“Yes” for preservation. “No” for a construction moratorium.
For more than a year, this newspaper has covered Michael Weinstein’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation proposal to stop construction of the building across from the foundation’s own high-rise offices on Sunset Blvd., and, in so doing, stop construction near subway stations and many other parts of Los Angeles as well.
The Larchmont Chronicle also has been following closely the proposal for the Miracle Mile, south of Wilshire Blvd., to join neighboring Country Club Park, Wilshire Park, Windsor Village, Windsor Square, Hancock Park, Carthay Circle, South Carthay, and Carthay Square as an official Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. Much of this issue of the newspaper relates to the final efforts to make this happen (or stop it) for Miracle Mile.
The Larchmont Chronicle has lengthy written explanations below for why we make the following two vote recommendations.
But here’s the bottom line: We urge the City Council to vote “YES” on the Miracle Mile HPOZ, bringing back into the HPOZ all of the properties along Olympic Blvd. We also urge our readers to vote “NO” on Measure S, the construction moratorium.
• • •
Preserve Miracle Mile
“Yes” for historic preservation. The residential areas south of Eighth St. for many blocks, certainly to San Vicente Blvd., but frankly much further south, are examples of the types of low-density housing in which Angelenos have wanted to live for generations. Many residential areas have the benefits of applicable Historic Preservation Overlay Zones. As noted at the beginning of this Community Comment, there are numerous HPOZs to the east and west of the proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ. There should be an HPOZ for the Miracle Mile area south of Eighth St. as well.
North of Eighth St.
Why not north of Eighth? The “fingers” once proposed for inclusion, but deleted by the City Planning Commission, contain a number of buildings similar to the historic ones south of Eighth St.. But a look at the map also shows there are a number of these buildings that are not designated as “contributors” to the historic character of the area.
And, frankly, there has to be room for increased density somewhere near each of the $200 million subway stations, one at Wilshire and Fairfax, and one at Wilshire and La Brea. Only 20 percent, approximately, of the total property between Eight and Wilshire, between La Brea and Fairfax, consists of contributor or altered contributor properties.
Even in that area near the subway stations, just because an existing historic duplex or apartment building north of Eighth is not inside the HPOZ’s boundary does not mean that that building will be demolished and replaced. If a small building is not next to another smaller building, and/or if an assemblage is not feasible or likely, the investor owners of the historic properties north of Eighth will continue to get a stabilized return just as has been the case in the past.
Alternatively, if there are property assemblage situations between Eighth and Wilshire that allow for constructing larger buildings, then those newer, larger buildings will get built.
Preserve Olympic Blvd.
But the rest of the neighborhood, including the familiar and slightly denser buildings existing right in the middle of the historic zone — that is, along Olympic Blvd. — should be protected for the future.
This is the Los Angeles that, like Hancock Park and Windsor Square, also HPOZs, buyers and renters find so highly desirable. As was pointed out in Councilman Ryu’s recent Town Hall meeting at John Burroughs, there have been 34 HPOZs adopted since 1983. None of those HPOZs has seen a movement of residents seeking to have their HPOZ removed or overturned. People in HPOZs have seen property values rise and the quality of life maintained.
There should be that same opportunity for those who live in Miracle Mile, and the City Council should approve an HPOZ — preferably almost as outlined by the Cultural Heritage Commission. That is, the City Council should include the portion of the neighborhood currently in the 10th Council District and should include all the properties along Olympic Blvd. Councilmen Ryu and Wesson and the City Council should be proud to do so.
• • •
Measure S — Vote No
For more than a year, this newspaper has presented articles in favor of, and opposing, what’s now called Measure S. See the Appendix at the end of this Community Comment for a recounting of that Larchmont Chronicle comprehensive coverage of Measure S.
The “Los Angeles Times,” the “Los Angeles Daily News” and many other leading newspapers echo the concerns of what probably is the largest coalition on a city issue in memory, and these newspapers all endorse a “no” vote on Measure S:
Time to speak out
Whether Measure S passes or fails (as the Larchmont Chronicle feels it should), we believe that it would be derelict for this newspaper to look back in April and see that we expressed no position and no recommendation on an issue that is so important to the future of our city.
