to sell architecture solely on its own merits. Instead, he put a politically correct spin on the proposal. Once Metro opens the block for development, he said, “We know that density is the key to urban living and to the maximization of mass transit — and key to the environment. And so for all the right reasons, this is the right place” for a high-rise.

Thus, Govan shrewdly positions his “dream” as a civic virtue. No one believes this more than LACMA itself, which, like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, would become a major real estate developer. The reassuring urban planning rhetoric is meant to neutralize any opposition by making naysayers into nabobs opposed to leveraging a multi-billion investment in public transportation.

While no one doubts that some kind of building will rise once Metro pulls its construction trailers and tunnel boring machinery off the site, LACMA’s ambition is as naked as it is vainglorious. A Frank Gehry skyscraper, looming directly across the street from LACMA’s main galleries, would be, like Trajan’s Column in Rome [right], a triumphal commemoration of the museum’s self-conceived importance not just in the surrounding neighborhood or city – but in the global marketplace of art.

By adding Gehry to the list of Pritzker Prize winning names on the museum’s all-star roster (Renzo Piano and Peter Zumthor being the other two), the museum will have clothed itself in the raiment of “great buildings.”  Who, indeed, will ever again question the eminent stature of a cultural institution that once made the mistake of building an unfashionably dated and decidedly Hollywood version of the Kennedy Center and dared to call it a landmark destination.

The William Pereira designed LACMA campus, circa 1965.

This, indeed, is an essay into the ways in which the rich and powerful need to express the glories of so much accumulated money and power. Culture is the playground of the moneyed classes – whose wallets, and egos, are the ripe targets of the monument builders. What better way to supply a secular crown than with a building, by a world-renown architect, which bears your name?Nothing new, actually, is happening here with this proposed skyscraper.  From infancy LACMA has regarded itself as not only separate, but also above the status it retains as a publicly funded and owned art institution.  Embossed in the public record is the dirty secret that when the County Museum of Art spun itself off from its parent, the Natural History Museum, the new museum’s board of trustees first aim was to leave Exposition Park for the greener (as in, the color of money) environs of the Miracle Mile, then quaintly situated on the Westside – which nowadays, along with the money, has moved much further west.

When County Supervisor John Anson Ford offered the newly separated art museum a downtown plot of land – speculation is that the site was atop Bunker Hill, where the Catholic Cathedral now sits – LACMA’s board rejected the plan. “[I]t was recognized…that the location…would not attract the enthusiasm of potential donors from the west side.”

This quote, from the board minutes of January 21, 1958, was the sort of blunt comment made by civic leaders before the present era of milquetoast public relations statements. The museum’s leaders could not fathom leaving Exposition Park – and its surrounding black ghetto – only to be thrust into a downtown neighborhood populated by the city’s poor and elderly and black and Native American citizens. Westside money was hardly going to flow toward a location redolent of the city’s intractable underclass.

And, so, the museum spent several years lobbying G. Allan Hancock [right], the wealthy oilman who’d given the county the park that bears his name and contains the La Brea Tar Pits. Repeatedly, they tried to convince him to cede a piece of the 23 acres for their art museum, although it had been Hancock’s express wish to build a “fossil museum” dedicated to displaying the park’s unique Ice Age finds. In 1959, Hancock finally relented, agreeing to give the art museum 7 acres, and no more. The moment the plans for the new museum were unveiled – the William Pereira designed complex that is now destined to be demolished – LACMA began its long effort to aggrandize pieces of the park.

Time and again, LACMA sought to nibble away at the park that Hancock deemed should be permanently set aside for public enjoyment and scientific exploration. In the late-1960s, an attempt by the museum to expand further into Hancock Park met with a global protest. From Kenya, Louis Leakey, the world’s most famous paleoanthropologist and archaeologist, urged the museum to halt its plan, saying that no one would consider building atop a site where the first evidence of mankind was discovered, so why would they build atop the largest outcropping of Ice Age life anywhere on the face of the Earth? That effort flopped, but 20 years later the Bruce Goff designed Pavilion for Japanese Art was completed, taking another bite out of the park.

