Miracle Mile HPOZ Update ~ June 2015

Miracle Mile HPOZ Update

June 2015:

New Videos of Historical Survey Team at Work
+ HPOZ Progress Report from Katie Horak

 

Click on image to view video.

An Historic Resources Survey is the foundation of an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, it documents the history of every property within the boundaries of an HPOZ. The Miracle Mile Residential Association engaged the services of Architectural Resources Group [ARG] to perform the survey of the Miracle Mile HPOZ [see map].

Watch the video above to see the ARG survey team at work in the Miracle Mile. You will also learn what “contributing” and “non-contributing” properties are and how they are evaluated.

Click on image to view video.

For a progress report on the Miracle Mile HPOZ watch the interview [above] with Katie Horak, Senior Associate, Architectural Resources Group. Research of original building permits reveals that several renown architects designed homes in the Miracle Mile.

HPOZ Info Packet Mailed to Miracle Mile Property Owners

Earlier this month, the HPOZ Committee – as part of its ongoing outreach campaign – sent out a mailing to nearly 1600 property owners within the boundaries of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. A letter from HPOZ Chairperson Mark Zecca was accompanied by an informative HPOZ pamphlet published by the City Department of Planning.

If you are a renter and would like to receive a copy of the letter and HPOZ pamphlet, email your name and address to: HPOZ@MiracleMileLA.com.

Host an HPOZ Informational Meeting
on Your Block

Sierra Bonita resident Esther Diaz hands a $250 check to MMRA
Treasurer Joe Steins. Diaz’s personal donation – the first we have
received – will help the MMRA with the substantial costs of
establishing the Miracle Mile HPOZ. (Photo by Cari Lutz.)

On Saturday, June 6, an informal gathering of residents on South Sierra Bonita Avenue [see story below] had an opportunity to learn about HPOZ and have their questions answered by HPOZ Chairperson Mark Zecca and MMRA Treasurer Joseph Steins. If you and your neighbors would like to host a get-together to learn more about HPOZ please contact us and members of the HPOZ Committee will be happy to attend. You can email us at:

HPOZ@MiracleMileLA.com

For additional information on the Miracle Mile HPOZ visit:

MiracleMileLA.com/HPOZ

MMRA Submits Comments on Academy Museum DEIR

MMRA Submits Comments
on Academy Museum DEIR

 

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] has submitted its comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report [DEIR] for the proposed Academy Museum at the former May Company site. The nearly 7,000-page DEIR was released on August 28, 2014. The 45-day commentary period closed on October 14, 2014.

The DEIR highlights the scale of the Academy Museum project:

  • The creation of a “Sign District” allowing for the historic May Company building to serve as a background for super-graphics and digital signs.
  • Demolition of the 1946 northern addition of the May Company building to allow for the construction of the 1000-seat “Sphere” theater with a 10,000 square foot enclosed view deck. In total, the overall project will house three theaters with a combined seating capacity of 1,350 persons.
  • A ground level “Piazza” beneath the “Sphere” theatre providing access to the northern entrance to the Academy Museum. The “Piazza” would host outdoor events and screenings with up to 2,500 attendees.
  • Banquet and conference space with a capacity for 1,200 persons, including a “ Tearoom” rooftop terrace with a capacity of 800 persons that will also be utilized for outdoor film screenings.
  • A Museum Café with seating for 150 persons and a 5,000 square foot Museum Store.
  • A projection of 860,000 visitors per year with no new on-site parking.
  • Movies premieres, concerts, and other special events.

The DEIR is a very lengthy and complex legal and technical document that is difficult to concisely summarize. (For an in-depth view, follow the links below to see the MMRA’s comments to the DEIR and our independent traffic expert’s assessment.) The MMRA objections to the project center on traffic congestion, traffic and parking intrusions, infrastructure, public services, and the overall impact of locating a major special events center in a heavily congested and densely populated residential area.

Here’s the backstory.  In the mid-2000s the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [AMPAS] began aggressively acquiring parcels in Hollywood as a future location for a museum. Working with the now defunct Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, which wielded its power of eminent domain, AMPAS secured a full city block south of Sunset Boulevard on Vine Street. Including other parcels, as well as their holdings at the adjacent Pickford Center of Motion Picture Study, AMPAS assembled approximately 8 acres.

Then, with the stock market crash in 2008 and ensuing recession, AMPAS’s fundraising campaign for the Hollywood museum site derailed. They were left holding a large parcel that was suddenly worth much less than they had paid.

Three years later the dream of an Academy museum was revived. In 2011 AMPAS signed a long-term lease to take over the former May Company from Museum Associates, which operates the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA].