We do not want to be a newspaper that stands by and says nothing … as some California newspapers did in 1942 when Japanese Americans were being rounded up and incarcerated.
Trump and a wall
The Measure S proponents have made Donald Trump the bête noir for their campaign. The campaign’s most-used adjective well may be “Trumpian.” Anything the campaign thinks might trigger voters to cast “yes” votes, the campaign calls “Trumpian.”
The Chronicle asks: Is the “yes” campaign in favor of building a wall around the city limits of Los Angeles? Maybe many of these “yes” proponents would like such a wall … and no new residents in our town. But, obviously, the City of Los Angeles cannot build such a wall. People will keep being born. People will keep coming to Los Angeles.
Are we a city that accepts our popularity and increasing population … and looks to the future and how to deal with that population? Or are we a city that tries to maintain the lovely lower density of decades past, where reduced supply of housing primarily bestows economic benefits upon those who already own property in Los Angeles?
The Chronicle feels that we must look forward.
Just as the Chronicle supports preserving historic areas in the city, the Chronicle knows that density has to go somewhere. There have to be larger projects approved, such as near subway stations and adjacent high-intensity commercial streets and intersections and on land that is underutilized. With good planning, which clearly needs more support financially from the City Council, the challenges of growth can be addressed.
Measure S not an answer
Measure S does not address the challenges. Measure S does not solve the problems about which its proponents complain. Measure S will be bad for most residents of Los Angeles and bad for the commonwealth of Los Angeles.
With about $5 million of funding (so far) from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) of Mr. Michael Weinstein, campaign manager and former reporter and editor Jill Stewart and her staff and consultants at the “Coalition To Preserve LA” have rallied the discontented residents of Los Angeles to the AHF cause of stopping construction. The coalition website has collected renderings of almost every proposed project over five stories in height anywhere in Los Angeles. As noted previously, the Coalition constantly has invoked Donald Trump’s name as an adjective (such as for the “Trumpian towers” proposed in various parts of Los Angeles) and has lashed out against “billionaires” as a class.
This AHF-funded coalition appeals to the many disenchanted Angelenos among us — residents who certainly have many legitimate concerns about the city’s planning system (many of which concerns the Chronicle shares).
AHF neighbor tower
But it is hard to ignore what seems to be the genesis of the Coalition To Preserve LA — Mr. Weinstein’s desire to prevent construction of the Palladium Towers next door to the existing Sunset Blvd. high-rise where his AHF already has its offices. It appears to the Chronicle that the AHF and Mr. Weinstein consider “scorched earth” for the rest of Los Angeles simply to be collateral damage.
Measure S = more traffic
The issues at stake are not as simple as the AHF’s billboards and multiple mailers make them seem.
Take, for example, a phenomenon close to home — a phenomenon that surely will increase if Mr. Weinstein’s Measure S passes. Drive by the R-3-zoned parcels north of Melrose, between Highland and Vine (as well as north of Beverly, between Van Ness and Western).
Smaller, older structures are being demolished and replaced by three-, four-, and five-story (generally stucco) dense apartment buildings.
This type of densification (and adding of cars) to areas immediately adjacent to established R-1 single-family neighborhoods will not be stopped by Measure S. It likely will be exacerbated by Measure S.
“Yes on S” campaign manager Jill Stewart has said, a year ago and subsequently:
“This (the ballot measure) will not stop development; there is a tremendous amount of zoning that is legal, and those developments will not be affected.”
What now is happening north of Melrose and north of Beverly is being done on “zoning that is legal,” to quote Ms. Stewart.
It’s land that is zoned R-3, but often is not developed to that intensity. Instead, the land still has circa-1920s (or earlier) single-family bungalows and duplexes.
If apartment and condo builders are prohibited from building near subway stations, even on existing parking lots between existing adjoining high-rises on a street as commercial as Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood (the Palladium location, for instance), where do you think the builders will concentrate their efforts? Answer: Where Jill Stewart says “there is a tremendous amount of zoning that is legal.”
And where that existing legal zoning often is … is in areas right near the residences of the readers of the Larchmont Chronicle. Our readers’ neighborhoods already have felt a tremendous impact from increased automobile traffic (much of which, in this newspaper’s opinion, is the result of technology, specifically Waze).
