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LOS ANGELES Monday, May 25th 2015 12:16

ONE MOTHER'S PERSPECTIVE

  • WHO WE ARE-Women did it again. The annual Memorial Day tradition of placing flowers on graves of fallen soldiers was begun by women in the South after the Civil War. Who knew? Who now remembers that it was originally Decoration Day? Or that it is a day to decorate the graves of soldiers who fought for a better future. Memorial Day is a great deal…
  • 453 Days Later...

    Tom Rubin
    OFFENSIVE BUT PROTECTED SPEECH-Welcome news this week from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. By a vote of 11 to 1, the court overturned its injunction against the controversial video called "Innocence of Muslims" that it had ordered off YouTube back in February 2014. Here's the background. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia (photo below) was…
  • What LA Educators Should Learn From Bell Gardens High School’s Shocking Turnaround

    Jay Mathews
    VOICES FROM THE SQUARE-Bell Gardens High School in east Los Angeles County was a sorry mess when science teacher Liz Lowe arrived in 1989. It was overflowing with trailer classrooms and graffiti. More than 3,000 students crowded into school buildings surrounding a concrete quadrangle with patches of grass and some trees. Expectations were low. Not…
  • The Clean Sweep Election Finally Happened

    Bob Gelfand
    GELFAND’S WORLD- A few years ago, a group calling itself Clean Sweep argued that the voters of Los Angeles should defeat all the incumbents and replace them with fresh blood. On Tuesday, the results came close. There are two distinct lessons, one of which is quite ominous for elected officials. This election demonstrated the end of voter patience…
  • What Did Tuesday’s LAUSD Election Results Prove?

    Paul Hatfield
    PERSPECTIVE-Did the LAUSD election results signal a change for charter schools? Perhaps. Possibly. Maybe. You can make a decent case that Ref Rodriguez’s victory in District 5 points to strong support for charters. It was a battle between two well-funded candidates with diametrically opposed views on the issue. The effectiveness and fairness of…
  • (Train)ing Ourselves to Confront Modern Mass Transit

    Ken Alpern
    GETTING THERE FROM HERE-It's great to learn that Metro has an excellent new CEO with the hiring of Phillip A. Washington who comes to us from Denver. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Roger Snoble and Art Leahy, Mr. Washington has a first-rate reputation to maintain--but his first job will be to pass Measure R-2. Measure R-2 (perhaps…
  • City Controller’s Grandstanding DWP Audit is the Real Waste of Ratepayer Dollars

    Dennis Zine
    JUST THE FACTS-City Controller Ron Galperin’s Grandstanding DWP Audit results were finally released. Unfortunately, the conclusion and political spin that came afterwards from the controller was misleading. Here are the FACTS: The DWP’s Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute are administered by DWP managers and representatives of the…
  • A Place Where ‘Special Interest’ is NOT a Dirty Word

    Denyse Selesnick
    MY TURN-We need to have a new word to differentiate the villainous “Special Interest” that everyone is always complaining about and the “Special Interest” that almost all of politicians and civic and social activists have adopted as a cause. It is impossible to have passion about multiple issues. I know I have mentioned this before, but it seems…
  • Alert! America’s Small Businesses are Being Screwed by Big Business

    Robert Reich
    THE ECONOMY-Can it be that America’s small businesses are finally waking up to the fact they’re being screwed by big businesses? For years, small-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies. (Photo: small businesses in Studio City) They’ve contributed to the same Republican…

 

  • Can Strawberries Help Fight Cancer?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-There have been a number of studies over the years that could show evidence of strawberries fighting off cancer. Tong Chen lead a study…
  • Study: The Best Way to Quit Smoking … Bet On It

    Francie Diep
    WELLNESS-Oftentimes, money speaks louder than words. Apparently, that aphorism applies to cigarettes too. A new study finds that money incentives…
  • Exercise Can Help Anxiety … Here’s How

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-Statistics show that over 3 million American adults suffer from anxiety and there is no evidence that number will be declining any time…




Memorial Day 2015- Freedom Isn’t Free

J. Cole raps on the Letterman show: “Be Free’

The Star Spangled Banner … like you’ve never heard it before

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Not a Tuscan Villa: The “Encino Surprise” Can Happen to You


MORE ANGST IN THE ‘HOOD – I always chuckle a little when I read Christopher Hawthorne, the LA Times’ architecture writer, critiquing the design of a proposed development in Los Angeles.  I chuckle not because Hawthorne is funny (though sometimes he is), but because so often the initial building designs we see from developers are no more likely to resemble what’s actually built than I am to win the lottery this weekend.  In LA, the promise of a project design is no guarantee that it will be.

