Proposal to add density near transit stations quickly rejected in California senate

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Critics say it wasn’t strong enough on affordable housing

A “bold” state bill that that would have brought denser housing to areas around transit stations—all in an effort to alleviate California’s housing crisis—is DOA.

Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 827 failed its first test in the Capitol on Tuesday, when it was rejected by a majority of the senate’s transportation and housing committee.

Several lawmakers who serve on that committee said they support the bill’s goal of creating more housing, because the state sorely needs it. But they argued it wouldn’t be a good fit for small, rural towns, and they said its affordable housing provision wasn’t strong enough.

“Density for density’s sake doesn’t necessarily lead to affordability,” said Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). “All one has to do is look at Manhattan, where everyone is paying $5,000 a month to live in a closet.”

Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill as California, especially the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, grows increasingly expensive for renters and buyers.

According to the California Association of Realtors, just one in four residents can afford a median-priced home in Los Angeles County, where the price at the midpoint of all sales ballooned to a record $580,000 in February.

Experts put much of the blame on the soaring prices on a supply shortage.

“In California, for decades now, we have made a conscious decision that having enough housing simply doesn’t matter,” Weiner said Tuesday. “We’ve done that through our policy choices by making it harder and harder to get new housing, by having extreme low-density zoning—even near public transportation.”

SB 827 would have made it easier for developers to build apartments and condos near subway, light rail, and bus stops. It called for overriding local rules on height, density, and parking for all residential projects within a half-mile of a train or subway station.

Local rules would have been replaced by new state standards allowing those buildings to reach heights up to four and five stories.

Residential buildings near “high-quality” bus lines, defined as bus routes with service intervals of less than 15 minutes during rush hour, would have been able to exceed local density restrictions, but not height limits.

Beverly Hills vice mayor John Mirisch called it a “real estate bill that turns transit into a sales amenity.”

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to oppose it. In January, councilmember Paul Koretz told the Los Angeles Times that he wouldhave a neighborhood with little 1920s, ’30s and ’40s single-family homes look like Dubai 10 years later.”

On Tuesday, Wiener described the types of buildings that SB 827 would have permitted as small, and he called Koretz’s comment hyperbolic.

“We’re talking four to five stories, the kinds we used to build quite a bit of in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but got banned when we down-zoned many of our cities in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said.

The bill would have required builders taking advantage of SB 827 to include affordable units in their projects.

The number of affordable units would have varied based on project size, but, for example, a building with at 51 or more units would have to set aside 20 percent at a “rate sufficient for lower income households, including 10 percent [for]… very-low income households.”

Still, critics, including many social justice organizations, said that wasn’t enough. And they said they feared buildings with a majority of market-rate units could drive up housing costs in the surrounding area.

“A policy that fails to adequately preserve existing sources of affordable housing, protect lower-income communities from direct and indirect displacement, and ensure the development of new housing affordable to lower income households is not one that we can support,” said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Wiener said he would keep tweaking SB 827, and suggested he’d bring it back next year.

“I’m heartened by the conversation it has started,” he said in a statement. “The passion we have seen… is driven by what we are all feeling—that California’s housing costs are unsustainable and our housing policies aren’t working.”

LA city officials will consider expediting Elon Musk’s tunneling plans

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A rendering of a car in one of Musk’s proposed tunnels.

Test tunnels for the “Loop” would be exempt from environmental analysis

A City Council committee is set to vote Wednesday on a proposal to expedite Elon Musk’s plans to drill tunnels under Sepulveda Boulevard.

The public works and gang reduction committee will consider a motion from Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents the Westside, to exempt Musk’s plans from environmental analysis.

Musk’s Hawthorne-based The Boring Company wants to drill a 2.7-mile “proof of concept” tunnel beneath Sepulveda Boulevard on the Westside, roughly from Pico Boulevard to Washington Boulevard.

The tunnel would be used as a testing ground for Musk’s “Loop” system, a series of underground tubes for cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Musk claims pods would speed through the tunnels at speeds of up to 150 mph, easing traffic in Los Angeles.

“It sounds like they can do it really fast, a lot faster than anything else that anybody else has done,” says Alison Simard, a spokesperson for Koretz.

Koretz is trying to exempt the project from California’s Environmental Quality Act. The keystone environmental law requires large construction projects to undergo exhaustive environmental analysis, and experts say it poses one of the biggest hurdles to the tunneling project.

In many cases, CEQA review can take years. For example, environmental analysis for Metro’s 1.9-mile Regional Connector took 2 years and 8 months.

Should the public works and gang reduction committee sign off on Koretz’s motion, it would still have to go before the entire City Council for a vote.

But there’s confusion over whether the city of Los Angeles can even dole out a CEQA exemption for Musk’s project.

In a letter to Musk, Metro CEO Phil Washington says Metro, not the city, has the final say on transportation projects in Los Angeles County.

“It’s important for you to know that based on Metro’s legal authority through state law, all plans proposed for the design, construction, and implementation of public mass transit systems or projects in Los Angeles County must be submitted to Metro for approval,” Washington wrote.

“I suggest that Metro and The Boring Company commit to cooperating through our respective planning and engineering efforts to ensure that our projects are compatible.”

Metro is planning its own transportation project for the Sepulveda corridor, which will one day link the Valley, the Westside, and LAX.

Juan Matute, associate director of the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, agrees with Metro.

He says he suspects that any analysis or exemption would require cooperation from Metro, the cities of Los Angeles and Culver City, and the LA County Flood Control District.

