Miracle Mile gets HPOZ go-ahead, barely

| December 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

MCMANSION in Miracle Mile looms next to one of the area’s early 20th century homes. Courtesy miraclemilela.com

After years in the making, the City Planning Commission (CPC) gave Miracle Mile’s proposed Historic Preservation Overlay Zone an okay last month.

“Indeed, we are happy that the CPC approved our HPOZ. We are on track to preserve our historic neighborhood,” said Ken Hixon, vice president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association. “Of course,” he added, “we do not agree with the CPC on the areas that they excluded.”

About 70 people attended the hearing with several speaking against the measure, prompting some of the eight commissioners to ask for more time to consider the ordinance. But a March 17 deadline is looming when an Interim Control Ordinance expires, prohibiting demolitions, said Yeghig Keshishian, CPC external affairs officer.

Commissioner Veronica Padilla switched her vote on a second vote, approving the ordinance five to three.

The ordinance is scheduled to go before the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of the City Council this month and then to the full City Council in February.

The ordinance is aimed at preventing boxy homes too large for their lots being built in the neighborhood. A flurry of McMansions prompted residents to work to save the Miracle Mile area’s Period Revival styles of architecture, including Spanish Colonial, Tudor, Mediterranean, French and American Colonial.

At the CPC meeting, blocks between Eighth St. and Wilshire Blvd. were omitted from the proposed historic zone, as well as several multi-family properties on the west side of the 800 block of S. Orange Grove Ave.

While owners of multi-family buildings in the excluded areas hailed the decision, proponents of keeping the area’s boundaries intact included Architectural Resources Group, which prepared the historical survey, Councilman David Ryu, the city Cultural Heritage Commission and the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Hixon said his group plans to lobby to restore some of the HPOZ’s lost boundaries prior to the PLUM meeting. “Over 300 rent-stabilized units in historic buildings in the Miracle Mile are at risk,” he said. “The city seems to be talking out of both sides of their mouth: on one hand, the City Council is striving to preserve workforce housing and stop Ellis Act evictions, while, on the other hand, the City Planning Commission is cavalierly throwing rent stabilized apartments under the bus.”

While overall happy with the results, the loss of some territory was unfortunate, echoed Mark Zecca, chair of the Miracle Mile HPOZ committee.

“The ratio of historic buildings (above Eighth St.) is 80 percent historical, same as below (Eighth St.),” he said.

While Olympic Blvd. between La Brea and Fairfax is still in the mix, some commissioners sought to remove it from the zone.

“We feel this [Olympic] should be included because it cuts through the heart of this proposed historic district and to maintain proper growth, it is essential to the integrity of a historical zone as well,” Zecca said.

“With a subway going in [under Wilshire Blvd.] and all the new museums, the Miracle Mile has become a very desirable area for developers to make a profit from building more luxury units. This is about preservation first and foremost. This is a very important part of the city. It’s a cultural hub and the crossroads for both West and East sides. We want to retain the historical charm for us and future generations of Angelenos. It is our duty to preserve it,” Zecca said.

Opposition grows

In recent months, opposition has gained momentum, according to local real estate broker and developer Jay Schoenfeldt.

“This neighborhood doesn’t want it,” he says of the HPOZ. He claims the ordinance is too restrictive, and that new city R1 and R2 zone overlays would suffice to protect the area from oversized homes on lots. He deems the HPOZ unnecessary.

Ken Bernstein, manager of the city Office of Historic Resources, noted that the new zones will not save historic properties from demolition. Rather, the new zones address scale and requirements for new additions.

Both sides agreed that the language in the draft 78-page Preservation Plan for the area needed some work, and so meetings were moderated by Councilman David Ryu and his staff.

As a result, several issues were addressed and revised by the city Office of Historic Resources.

The Preservation Plan “now allows a more liberal stance on two stories, paint is exempt, front lawn planting and trees are exempt but still needs to be 60% vegetative of some kind including drought tolerant. Modern designs are accepted on new infill properties as long as they are in scale and mass to the rest of the structures on that street,” Zecca explained.

Schoenfeldt argues that “the language is still very confusing and leaves a lot open to interpretation… it’s very subjective and we have a problem with that… It could be an abuse of power.”

The anti-HPOZ group also sent a letter to the City Attorney protesting the Dec. 8 CPC vote, claiming the second vote violated the CPC’s rules. Visit saynohpoz.com for more information.

The updated Preservation Plan is at miraclemilela.com.


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