By then memories had faded, along with the county assurances that Hancock’s final wishes would never be violated. But LACMA never stopped eyeing the park. The first iteration of Zumthor’s modern design for a new museum covered – literally – several of the tar pits themselves. Only when the Natural History Museum, which administers Hancock Park, strenuously objected did LACMA retreat and come up with this latest version spanning Wilshire Boulevard.

In a sense, all of this is prologue, evidence that from the moment LACMA left Exposition Park to the present, an arrogant self-regard has been the chief characteristic of the museum’s stance. Now, in projecting its skyward dreams in the form of a Gehry tower, LACMA demonstrates all of its inherited insouciance, that blithe unconcern that comes with believing your own message and knowing that when you’ve got the money and the power to back it up the sky’s the limit – or maybe not. Actually, there are no height limits along Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile.

•••

Greg Goldin is the coauthor of Never Built Los Angeles and a curator at the A+D Museum. From 1999 to 2012, he was the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine. He is a longtime resident of the Miracle Mile and was featured in the MMRA Channel’s YouTube presentation: The Miracle Mile in Three Tenses: Past, Present, and Future.”

For additional information:Los Angeles Times:
LACMA, Metro Discussing New Museum Tower on Wilshire Blvd.

•••

Angry Residents Confront Metro Officials at Noise Meeting

Subway Construction Update

Angry Residents Confront Metro Officials at Noise Mitigation Meeting

Grinder

On May 27, Metro held a meeting of the Purple Line Extension advisory group at the Petersen Museum. On the agenda was Metro’s mitigation plan for construction noise and vibration in the Miracle Mile. Metro’s PowerPoint presentation on the topic can be seen here.

The proposed mitigations offered to the community did not pass the “common sense” test with numerous residents in attendance. Nighttime work currently underway for utility relocations at Wilshire/La Brea and Wilshire/Fairfax sparked complaints from residents of the La Brea-Hancock area and from those living on Orange Street near Fairfax.

A mother of young children displayed a smartphone video she made of Metro contractors grinding welds on temporary steel plates covering a trench near La Brea and Wilshire; the late night work woke her children blocks away.

A professional recording engineer living on Orange Street argued that Metro was trying to snow residents by claiming that nighttime subway construction would not exceed nighttime ambient noise levels by more than 5 decibels. He pointed out that while that might seem to be only a slight increase in volume to the uninformed, in fact, a 5 decibel increase would nearly double the perceived nighttime ambient noise levels.

A Windsor Square resident complained that a long promised sound wall surrounding the subway construction yard at Crenshaw and Wilshire had yet to be completed – despite the fact that the utility relocation crews headquartered there began using the site many months ago.

Others inquired why nighttime utility relocation work recently detoured eastbound Wilshire traffic to 8th Street for two nights in a row; a situation that had idling and honking vehicles stacked up at the intersections of Genesee and Ogden late into the night – without traffic control officers present. Even Metro’s 720 bus was diverted to 8th, adding to the traffic noise that disturbed a number of nearby residents.

A Metro official admitted that they were having difficulty implementing practices designed to require the various utility relocation contractors to reduce nighttime noise; that it is a challenge for Metro to ensure that every construction vehicle has a low volume back-up alarm; and that, on occasion, a construction worker pulls up to the work site in the middle of the night with their car stereo blaring. This official was also unable to explain why workers were grinding welds at such a late hour, despite Metro’s often-repeated assurances that noisier work would be confined to the earlier hours of the evening.

The experiences of residents enduring the disturbances of nighttime utility relocations serves to reinforce the MMRA’s opposition to permit 24/7 activities at the Miracle Mile subway station construction sites. In their PowerPoint presentation Metro admitted that the greatest amount of noise would be generated at their Wilshire/La Brea yard, which will house a slurry recovery facility and a grout manufacturing plant – as well as serve as the location where all the dirt will be extracted from all of the tunneling from Western to La Cienega.

Once again, it was reiterated at the meeting that the contractor of the subway extension is solely responsible for mitigating noise and vibration. That the mitigations Metro touted at the meeting were only examples of mitigations that might be provided. This is why the Miracle Mile Residential Association maintains that until such time that Metro actually engages a contractor it is pointless to discuss specific noise mitigations for the subway construction sites at Fairfax and La Brea. Time and time again, the MMRA has informed Metro that it will not sign a blank check on work hours exemptions that will be cashed at the expense of the residents of the Miracle Mile.

