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

2014 Annual Online Survey

[Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter, November 2014:]


Miracle Mile Residential Association
2014 Annual Online Survey

Click on map to enlarge.
In November 2013, the MMRA launched its first online survey of Miracle Mile residents to gain a better understanding of your attitudes and opinions on central issues, such as traffic and development. Last year’s poll had 114 respondents; the results can be reviewed here.

The 2014 annual survey repeats many of the key questions asked in last year’s survey, which will indicate how opinions have shifted (or not) in the past 12 months. While hardly a scientific survey, the poll provides a “snapshot” of the community and helps guide the MMRA in prioritizing our efforts. The Miracle Mile Residential Association is a consensus driven organization and polling helps to ensure that the actions of the MMRA reflect the will of the residents we represent.

The MMRA also uses more targeted polls to gauge opinions on single topic issues. Both the “MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ” and “LACMA Bridge Over Wilshire” surveys are still open. You can participate in those polls or view the results in the links below.

The annual poll is not just for residents living within the boundaries of the MMRA [see map above], we are also interested in how residents in neighboring areas feel, too. The survey will remain open until December 31, 2014. The results of the annual survey will be featured in the January 2015 newsletter.

We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Participation is completely anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. So, please take a few minutes to complete the poll – there are 60 questions with opportunities to make specific comments. And you can skip over the questions that don’t interest or apply to you.


2014 Miracle Mile Residential Association Annual Online Survey

Participate in the survey


MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ Survey (May 2014)

Participate in the survey
View the results


LACMA Bridge Over Wilshire Survey (July 2014)

Participate in the survey
View the results


“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.]

Miracle Mile Spotlight: Black Dog Coffee

Miracle Mile Spotlight:

Black Dog Coffee

Bradley Gold had what he thought was a “lifetime career” working in operations for a restaurant chain when he was laid off at age 53. So, he walked away from corporate life and entered the world of sole proprietorship when he opened Black Dog Coffee in 1998.

It was an opportunity right in his back yard. Brad lived six blocks away and, at that time, his wife had an office in the Wilshire building where the restaurant is located. According to Brad the previous owner was “a motivated seller” – and, given his sudden joblessness, Brad was obviously a motivated buyer.

“So, I changed the name, changed the menu, changed everything,” he explains. “I think up until I came along most of the places that had been in here were geared toward the people working in the office buildings and the residents were given less attention. All the places around were always closed on Saturdays and Sundays. And I knew from the get-go that I wanted it to be a seven-day-a-week business – because you can’t be a neighborhood business if you close on the weekends.”

Brad [behind counter at left] knew what he was doing. With outdoor seating and free wi-fi, Black Dog Coffee is one of the most popular eateries in the area. The menu features a variety of breakfasts and sandwiches – and, of course, great coffee.

Brad attributes his Miracle Mile location as key to Black Dog’s success. There are thousands of residents within easy walking distance and close to 3 million square feet of office space within a two-block radius of the coffee shop. “You couldn’t do any better than that if you were a single operator in Century City,” Brad remarks.

Brad grew up in the restaurant business. His parents operated an Orange Julius stand in Burbank for 25 years. He worked there when he was in high school. “And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more fun working for myself than it was working for my dad,” he laughs.

Approaching his 70th birthday – the father of two grown children and the grandfather of three – Brad represents the end of the line for the restaurant business in his family. His daughter is a realtor and his son is a journalist – and he is enormously proud of them.

What began 17 years ago as a remedy to forced early retirement has now become a pleasant working retirement for Brad. “I’m very grateful that the restaurant turned out the way it has. In the beginning I worked around-the-clock, but now I’ve got seven employees and four of them have been here ten years or more,” he said, knocking on wood. Having such a stable and trustworthy staff allow Brad and his wife to take vacations to Europe and Asia.

“I’m going to continue to work, because I’m not working that much anymore. And it gets me out of the house every morning –makes me shave.”

Photos courtesy Black Dog Coffee.