Unlike the mass and scale of developments, which are dictated by the zoning code, design is generally not regulated by the city.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the unpredictability that sometimes results is one of the prime causes of angst in our neighborhoods … the notion that you can go to sleep at night feeling secure about your neighborhood aesthetic, but wake up the next morning and risk a conniption at the sight of something so totally unexpected it sends you over the edge.

It’s particularly galling when the building was approved to be bigger or taller than the zoning code allows, and when the developer promised a particular design but then changed it without informing the community.

There’s no better example of this phenomenon than the “Encino Surprise,” a mixed-use commercial and residential building that opened last year on Ventura Boulevard.  The “Gold Mountain Project” (perhaps so called because a mountain had to be leveled for the developer to extract the gold) was approved with a zoning variance and a Specific Plan exception that enabled a bigger building with more units.

The project was met with stiff opposition from homeowners and businesses concerned about a variety of issues.

Through the entitlement process, the developer stood by a design proposal that showed residential units stepping down, in tiers, as if built into the hillside.  The Tuscan villa façade was a modern play on a classic … you could imagine the Mediterranean out the front door!  On some days, when the neighbors fighting the project felt like nothing was going their way, they at least could find some consolation in the design.  It was the project’s saving grace.  Or so they thought.

Fast-forward five years, and the project is finally under construction.  As it takes shape, neighbors notice that the building’s frame doesn’t reflect the contours of the rendered image.  As the façade is constructed, they realize the look is different, too, with no relation whatsoever to the Tuscan villa with which they had felt comfortable.

Said one nearby resident of the emerging building: “[It’s] a disgrace to architecture and a shame and a slap on the face to all people that had anything to do with its development.  What happened to the Mediterranean design we were expecting?”

“Who ok’d this?” asked another neighbor.

Well, the fact is no one ok’d the design modification because no approval was required.  The building is in an area with no design standards (typical of most of the city).  The developer, be it the original applicant or some other builder who may come along, can alter the look as he sees fit.

In this case, despite the implied promise from the developer, no meaningful design conditions were made mandatory as part of the project’s approval.  Yet everyone associated with the project knew full well the community’s expectation, and project design was considered one of the trade-offs as the discretionary entitlements were hammered out.

Clearly, the city councilman whose office was involved in negotiating project conditions failed the community by not binding the developer to the design given its relative importance.  And the developer failed the community by not voluntarily sharing the new design with the neighborhood council or homeowners associations, not even with key individual stakeholders who were involved initially.

This story isn’t about what constitutes acceptable design; that’s in the eye of the beholder.  Nor is it a plea for one-size-fits-all design standards; they would not work in Los Angeles.

No, this story is about being surprised, and not in a good way.  When there are discretionary entitlements and design is a critical concern, there should be no surprises.  It’s very reasonable to bake mandatory design conditions into the mix, and to ask the developer to come back to the community if he proposes a significant change.

In the interest of predictability and respect for neighborhoods, many other cities consider this operating procedure standard.  To their credit, some community-minded LA developers do it as a matter of course.  But they are the exception, not the norm.  In a city where the Encino Surprise can happen to you, any day, it’s no wonder development remains a continual source of angst in the ‘hood.

(Cary Brazeman, a CityWatch contributor, is a neighborhood council board member and founder of LA Neighbors United.  Contact him at cary@LAneighbors.org or through www.LAneighbors.org .) -cw

Tags: Tuscan Surprise, Encino, developer, councilman, Zoning Code, Los Angeles

CityWatch

Vol 9 Issue 54

Pub: July 8, 2011

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