This preamble about AMPAS’s thwarted plan to locate a museum in Hollywood is relevant because it spotlights what is so obviously wrong with their plan to locate the Academy Museum in the Miracle Mile: They are trying to fit all of their grand plans for an 8-acre project in Hollywood into a mere 2.2 acres at the May Company site.  It is not an easy fit.

AMPAS has had to resort to slight-of-hand in the DEIR to create the illusion that an Academy Museum is compatible with the Miracle Mile – so that they can preserve their objective to be a major tourist attraction and special events center. But the only way they can do that is to minimize its true impact on the community.

A 2008 Traffic Study for the proposed Hollywood museum location projected 7,800 visitors per day. The DEIR for the May Company location projects only 5,000 – for a total of 860,000 visitors per year. Museum experts not connected to AMPAS predict that the project will easily draw at least 1 million visitors annually, if not match or exceed LACMA’s current annual attendance of 1.2 million visitors.

Why does AMPAS claim that the Miracle Mile location will attract 2,800 fewer visitors per day than the former location in Hollywood? Answer: To justify the lack of any new on-site parking. In Hollywood AMPAS was going to build a 5-story parking facility with 850 spaces; at the May Company site they propose none.

But even with this miraculous reduction in the number of visitors, AMPAS still needs to conjure hundreds of visitors arriving on foot, bicycle, or wandering over from LACMA, to cram down their numbers to meet city-mandated parking requirements.

The DEIR tortures visitor projections and parking discounts so that it will support its most important finding: That there is already adequate parking at LACMA’s underground Pritzker garage and Spaulding surface lot for the Academy Museum to share parking with LACMA.

This defies reality. The residents in areas adjacent to LACMA have endured the parking and traffic intrusions of LACMA visitors for decades. Everyone knows that LACMA doesn’t have enough parking. The “Full” sign is up almost every weekend at the Pritzker garage and Spaulding Lot. But according to the DEIR, LACMA has hundreds of existing parking spaces to spare.

In truth, the Academy Museum is as much a major special events center as it is a museum, with 87,000 square-feet devoted to theaters, events space, cafes, and a store and 84,000 square-feet for exhibitions areas, collections, and exhibit support.

As stated in the DEIR, the primary purpose and objective of the project is “…providing film screening and premieres in a state-of-the-art theater competitive with venues in size and amenities.”  Translation: The museum hopes to steal some of the audience, and wrestle some of the revenue, from such popular film premier venues as the Chinese Theater, the El Captain, and the Cinerama Dome. The list of additional events, besides film premieres, includes Academy member and public film screenings, traveling shows, concerts, performances, cultural programming, spoken word productions, classes, video and press events, and film festivals. Each of these will attract anywhere from 100 to 1,325 attendees.

These “special events” are intended to “Provide for revenue-generating events that support sustainable Museum operations….” Not surprisingly, AMPAS places no limit on the number of special events per year nor does the DEIR indicate the maximum number of special events that the project could potentially accommodate on an annual basis. That could top 300 per year – especially given their desire for revenue.

From the blare of rooftop movie screenings to the glare of digital signs that violate the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay, to the onslaught of traffic and nightly events, the MMRA has concluded that the Academy Museum doesn’t fit the Miracle Mile. With all due respect, it should go back to where it came from: Hollywood. That’s where it was originally supposed to be. And that’s where tourists expect to find it.

For additional information:

Academy Museum Draft Environmental Impact Report

Miracle Mile Residential Association – Comments on the Academy Museum DEIR

Tom Brohard and Associates – MMRA Commissioned Traffic Focused Review of the Academy Museum DEIR

Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight – Comments on the Academy Museum DEIR

Carthay Circle Neighborhood Association – Comments on the Academy Museum DEIR

Los Angeles Times [Feb. 28, 2014]: Some Feel Cheated by Change in Film Academy’s Hollywood Museum Plans

“Nix Pix Museum” Says MMRA

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

The Academy Museum Draft Environmental Impact Report [DEIR] is the final chapter in a sad tale of incompetence and betrayal. Ultimately, it is a perfect example of the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

We got our first look at the Academy Museum project in May 2013. It was a 104-page study that raised a few eyebrows, but that’s not out of the ordinary for a very large project. Then, on August 28, 2014, an almost 7000-page DEIR was dropped into our lap and we realized we were in the middle of a four-alarm fire. Aside from the shock at the size of the DEIR, our worst fears were confirmed: The Academy Museum is a full-tilt special event center masquerading as a museum – Nokia/L.A. Live in the Miracle Mile.