The only way to guarantee that the neighborhood has a voice in how subway construction is conducted in the Miracle Mile is to sign the online petition opposing nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction. This petition campaign, which has been underway since last February, has already compelled Metro to ask the Los Angeles Police Commission for a “time out” in considering their application for an exemption from work hours rules at the Miracle Mile subway construction sites.

Subway Petition Lawn Sign

The MMRA’s “no blank check” stance appears to have gained traction with the Police Commission. Recently, the commission began requiring all contractors seeking work hours exemptions in the Miracle Mile to consult with the MMRA before they will consider applications for variances. This is a requirement that the commission didn’t enact before they granted permission to allow nighttime utility relocation work. Obviously, our petition campaign has provoked this policy change and the MMRA is pleased that the commission is being so responsive and respectful towards our community.

The MMRA’s petition campaign has gotten a lot of attention – and some criticism from those who mistakenly believe that we oppose the subway extension. Our objective is to balance the fundamental right of thousands of residents to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own homes with the enormous demands of a massive, decade long, multiple billion-dollar construction project. Neither side is going to get everything they want, but the MMRA will not allow the needs of the residents to be ignored no matter how important or worthy the cause.

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

Click here to download the printable petition

We also invite you to visit the Subway Construction page on the MMRA website. It is frequently updated with links to media coverage on our petition campaign, official correspondence, construction fact sheets and reports, YouTube videos of subway construction techniques, and other information.

Petition Drive to Stop Nighttime Subway Construction Going Strong


Hundreds of Miracle Mile Residents Join the Fight
to Stop Nighttime Subway Construction

Last month the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] launched a petition drive to stop nighttime, Sunday and holiday construction for the Purple Line Subway Extension – which is scheduled to begin major work in August. In January 2014 the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority [Metro] applied to the Los Angeles Police Commission to be exempted from municipal noise ordinances for subway construction in the Miracle Mile.

MMRA members and volunteers from the community have been distributing petitions every Saturday within the boundaries of the MMRA [see map]. So far about 60 % of the area has been canvassed and the remaining blocks should be completed by March 22. The response has far exceeded expectations and the online petition has proved to be a very effective means of collecting signatures.

The Police Commission has not set a date as to when they will render a decision on Metro’s applications to be exempted from noise ordinances, so the petition drive will be an on-going campaign until further notice. The petition effort has also received significant support from residents in neighborhoods adjacent to the Miracle Mile, who will be equally impacted by nighttime, Sunday and holiday construction. The MMRA has received a number of requests to expand the petition campaign beyond our boundaries and this be will taken this under serious consideration once the canvassing of the MMRA area is complete.

The petition campaign has attracted media attention and MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon have been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times for a story they are preparing about the impact of subway construction on the Miracle Mile. The Times also interviewed the owner of an apartment building located near the Fairfax subway station construction site, as well as a long-time resident on nearby South Orange Grove Avenue.

Metro is battling our efforts to stop around-the-clock construction by accusing the MMRA of being “against the subway.” This allegation could not be further from the truth. The MMRA whole-heartedly supports the extension of the Purple Line. Our issue with the subway expansion is solely about nine years of constant nighttime, Sunday and holiday construction noise and disturbances.

The Miracle Mile is one of the most densely populated urban corridors in the nation; we must stand together to remind Metro that we are a residential community and not a full-time construction zone.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

On March 3, 2014 the MMRA sent a letter to the Los Angeles Police Commission clarifying our position. The MMRA believes the burden should be on Metro to demonstrate why the residents of the Miracle Mile are unworthy of the protections of a well-established ordinance that protectsall residents of Los Angeles from 24/7 construction activities. We encourage you to read this letter; it makes a concise and strong argument why it is premature for Metro to seek to be exempted from the noise ordinance at this time [click here].

If you would like to help out with the petition campaign please contact us at: petition@MiracleMileLA.com.