Black Dog Coffee
5657 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 323-933-1976
Email: blackdog5657@gmail.com
Website: http://www.blackdogcoffee.com
Hours:
Monday–Friday 7 AM–6 PM
Saturday–Sunday 8 AM–4 PM

The MMRA newsletter does not solicit or accept advertisements. Our support of local businesses is a matter of principle ­– for which we receive no financial compensation or consideration of any kind.

 

MMRA Endorses Mid City West Trolley Plan

[From the November 2013 edition of the MMRA newsletter:]

preferred trolley

The Mid City West Trolley Plan

[or how to get you husband to leave the car at home…]

Last June billionaire developer Rick Caruso introduced the idea of an extension of the Grove’s fixed rail trolley to connect the popular shopping center with Museum Row at Wilshire and Fairfax. Recently, it was announced that the Los Angeles Museum of Art had teamed with Caruso to study the proposal. The results of an engineering study Caruso commissioned are expected later this month.

But several years before Caruso’s plan, Julie Anne Brame had a problem. Brame, who lives in the Crescent Heights/Melrose area, likes to walk – her husband doesn’t. After work, Brame would often encounter resistance from her husband when she suggested that they walk down to 3rd Street to try one of the many restaurants there. He would usually prefer to drive, even though parking is always difficult. Out of her idle wish that there were some easy way to quickly get around the area – so that she could get her husband out of the house without driving – came an idea: the Mid City West Trolley.

Brame is a resourceful woman and persistent, too. She kicked around the idea with like-minded friends and a plan evolved to have a rubber wheel trolley that would connect Melrose, Fairfax, the Grove, the Miracle Mile, La Brea, 3rd Street, the Beverly Center, and the Cedars-Sinai medical complex. She and her supporters did their homework, studying successful rubber wheel trolley projects across the country.

Trolley map

They took a fresh and modern approach to develop a program that would connect densely populated neighborhoods, existing parking garages, and popular destinations to facilitate circulation and reduce local automobile traffic. Their target riders would be residents, business patrons, employees, students, and tourists.

Their research helped them devise a check list: the trolleys would have to come every 15 minutes, their time of arrival easily monitored via a GPS smart phone app, they would have to provide free wifi access for passengers, and be comfortable and fun. The trolley program would also have to be flexible to allow for route expansion and to navigate around obstacles, like the upcoming subway construction in the Miracle Mile.

They knew that to succeed their trolley would need savvy marketing and promotion and both private and public support. And it would take a lot of outreach. That’s when Brame looked around for a way to learn the ropes and promote her trolley plan. So, in 2011 she got herself elected to the board of Mid City West Community Council [MCWCC]. As she got the lay of the land – how things get done in L.A. – she began to pitch her trolley idea to fellow board members, representatives of homeowner and residential associations, City council members, and anyone else who would listen.

Her skills of persuasion and well thought out approach began to win fans. She did not have to make a hard sell: ever worsening traffic congestion constricts travel and commerce in the area and the advent of the Purple Line subway extension makes “first mile-last mile” transportation from subway stations imperative. And the projected one million visitors a year to the soon-to-be Academy Museum at the former May Company will only exacerbate gridlock along Fairfax. The consensus was clear: something had to be done.

Soon, MCWCC endorsed a motion in support of studying the feasibility of Brame’s trolley plan, Councilmember Tom Labonge publicly announced his support at recent meeting of the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, and the Miracle Mile Residential Association will consider a motion in support of the project at its upcoming board meeting on November 7th. And even Rick Caruso gave a nod to the Mid City Trolley by asking his engineers to include a review of Brame’s plan in the study of his fixed rail trolley, which many residents strongly oppose on grounds that it would only further clog traffic and present many safety issues.

While Caruso’s fixed rail trolley grabs all the headlines, Brame’s rubber wheel trolley steadily gained traction. Brame is clear that her plan is very much a work in progress and that the current proposed route could and probably will change depending on which parts of the area are most supportive. Hence, the inherent advantage of a rubber wheel trolley – the route can be expanded to meet new demand and include more of the Mid City West area.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation would operate the system, but the financing is complex. It will take a mix of private and public money to get the trolley rolling and, long term, it would take an ongoing financial commitment from the City to sustain it. Although, Brame aspires to follow the example of other successful rubber wheel trolley programs that generate substantial income from advertising revenues.

