Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You: The Academy Museum

Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You:

The Academy Museum

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

On May 6, the City’s Planning Department recommendations on the Academy Museum project were released.  As expected, the department declared that everything is fine with the project and you – the community groups and Neighborhood Council – have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. The traffic created by the project is fine. The inadequate parking is fine. The digital sign district is fine… Everything is just fine!

Of course, it is the Planning Department that’s wrong and they’ve now guaranteed that one more case will join the courthouse queue, attempting to force the City to obey its own rules.

A few weeks ago, I felt a bit of hope – guarded, of course – after a meeting with members of the Academy Museum team, including Managing Director Bill Kramer and attorney Bill Delvac. I told them there was support in the community for the museum but not for the attached 1000-seat special event center [illustration below]. I made the argument that people have been waiting many years for a motion picture museum and it was within reach if they could abandon the event center. There would still be traffic and parking issues with the 5,000 visitors a day, but I believed we could find a solution and I made several suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Since its inception in 1983 the Miracle Mile Residential Association has been making good deals that work for the neighborhood and developer alike. We have always practiced the art of compromise. Kramer and Delvac said they would get back to me, but they never did. That’s too bad because there was a deal to be made by people of good faith. Now there is only the legal route.

I hope that everyone reading this who had concerns about the impacts of the Academy Museum on our communities understands that the City really doesn’t care what you think. Our elected officials loudly profess to value you at election time, but otherwise they do whatever they want – and then dare you to stop them.

There are good people who work at City Hall – but their reasonable voices are drowned out by the “go along to get along” mantra of the Wizards of Spring Street. When Los Angeles residents raise their voices to object to a project they are politely thanked for their comments and the project is routinely blessed with the magic words that sweeps all of our objections under the rug, “No significant impact.”

That is what the Academy purchased with the million dollars they spent lobbying City Hall: the City’s Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

The Planning Department’s recommendations are cause for celebration for all those supporting the Academy Museum and its special events center – but that feeling will be fleeting. Sooner or later they will be on the other side of the argument and they won’t know what hit them. Every neighborhood in this city is prey to overdevelopment, traffic intrusion, and infrastructure on the brink of collapse. The boosters of the Academy Museum will find themselves in our shoes one day, battling some gargantuan project that will dramatically impact their own neighborhoods.

They too will learn what “no significant impact” means. It is not a merely a technical phrase for grading a particular aspect of a project, it is also an apt description for the effect that the concerns of the residents have on City Hall.

The courtroom is now the only forum where the residents of Los Angeles are having a significant impact. The City has lost case after case: the 2012 Hollywood Community Plan Update was rescindedconstruction was halted on a Target Store at Sunset and Westernthe CIM Group high rise on Sunset had its occupancy certificate revoked and its tenants evicted; and recently a judge ordered a re-do of the Environmental Impact Report for the Millennium skyscrapers surrounding Capitol Records.

So, don’t be surprised when you see the Academy Museum project on that roster, too.

For additional information:

Los Angeles Department of City Planning: Academy Museum Recommendation Report

Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, 4/16/15: Mid-City West Nixes Museum’s Sphere

First Academy Museum Public Hearing Held


First Academy Museum Public Hearing Held

MMRA Protests Digital Sign District, Special Events Center,
and Lack of Parking

On March 16, 2015 the first public hearing on the proposed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and special events center was held at City Hall. Hearing Officer Luciralia Ibarra took public testimony on the many zone changes, variances, and special approvals the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is seeking. The new museum and events venue will transform the former May Co. at the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] supports readapting the May Co. building for use as a motion picture museum. However, we strongly oppose the Academy’s request for the creation of a digital sign district, which circumvents the hard-won guidelines of the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay District and will convert the historic landmark into an electronic billboard. We also oppose the demolition of one-third of the historic building to make room for an adjoining 1,000-seat theater that will be heavily promoted for celebrity premieres, screenings, and large events.

Architectural critics have described the project as “a special events center masquerading as a museum.” The array of variances, zoning changes, and conditional use permits requested by the Academy lends credence to this charge: How many museums require catering facilities to host private affairs for 1,350 people? Or rooftop terraces seating 800 people? Or their very own digital sign district?

Some museum experts predict that the new museum will attract a million or more visitors per year – yet the Academy is unwilling to build any new off-street parking for the project. They maintain that the adjacent Los Angeles County Museum of Art has ample parking to spare. Residents of the Miracle Mile find this ludicrous. Visitors to LACMA frequently park on nearby residential streets when LACMA’s underground garage and/or Spaulding Avenue parking lot are full (or just to avoid paying for parking). The idea that a million new visitors to the Academy Museum will not create parking intrusions into the Miracle Mile defies common sense.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan submitted detailed written arguments against granting the approvals and zoning changes. He attended the hearing with MMRA Vice Presidents Alice Cassidy and Ken Hixon, who voiced their opposition to the project as proposed. Cassidy questioned the public benefit of a special events center intended principally to host private events.

Carthay Circle Homeowners Association and Beverly Wilshire Homes also had representatives at the hearing to express their opposition to the project.

[Top image courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.]

For additional information:

City of Los Angeles, Depart of City Planning: Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Science Museum Notice of Public Hearing

Miracle Mile Residential Association: Position Statement Prepared by James O’Sullivan for Academy Museum Zoning Administrator Hearing, March 16, 2015

Transcript: Zoning Administrator Hearing on Academy Museum Project, March 16, 2015