We were never supposed to be in this position. If Museum Associates (dbaLos Angeles County Museum of Art) had done what they promised when they bought the former May Company property in 1994, the landmark building would have been completely restored and now would be the home of:

  • Up to 20,000 square feet of additional gallery space for LACMA’s collection of prints, drawings, and photographs, providing enhanced accessibility and use by students, scholars, and the public.
  • The Boone Children’s Gallery with workshops, a video and new-media center, and other programs for children, young people, and families.
  • Curatorial and administrative offices.
  • Public amenities including a new restaurant and retail space.
  • An underground garage with 1000 parking spaces to replace the 1200-space May Company parking structure that was demolished – and ended up being the Pritzker garage with only 517 parking spaces.

But instead of restoring and readapting the May Company, they built the Resnick Pavilion, BCAM, and ARCO Plaza – piling on debt by issuing construction bonds to the tune of $383 million. And then

…In August 2011, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded LACMA’s bond rating and Museum Associates found themselves dog-paddling in the deep end of a financial mess of their own making. They needed an infusion of cash to stay afloat. Four months later, in October 2011, Museum Associates abandoned their promise to renovate the May Company for LACMA’s purposes and announced they had leased it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [AMPAS] for an Academy Museum.

It was a shotgun wedding. AMPAS had flown too close to the sun, too. They had gone on a spending spree acquiring property at the top of the market to build a museum in Hollywood. Then the real estate market collapsed. But they still had a tidy dowry so the terms of this arranged marriage were that AMPAS would pay Museum Associates $36 million up front for a 110-year lease. That’s right, the 300,000 square-foot May Company and the 2.2 acres it sits on for $896.64 per day. It was fire sale, but Museum Associates was desperate for a quick fix to balance their books. In their haste, they conveniently forgot old promises.

In 2005 the residents of the Miracle Mile agreed to give up Ogden Drive (a public street connecting Wilshire Boulevard to 6th St.) allowing the original LACMA campus to be unified with the May Company parcel. In exchange, the May Company would be restored and readapted for LACMA’s uses. We lost a street and a great shortcut to 6th, but it seemed like a win-win proposition: May Company rescued, new gallery space for LACMA.

But then, Museum Associates eloped with AMPAS and now what do we get? A third of the original May Company will be demolished to make way for a giant sphere that looks like it rolled here from Disney World in Orlando; a million visitors a year with no new on-site parking; gridlock; traffic and parking intrusions to our neighborhoods; a digital sign district; super graphics; searchlights; celebrity premieres on Fairfax Avenue; paparazzi; screaming fans; long lines of limos; midnight screenings; concerts; and numerous special events. And will most of these functions be open to the public? Not likely.

He who has the gold rules. And that is why the City will grant all the variances and approvals requested for this project. It’s a done deal. AMPAS has spent over $1 million lobbying City Hall according to the most recent public records. For that kind of money, the City will turn a blind eye to the disastrous impact the Academy Museum will have on the community. A pair of ruby slippers and a major special events center are being plunked down in one the most notoriously congested areas in town – while all the politicians gather to sing a rousing chorus of “We’d Like to Welcome You to Munchkin Land.”

Of course, the politicians don’t want to make Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg mad. They want invitations to the groundbreaking. Talk about a photo op! But what will be missing from that picture is how Museum Associates betrayed the residents of the Miracle Mile and the surrounding communities when they climbed into bed with the Academy Museum.

[Ruby Slippers photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.]

A Very “Hesitant” Planning Commission Denies Appeal of Petersen Facade

Petersen CDO Wilshire Elevation

The September 10, 2013 Central Area Planning Commission hearing on the appeal of the Planning Director’s approval of the new Petersen Automotive Museum facade had a cliff-hanging ending when two commissioners reluctantly joined the third commissioner and voted to uphold the approval and deny the appeal. Both Commissioner Chanchanit Martorell and Commissioner Samantha Millman – who were visibly uncomfortable when a dizzying set of motions and procedural maneuvers left them with no choice but to vote down the appeal – used the word “hesitant” in explaining their actions.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan filed the appeal on the grounds that the Petersen façade was a radical departure from the guidelines and standards of the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay District [CDO]. The CDO was created to preserve the unique historical context of Miracle Mile and approved by the City Council in 2004.

A key objective of the CDO is to create a pedestrian friendly environment in the Miracle Mile. The Petersen Museum has never maintained a pedestrian entrance on Wilshire Boulevard and didn’t include one in the proposal they submitted to renovate their exterior – nor did their proposal even include a sign identifying the museum on the Wilshire side.