Additional information:

MRA Newsletter – February 2014: MMRA Launches Petition Campaign to Stop Nighttime, Sunday, and Holiday Subway Construction at the Fairfax and La Brea Stations

The Subway Construction page on the MMRA website contains a lot of details and information with maps of the Fairfax and La Brea stations and construction staging sites. It also includes YouTube videos of tunnel boring machines in action.

MMRA Launches Petition Campaign to Stop Nighttime, Sunday, and Holiday Subway Construction at the La Brea and Fairfax Stations

On January 10, 2014, Metro submitted formal requests to the Los Angeles Police Commission seeking exemptions from work hours restrictions in order to allow contractors at the Fairfax and La Brea subway stations to work around the clock, seven days a week. Demolition of the existing buildings at the construction staging sites will begin in August 2014 and installation of solder piles in preparation for “cut and cover” excavation of Wilshire Boulevard to build the underground subway stations is scheduled to start in January 2015.

Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 41.40 prohibits construction activities between the hours of 9 PM to 7 AM, “in a manner as to disturb the peace and quiet of neighboring residents or any reasonable person of normal sensitiveness residing in the area.” The code further limits the hours of allowable operations from 8 AM to 6 PM on Saturday. Construction work is not permitted on Sundays or holidays.

La Brea and Wilshire Station. Shaded areas are the construction staging sites.
La Brea and Wilshire Station. Shaded areas are the construction staging sites.

Exemptions from construction “work hours” codes are granted on a six-month basis by the Los Angeles Police Commission. Metro intends to continually apply for these exemptions for the projected nine years it will take to complete the Purple Line subway extension from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard.

The Miracle Mile will be the location of two subway stations: La Brea/Wilshire and Fairfax/Wilshire. The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] supports the Purple Line subway extension, but it is unfair and unreasonable for Metro to subject thousands of residents to nine years of noise disturbances and other disruptions from nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction.

Fairfax and Wilshire Station. Shaded areas are the construction staging sites. Note that the station entrance has been moved to the southwest corner of Orange Grove and Wilshire since this map was originally published.
Fairfax and Wilshire Station. Shaded areas are the construction staging sites.
Note that the station entrance has been moved to the southwest corner
of Orange Grove and Wilshire since this map was originally published.

It is difficult to fully convey the vast scale and immense complexity of constructing the subway extension through a densely populated urban corridor like the Miracle Mile. The MMRA has created a Subway Construction page on our website [MiracleMileLA.com] with links to various documents that provide details on the construction process. There are also links to YouTube videos on tunneling techniques. We encourage residents to examine this material so that they can better grasp the enormity of this project.

Construction of the subway extension through the Miracle Mile faces many daunting challenges: from high ground water to the removal of pre-historic fossils to high concentrations of methane. Entire blocks of the Miracle Mile will be demolished to facilitate construction. Traffic lanes on Wilshire, La Brea, and Fairfax will be eliminated or restricted for lengthy periods and these thoroughfares will also bear the wear and tear of hundreds of trucks per day. Even if subway construction work was limited to normal daytime hours the disruption to residents and local businesses will be profound.

The impact of subway construction on the Miracle Mile is exacerbated by other impending major construction projects in the area: the Academy Museum at the former May Company, the new 13-story Museum Square office building, extensive interior and exterior renovations at the Petersen Automotive Museum, and construction of the new Shalhevet high school and adjoining mixed use apartment development. The volume of all this construction traffic will significantly increase congestion on Wilshire, Fairfax, and La Brea.

Metro touts that any nighttime construction work would not exceed five decibels over normal ambient sound levels – the maximum increase allowed at night [when such work is allowed by exemption from municipal ordinances]. But a five-decibel change represents a clearly noticeable increase in the perceived volume [an increase of ten decibels is perceived as doubling the sound level]. People are much more sensitive to noise at night, a noticeable increase in ambient levels will disturb thousands of residents living in the areas surrounding these construction staging sites.

We are highly skeptical that Metro contractors can operate pavement breaking equipment along Wilshire at night without keeping residents awake. Not to mention the constant rumble of trucks hauling away dirt all night long – a source of noise and vibration that will also impact residents south of the Miracle Mile.