The initial plan is to begin on weekends to test the concept with service beginning of Fridays from 6 PM to midnight; Saturdays 10 AM to midnight; and Sundays from 11 AM to 10 PM. If this pilot plan succeeds service would be expanded to 7 days per week.

And, perhaps – in a year or so – Brame and her husband (and the twins she is soon expecting) will be able to leave their car at home when they go out for dinner.

[A motion endorsing the Mid City West Trolley Plan was adopted by the Board of Directors of the Miracle Mile Residential Association at our November 7, 2013 meeting.]

Gone Hollywood; How the Hollywood Plan Threatens the Miracle Mile

A Message from Jim O’Sullivan, President of the MMRA:

Like many of you, we lost power at my house during the two wind events last week. I say “wind event” rather than wind storm because occasional wind gusts do not equate to a full-fledged storm. I have no idea what exactly caused these particular power outages ­– but I’m sure it has something to do with our aging and neglected infrastructure in Los Angeles. Our sidewalks are being buckled by untrimmed trees, our streets are an obstacle course of potholes, our aging water mains have become time bombs, hit and run accidents go uninvestigated for lack of properly trained traffic investigators, and budget cuts have slowed the response times of paramedics – the critical systems that support the quality of our lives are in a free fall.

Why would those of us who don’t live in Hollywood get involved in criticizing and/or opposing the recent update of the Hollywood Community Plan? The answer is: infrastructure. Because what happens in Hollywood doesn’t stay in Hollywood. Mayor Villaraigosa calls the super-sized developments recently proposed for Hollywood “elegant density,” but the residents call the plan the “Mahattanization” of Hollywood and find very little elegance in a plan that calls for adding an additional 50,000 residents without addressing the strain it will impose on the already collapsing infrastructure.

The new Hollywood Community Plan does not allocate funds to pay for fire and police services, water main and sewer maintenance, street and sidewalk repair, tree trimming, and the like. The City will have to borrow from Peter to maintain Paul, so to speak. In lieu of sensible long-term budgeting and planning the City will continue to deal with our infrastructure needs on a crisis basis: deferring routine maintenance and repairs in the Miracle Mile and every other community in Los Angeles to deal with the problems of the hour.

High-density-mixed-use-development-along-mass-transit-corridors is the new mantra of city planners and private developers. Build it big, the bigger the better; don’t sweat the details, it will work out somehow. The residents in the Miracle Mile are all for development, more jobs, reduced carbon footprints, subway extensions, and bike lanes, too – but we also like good old fashioned infrastructure. Infrastructure is the foundation of our city and it is folly to renovate, remodel, or expand a structure with a sinking foundation.

Like Hollywood Boulevard, Wilshire Boulevard is a mass transit corridor. In the years to come, the Miracle Mile will have two subway stations and the city planners and private developers already have visions of yet another Manhattan dancing in their eyes. They will want to do to the Miracle Mile what they are doing to Hollywood and, once again, they don’t seem inclined to let the lack of funding for proper infrastructure impede their goals.

Many of us love the real Manhattan (I do), but the real thing has a public transit system that actually takes you where you want to go and its famous density is a result of being an island. Manhattan is also a very expensive city with an ever-shrinking middle class being squeezed out by the high cost of living. Development and gentrification in Hollywood has already driven away thousands of working class Latino families. (LA Weekly; Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing.)

All this brings me back to the so-called “wind events” which seem to constantly knock out our power in the Miracle Mile. Councilman LaBonge has told me he will find out what happened and I know he will, but that won’t solve a basic question I have, which is: Where does all the money go?

Los Angeles has a $7 billion budget (which doesn’t include the Department of Water and Power, LAX, or the Port of L.A.), so what are they spending that $7 billion on and why do they keep wanting to increase our fees and taxes? Something very wrong is going on here and before the City turns Los Angeles into Manhattan they need to explain how they are going to fix our infrastructure – or, in other words, how they will keep the lights on at my house.

 – from the March 2013 edition of the Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter