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

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.

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 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