On January 28, 2014, MMRA President Jim O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon attended a meeting between Metro and Windsor Square residents that was called by the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Transportation Committee because of nighttime noise and other disturbances at the Crenshaw/Wilshire construction staging site – which is being used as a base for subway related utility relocations along Wilshire. The residents had a long list of complaints over issues that were keeping them up at night: the glare of work lights, the beeping of back-up buzzers on vehicles, the clanging of equipment being moved in and out of trucks, idling engines, and the like.

At the meeting a Metro engineer maintained that Metro was in “technical compliance” because the disturbances did not exceed the five-decibel threshold. That may be the scientific case, but – whatever the decibel level – noise from nighttime construction activities at Crenshaw/Wilshire was sufficient to mobilize the community to protest and demand mitigations from Metro.

The construction staging sites for the Fairfax and La Brea stations extend well into densely populated areas and will directly abut multiple-family buildings. To ask thousands of residents to go without sleep for nearly a decade of construction is preposterous. Work hours ordinances were devised to balance the need of contractors with the fundamental right of residents to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own apartments and homes.

Representatives of Metro frequently dismiss the adverse impacts of subway construction by remarking, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.” But the Miracle Mile is a residential neighborhood, not a frying pan.

In their request to the Police Commission, Metro stated that: “An exemption will also minimize construction impacts on the surrounding community by accelerating the completion of the work.” The MMRA believes that nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction would have just the opposite effect by maximizing the impact on the residents by depriving them of any respite from nine years of constant noise and disruption.

On Saturday, February 15, 2014 the MMRA will begin canvassing the entire Miracle Mile to distribute petitions opposing nighttime, Sunday, and holiday subway construction. The petition is also available online. The canvassing of the area will continue over subsequent weekends and then expand to areas north, east, and west of the Miracle Mile.

If you would like to help with this petition drive – or host a yard sign [see photo at top] – please contact us at: petition@MiracleMileLA.com . Your support will help insure that you and your neighbors will not be sleepless in the Miracle Mile.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN ONLINE PETITION 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PRINTABLE PETITION 

MMRA Position on Subway Construction Work Hours Supported by Mid City West Community Council

Wilshire:La Brea Station map (Metro)

At the September 10, 2013 meeting of the Mid City West Community Council [MCWCC] a large majority of its board of directors voted against a motion granting Metro blanket exemptions from work hours rules and ordinances for the construction of the Purple Line subway extension in the Miracle Mile. The Los Angeles Police Commission issues work hours exemptions and Metro sought the endorsement of MCWCC in order to persuade the commission that all of the concerns of the residents of the Miracle Mile have been addressed – which is far from the case.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] opposes giving Metro a free pass on work hours rules that would allow them to engage in construction 24-hours-per-day/seven days a week, during rush hour traffic periods, and over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon attended the MCWCC board meeting and encouraged the board not to give Metro a blank check that would be cashed at the expense of the residents of the Miracle Mile.

As the site of two Wilshire subway portals at La Brea and Orange Grove and four construction staging sites extending well into densely populated residential areas the Miracle Mile will endure the full brunt of the subway extension project. Construction is estimated to take at least nine years. Given the immense scale of the work involved the disturbance and disruption to the surrounding community will be substantial.

The MMRA feels that it is premature for Metro to seek these exemptions now. Metro has yet to hire contractors for the La Brea and Orange Grove subway stations. These will be design-and-build arrangements where the contractors will be charged with both designing and constructing the stations. Hence, the reason why Metro has been so vague about how they will mitigate the disturbance of nighttime work and the traffic disruption of construction during rush hour periods – because all responsibility to mitigate the impact of subway construction rests solely on these yet-to-be-determined contractors.

The MMRA maintains that any exemption from work hours rules should be a dialogue between the residential and home owner associations directly impacted by subway construction and the contractors – not Metro. Only the contractors can provide the specific information necessary for well-reasoned decisions. The MMRA is willing to consider supporting limited work hours exemptions on a step-by-step basis for each major stage of construction. This would motivate contractors to do their very best to maintain good relationships with the community for fear that they would lose future chances at securing additional exemptions.