In his appeal O’Sullivan hammered the Petersen for continuing to turn their back to Museum Row and criticized the Planning Director for not mandating a Wilshire Boulevard entrance when he approved the façade. O’Sullivan’s point had obviously caused concern within the Planning Department that it would give the commission good cause to uphold the appeal because the lack of a Wilshire entrance and signage is a flagrant violation of the CDO. At the very beginning of the hearing planning staff indicated that – although they were recommending that the appeal by denied – they had additional conditions to add to the Director’s approval. Those conditions turned out to be that a Wilshire entrance and signage be stipulated.

The Petersen representatives maintained that the new façade was a “Twenty-First Century interpretation” of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne. This was rebuffed by Commissioner Martorell, “I am very familiar with Art Deco, I appreciate Art Deco, I am passionately in love with Art Deco . . . [This is] Not what I would personally consider Art Deco myself.”

In his presentation to the commission O’Sullivan pointed out that this was the first time in its thirty-year existence that the MMRA has filed an appeal. “We always find a way to compromise on projects,” he stated. “But the Petersen submitted this and got it approved by the City without any community outreach. We were kept in the dark.”

In a brief that O’Sullivan submitted he demonstrated how the Petersen and planning staff had cherry-picked their way though the CDO – stretching certain design guidelines and ignoring others to demonstrate compliance. At the hearing he warned the commission that if they upheld the Director’s Approval it would virtually nullify the CDO by establishing a precedence that would allow other developers and building owners to sue the City if they were forced to strictly comply with the CDO.

“It would have been better if the Petersen had asked for a complete exemption from the CDO or more honorable if they had asked the stakeholders to revise the CDO rather than to twist and torture it to get approval for their project,” said O’Sullivan. “This will cause irreparable harm to the CDO.”

Despite a roster of supporters endorsing the Petersen façade and the Director’s interpretation of the CDO – including a surprise appearance by Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose joviality trivialized the proceeding – everyone in the hearing room was caught by surprise when it came time for the vote.

Commissioner Young Kim introduced a motion denying O’Sullivan’s appeal and supporting the Director’s Approval with the additional conditions regarding the stipulation of a Wilshire entrance and signage – but it did not receive a second. That is when it became apparent that Commissioners Martorell and Millman had been receptive to O’Sullivan’s presentation and had reservations about the façade’s compatibility with the CDO.

Absent a second to the motion some confusion ensued. It was explained that without a second the motion would fail and the appeal would be automatically denied – and the original Director’s approval would stand, which did not stipulate a Wilshire entrance. So, Commissioner Kim re-introduced the motion. Finally, a soft-spoken Commissioner Millman offered: “A very hesitant second.”

When the vote was taken Millman and Kim voted in favor of the motion, but Commissioner Martorell [right] prefaced her vote with: “I have to say that I find the design somewhat problematic and . . . I think that there could be another design that’s more emblematic of this area, and I just have problems, so I just say no. I vote no.”

But then Martorell found herself painted in a procedural corner: the only way the commission could insure that the Petersen would have a Wilshire entrance and signage was to unanimously vote in favor of the motion.

“That [the lack of a Wilshire entrance] would be a loss to the community, irrespective of the design element. This is difficult. I don’t agree with this design,” Martorell said before changing her vote to affirm the motion and deny the appeal.

The MMRA Board of Directors, which endorsed and fully supported O’Sullivan’s appeal, is considering other options to preserve the integrity of the CDO.

MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon, who attending the appeal hearing, remarked, “Jim didn’t win the appeal, but he personally unlocked the Wilshire entrance to the Petersen Museum. That’s something we’ve been trying to do for the last 20 years.”

Appeal of Petersen Museum Facade Denied

MMRA Exploring Other Options…

On September 10, 2013 the Central Area Planning Commission denied an appeal filed by James O’Sullivan, President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA], regarding the new facade for the Petersen Automotive Museum. The three-member Commission voted to sustain the Director’s determination for a Community Overlay Approval of the facade.

O’Sullivan filed an appeal on grounds that the new facade would violate the guidelines of the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay District [CDO], which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2004 to provide design standards for public and private development in commercial zoned areas along Wilshire Boulevard. O’Sullivan’s appeal was endorsed by the MMRA Board of Directors, who share his concern that approval of the Petersen facade will set a precedence that will nullify the CDO. The MMRA is carefully exploring all available options in order to protect the CDO.

For additional information read:

MMRA President Appeals City’s Approval of Petersen Museum Facade, Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter, September 2013