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Tue, May

‘Busine$$ as Usual’ at LA City Hall

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THE CITY-At the City Council Meeting held on August 4, it was business as usual when yet another large development was permitted to join the other large developments on overly congested La Brea Avenue. City Council unanimously approved the project to be located at 904 La Brea Avenue at Willoughby. Significant zoning changes were granted with substantial economic benefit accruing to the real estate speculator at the expense of the community. 

This was a gift to second-time stealth landmark demolisher C.I.M. Group as the project will rise on the site of the lamented 84 year-old Mole-Richardson Art Deco building (photo left) demolished by C.I.M. in the dead of night — lest it be declared an historic/cultural monument. 

C.I.M. was most recently found to have demolished the façade of the Old Spaghetti Factory Building in violation of the agreements it had entered into with the City – agreements for which it received significant financial benefits. A century from now, will anyone be lamenting the demolition of the clichéd structure replacing this Art Deco gem? 

It appears C.I.M. has paid well for the privileges afforded it by City Hall. As noted on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission website, its lobbyist, Gonzales Law Group APC, reported lobbying payments of $84,966.29 in connection with this project for only the second quarter of 2015. Lobbying payments reported by the same Gonzales Law Group for 2014 for “undisclosed” Items of Municipal Legislation totaled $249,326.41. 

The development located at La Brea and Willoughby was rezoned from industrial use and then given density and height bonuses enabling 169 residential units to be built – 90 percent of them at market rates. The developer was given a “density bonus” in exchange for agreeing to rent a small number of units to lower-income people. However, as has been widely reported, the City has no oversight mechanism to determine whether the developer is actually in compliance with this or any other “requirement” and it is only lawsuits by private citizens – or the threat of same – which bring any degree of compliance to the Los Angeles Land Rush. 

And what are the justifications trotted out? 

Housing shortage? Los Angeles does not have a shortage of market rate housing. Nor does it have a shortage of commercial space as evidenced by the numerous vacant storefronts in these developments. There is an affordable housing crisis as well as the demise of the small neighborhood stores that served the community. 

Job creation? The only permanent jobs created are low-level service jobs in the retail establishments to be located on the first floor with salaries that would not be able to afford the market rate rents. And a site supporting true industrial commercial uses, with jobs affording a “living” wage, has been eliminated. 

The perennially cynical “transit rich” argument? That is the notion that people occupying market rate apartments will desert their cars and use busses or bicycles for commuting and to transport themselves and their families to doctors, schools, work and other errands. The assertion is that their behavior will be totally unlike any of the other residents in the area who rely on cars to get around. Therefore, in truly spurious reasoning, congestion will somehow be reduced. And yet, ample parking for automobiles is provided for both residents and customers of the retail establishments. If real estate speculators truly believed their market rate residents would eschew autos, why the need for parking spaces? 

This is another development approved without requiring an Environmental Impact Report and without any real consideration of the cumulative impact of the massive projects built or planned for this small area in the near future. There are almost 1500 market rate apartments built or proposed for development just on the one-mile stretch of La Brea Avenue between Hollywood Boulevard and Willoughby. And that is without counting any of the many other developments in this area. 

The cumulative impact of this unfettered development is causing a crisis affecting the residents of the neighborhood. This was approved without considering the many days the entire area is gridlocked when Hollywood Boulevard is closed for an event or there is a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

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This is yet another example of development without carefully considering whether the infrastructure can handle it, including water pipes bursting like piñatas all over the City. This is not “smart” development. It is done without considering whether police or fire departments can handle the increased load and without considering the impact on response time by emergency vehicles. 

Residents, of course, also bear the brunt of traffic congestion, finding themselves stalled in gridlock more and more frequently while attempting to perform normal errands – none of which can realistically be performed to any significant degree on bicycles or using the bus. And what of the thousands of residents in the Hollywood Hills directly above this street – for whom biking, public transit or walking is not an option? 

Without an Environmental Impact Report, the community has no real opportunity to offer meaningful input on this development – or the many others springing up like mushrooms after a storm. And make no mistake: what is occurring on this short stretch of La Brea Avenue is a microcosm for the over-development being crammed into other neighborhoods that are viewed as ripe for real estate speculation. 

Save Residential Hollywood is working with other neighborhood groups in an effort to take back our City from the maws of over-development -- fed by the enormous lobbying sums paid to our elected officials.


Please contact us at [email protected] to learn how you can help save your neighborhoods. United, we have the power to make our voices heard and take responsibility for steering the future destiny of our City.

 

(Helen Berman and John Campbell are community activists and represent Save Residential Hollywood.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 66

Aug 14, 2015

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