But at this time there are too many unanswered questions regarding the full impact of granting work hours exemptions, for example:

  • How will allowing construction during rush hour traffic periods impact the upcoming Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] lanes – which reserve curb lanes during rush hour periods for buses only? Will it require that Wilshire be restricted to buses and all other traffic be diverted to 6th and 8th streets?
  • How will subway construction be coordinated with other construction projects in the Miracle Mile? The new Museum Square office building, the Academy Museum, the Desmond’s apartment complex, the proposed demolition of LACMA’s original buildings and the construction of the new museum, the new Shalhevet High School and adjacent mixed-use project will all be under construction during this time period. This extraordinary amount of activity could exponentially magnify the negative impacts of granting exemptions from work hours rules.
  • Museum attendance increases during the holiday season. How will an exemption permitting subway construction during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season affect Museum Row?

Having failed to secure the endorsement of MCWCC, Metro is currently seeking support for blanket work hours exemptions from the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council [GWNC]. La Brea Avenue marks the jurisdictional boundary between MCWCC and GWNC. Although the subway entrance and construction staging sites for the La Brea subway station are west of La Brea Avenue and part of MCWCC, a large part of the underground subway station extends east to into the GWNC area [see graphic at top].

O’Sullivan and Hixon appeared at the September 11, 2013 GWCC meeting to persuade its board not to grant Metro blanket work hours exemptions. The GWCC board referred the matter to their Transportation Committee for study. The MMRA will continue its effort to insure that the residents of the Miracle Mile have a full voice on how subway construction is conducted. We are optimistic that GWCC – like MCWCC – will support our position against granting Metro blanket work hours exemptions.

MMRA Opposes Subway Work Hours Exemptions

Miracle Mile Residential Association Opposes Work Hours Exemptions For Purple Line Subway Extension

Los Angeles, July 23, 2012 – The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] announced today that it opposes exemptions from work hours ordinances sought by METRO for the construction of the Purple Line subway extension. The Miracle Mile is the future location of two subway portals along Wilshire Boulevard: at La Brea Avenue and at Orange Grove Avenue (across from LACMA).

METRO is seeking exemptions from ordinances prohibiting construction activity at night, during rush hour traffic periods, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. In a letter to METRO released today the MMRA stated: “The construction staging sites for the La Brea and Orange Grove subway portals will extend well into residential areas and the disturbance and disruption to our community will be substantial even if normal working hour restrictions are strictly observed.”

METRO maintains that such exemptions will shortened the construction schedule, but the MMRA countered that they are “familiar with the challenges of construction in a methane hazard zone replete with rich deposits of important fossils. Construction delays and complications are very common in the Miracle Mile. We anticipate that the construction of the Fairfax portal will be fraught with difficulty and that its completion will be over-schedule with or without work hours exemptions. Such exemptions will offer small advantage to METRO and create a very large and ongoing disturbance to the residents of the Miracle Mile.”

METRO has encountered similar resistance to work hours exemptions from downtown residents and businesses surrounding the construction of the Regional Connector Transit Corridor.

MMRA Letter to METRO:

July 22, 2013

Ms. Jody Litvak

Director, Community Relations

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority [METRO]

One Gateway Plaza

Los Angeles, CA 90012

litvakj@metro.net

[Via email w/ hard copy to follow.]

Dear Ms. Litvak,

At the July 11, 2013 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA], a motion was made and approved by the board instructing me to write this letter – with copies to the Los Angeles Police Commission and Councilmember Tom LaBonge – conveying our opposition to any and all work hours exemptions that METRO may seek in connection to subway construction in our community.