If you live in Hancock Park, would you want hundreds of new units built just north of Melrose … or would you want the hundreds of new units built near Sunset and Vine?
If Measure S passes, it is reasonably predictable that there will be more single-family and duplex tear-downs and more five-story, Type-5, dense apartment and condo developments constructed “by right” on already-zoned R-3 property nearer to our low-density neighborhoods. (Think of the proposed demolitions at 1332-1334 N. Formosa and 412-430 N. Norton.)
If Measure S passes, it likely will be because people have been told that the measure is anti-billionaire, anti-Trumpian developer (whatever that is), anti-liar, anti-elected people (who still seem to get elected), anti-traffic, anti-top 10%, anti-luxury apartments, anti-BMW, anti-profit, and anti-whatever-bugs-people-at-the-moment.
Moratorium not two years
There is no way that 35 Community Plans can have a revision process that is transparent and open to residents, fair to property owners, and resulting in general consensus … in two years. Just can’t happen. The adoption of Measure S will be manna for lawyers and law firms. It may, or may not, stop the Palladium project.
It certainly will stimulate doubts about the City of Los Angeles in the national and international development and financial communities (and, we fear, in International Olympic Committee members, with the not unlikely result of Los Angeles losing the Games for another one or two generations).
Sure, lots of Union laborers on high-rise projects will be out of work. (You also can “follow their money” — the Unions are big backers of the Measure S opposition.) Sure, demolitions and higher-density (but “by right”) replacements of smaller buildings in nearby R-3 areas will accelerate. Sure, affordable housing providers will be stymied. (They, too, are part of the historically broad coalition of opponents.) But, regardless, local traffic will not get better, and it likely will get worse, thanks to Measure S, if the measure passes.
In sum, the Larchmont Chronicle’s year-plus study of this issue leads us to urge a vote of “No” on Measure S.
• • •
As noted in this Community Comment’s lengthy body, above, this newspaper, for more than a year, has presented articles in favor of the AHF petition that got this matter on the ballot, by local writer Jack Humphreville, as well as in favor of the actual ballot measure, subsequently named “Measure S,” by AHF staff member and Content Editor of the AHF-funded “Coalition To Preserve LA,” Patrick Range McDonald. In addition, the Chronicle published a long front-page report on the presentations that the Coalition To Preserve LA made at Third Street School on Nov. 18, 2016.
Contrary viewpoints also were expressed in the pages of the Chronicle, in an article opposed to the AHF petition, by local resident Kerry Morrison (published opposite Jack Humphreville’s), as well as an article opposed to the ballot measure by Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles (published opposite Patrick Range McDonald’s). Also, in response to the long front-page story about the Coalition to Preserve LA’s Third Street School meeting, the paper published a reply article penned by Hancock Park resident Fred Mariscal.
We also have posted the full measure in the upper-right corner of our website home page for over one year. See: larchmontchronicle.com.
The Chronicle’s front-page article in February was focused on the funding of the two campaigns, one for Measure S and one against Measure S. Specifically, the article described the then-$1.9 million dollar underwriting by AHF, led by its president Michael Weinstein, and the similar amount raised from Measure S opponents, with the largest contributions coming from AHF’s next-door neighbor, CH Palladium LLC, proponent of the high-rise apartments to be built on the parking lots behind the Hollywood Palladium. That front-page story generated a number of anonymous and other blog criticisms of the article, one of which is in the accompanying Letters to the Editor starting on Page 2.
That Chronicle February article did not take a position. The article merely pointed out the funding sources — on both sides. As of last week and the latest Ethics Commission report for the Coalition to Preserve LA, the Coalition’s AHF funding, approximately 99 percent of the Coalition’s funding, has now reached nearly $5 million.
The election is on March 7. All of our mailboxes have been full of mailers for both sides, yes and no. (Some mailings are pretty scurrilous, like those of the Coalition implying that Mayor Garcetti supports Measure S when he actually is a leading opponent.) Let’s hope the voters can sift through this “fake news” and “big lie” approach honed by the “yes” campaign. The “Los Angeles Times” had this to say about Measure S misinformation on February 28:
But this month, the Chronicle now takes a strong position. Vote NO on Measure S.