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

 

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

 Subway Construction Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information:

Metro Purple Line Extension Newsletter – May 2015

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.

•••

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.