At  METRO’s  June 5, 2013 Purple Line Extension community meeting it was announced that Metro would be seeking the following work hour exemptions for subway construction in the Miracle Mile (between La Brea and Fairfax Avenues):

  • Peak Hours exemption to allow construction to continue work in the public right of way during rush hours.
  • Extended Work Hours exemption to allow overnight work within specific noise limits.
  • Holiday Moratorium exemption to allow construction to continue between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Although the subway extension is the largest construction project to ever come to the Miracle Mile, it is by no means the only construction project we are confronting: the Museum Square office building project on Curson and the re-adaptation of the former May Company for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard are entering the EIR stage; plans are underway to subdivide the Shalhevet property (boarded by Fairfax Avenue, San Vicente Boulevard, and Orange Grove Boulevard) and construct a new private high school on the northern section of the parcel and a mixed-use 145 unit apartment building on the south; a 175-unit building has begun construction behind the Wilshire-Tower (“Desmond’s”) building on Wilshire Boulevard; not to mention that the Petersen Automotive Museum is preparing to announce plans for a major renovation of their facility and that Los Angeles County Museum of Art is actively raising funds to do a major overhaul of their campus in the next three-to-five years that would require extensive demolition and construction.

The Miracle Mile is the location of two subway portals – the impact of subway construction threatens to overwhelm our residents and businesses for nearly a decade of construction.

Given the extraordinary number of major construction projects in the pipeline, that Metro would seek such a work hours exemption has caused much alarm in our community. The Miracle Mile is a unique area in that our residences, particularly multi-unit buildings, directly abut the office and commercial buildings lining Wilshire Boulevard. The construction staging sites for the La Brea and Orange Grove subway portals will extend well into residential areas and the disturbance and disruption to our community will be substantial even if normal working hour restrictions are strictly observed.

The Miracle Mile is celebrated as Museum Row, it is a source of pride to our community. Work hours exemptions allowing nighttime and holiday season work would exacerbate what will already be a significant impediment to museum visitors. Attendance at our museums increases during they holiday season.

A holiday season work exemption would also deprive our residents of the enjoyment of the very holidays that the ordinance was created to protect.

Nighttime work is a particularly sensitive issue for us as noise travels further in cooler night air and is magnified by the reduction of ambient noise from daytime levels. There is no effective way to mitigate noise at night. Allowing any sort of construction activity would mean many sleepless nights for hundreds of residents.

In regards to traffic and congestion in our area, rush hour work exemptions will only make what promises to a be a miserable situation completely intolerable. The advent of BRT lanes on Wilshire Boulevard will divert a projected 20-to-30 percent of rush hour traffic onto 3rd, 6th and 8th Streets, as well as Olympic Boulevard. Subway construction during rush hour periods would turn these key east/west routes into parking lots

METRO maintains that such work hour exemptions would speed the completion of the project, but we believe that this is overly optimistic. We are intimately familiar with the challenges of construction in a methane hazard zone replete with rich deposits of important fossils. Construction delays and complications are very common in the Miracle Mile. We anticipate that the construction of the Fairfax portal will be fraught with difficulty and that its completion will be over-schedule with or without work hours exemptions. Such exemptions will offer small advantage to METRO and create a very large and ongoing disturbance to the residents of the Miracle Mile.

We acknowledge the truth of the axiom that METRO’s representatives constantly tout: “That you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” We realize that our community will be inconvenienced and disrupted by the construction of the subway – in the “frying pan,” so to speak. We are committed to do our best and work with METRO to manage the impacts on our community – but the MMRA strenuously opposes these work hours exemptions.

The MMRA has never endorsed such work hour exemptions for any construction project. Work hour ordinances exist for the greater benefit of community; they protect residents from undue and constant disturbances that would intrude on their basic right to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own homes.

We chose to make our objections to these work hours exemptions known now, prior to METRO’s formal application to the Los Angeles Police Commission, because we wish to establish a forthright and strong working relationship with METRO – to which end, we saw no benefit to either party in waiting to make our position known on this matter. We also wanted our objections to go “on the record” with both the Los Angeles Police Commission and our Councilmember.

We are hopeful that METRO will not wish to antagonize our community by pursuing this matter further.

Sincerely yours,

(Signature)

James O’Sullivan, President

Miracle Mile Residential Association

P.O. Box 361295

Los Angeles, CA 90036-9495

CC:

Los Angeles Police Department

Board of Police Commissioners

100 W. First Street Suite 134

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District

Los Angeles City Hall

200 N. Spring Street

Room 480

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District

Los Angeles City Hall

200 N. Spring Street

Room 440

Los Angeles, CA 90012