Several letters from the public submitted to the city of Los Angeles are critical of the proposed exemption.

“It would, in essence, sell off one of the most valuable underground rights of way in LA County to a private entity, potentially prohibiting, or vastly increasing the cost of, a major transit project,” Mehmet Berker, a cartographer, wrote.

An initial environmental analysis for Metro’s Sepulveda corridor has not yet been completed—and its alignment has not yet been determined—but a repeated concern is whether Musk’s tunnels might one-day conflict with Metro’s project.

“Environmental review can be a lengthy process. And I would see why if your MO is to ‘move fast and break stuff’ that you wouldn’t want to do that,” says Matute. “But, CEQA is designed to avoid using the ‘move fast and break stuff’ modus operandi for projects that affect the environment of California. That is its purpose.”

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Adorable 1930s ranch house in Tujunga seeks $798K

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Beamed ceilings, a wide porch, and a national forest nearby

This Tujunga house sits at the feet of the Angeles National Forest, and it looks like a pristine house in the woods.

Beyond its wide porch, it holds a master bedroom with its original Art Deco bathroom and two additional bedrooms, each one sunny and ample. Dating to the 1930s, the sweet home features vintage interiors, including sunny kitchen tile and an “enormous pine-clad family room with wet bar.”

The property measures almost one-third of an acre. That’s enough space for a garage, a chicken coop, and, at the edge of the property, a seasonal creek.

The house last sold in 1997 for $185,000. It’s now listed for $798,000.

Garcetti declares ‘shelter crisis’ to address homelessness: ‘It’s the moral thing to do’

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The emergency declaration could speed the arrival of new shelter beds.

The action will remove restrictions for new homeless shelters

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a “shelter crisis” today to provide emergency housing to some of the estimated 25,237 unsheltered homeless residents who call the city home.

As part of the declaration, the city will ease or eliminate restrictions on new homeless shelters, allowing them to be quickly built on land owned or leased by the city. It will also ease the process of establishing shelters at existing churches and nonprofit centers.

“This is the right thing to do,” Garcetti said. “It’s the moral thing to do.”

The crisis declaration is more meaningful after the passage of a new state law that allows cities to expedite ground-up construction of new shelter housing on publicly owned property. That housing will give homeless residents a place to stay while they get connected with necessary resources to find permanent housing, Garcetti said.

The mayor also announced the inclusion of $20 million in his proposed 2018-19 budget that would be divided among all 15 council districts to help fund new shelter facilities expected to add about 1,500 beds, which Garcetti said could support up to 6,000 residents in a year.

Homeless advocates have criticized the mayor for what they say is a lack of urgency in addressing a homelessness crisis that has left more than 40,000 residents unsheltered countywide.

Over the weekend, supporters of the #SheDoes movement camped out in front of City Hall demanding additional resources for homeless women, who are often victims of domestic violence and experience high rates of sexual assault.

Mel Tillekeratne, founder of the Monday Night Mission and a leader of the movement, tells Curbed that the shelter crisis declaration is a step in the right direction—though he’d like to see more shelters specifically established for vulnerable residents like older women.

“The longer people are on the street, the more they are exposed to violence and stress—and the more likely they are to become chronically homeless,” Tillekeratne says.

He says the declaration must be rolled out quickly to be effective.

“Anyone can present a plan,” Tillekeratne notes. “The key is when the doors open.”

Other homeless advocates are more skeptical.

“The mayor needs to do a lot more,” says Pete White, director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

White says he’s concerned with a feature of the mayor’s budget that provides increased funding for sanitation workers tasked with cleaning city streets and sidewalks peppered with belongings and makeshift residences.

Activists have long complained that street cleaning—and enforcement of local laws that limit the number and size of possessions residents can keep with them at one time—criminalize homelessness and result in the loss of residents’ personal possessions.

According to Garcetti, the new sanitation financing will be tied to the ability of council districts to create more shelter space, ensuring that street cleaning would mainly occur after homeless residents had moved indoors.

White, however, has doubts. “Those resources are always linked to criminalization,” he says.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city of Los Angeles has less than 8,000 shelter beds to serve an unsheltered population more than three times than number.

The shelter crisis declaration would be the latest in a series of moves to quicken construction of both short-term and permanent housing geared at the homeless.

Last week, the City Council approved one ordinance that allows owners of old motels to easily convert them into temporary housing, and another that accelerates the approval process for developments that include supportive housing with affordable rents and on-site services like counseling and job training. Garcetti signed both bills Monday.

Opponents of those ordinances warned that they could be used as “trojan horses,” giving developers the ability to quickly construct dense developments in low-slung areas.

Garcetti, for his part, suggested Monday during his state of the city speech that the passage of ballot measures H and HHH had given local leaders a mandate to find housing for homeless residents as quickly as possible.

He also expressed readiness to stand up for projects aimed at the homeless in the event of local opposition.

“I will be there,” Garcetti said. He promised to remind project opponents that “the choice isn’t whether to bring people to the neighborhood or not; it’s whether to house people who are already there.”

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Lucy Jones: Be worried about the quake—and the flood

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A landscape contorted by the San Andreas Fault.

A new book by seismologist Lucy Jones looks at LA’s deadliest disasters—and how to prepare for them

LA’s most famous seismologist, Lucy Jones, is well-known for schooling city leaders and busting Hollywood myths about our earthquake risk. But when it came to including a California disaster in her new book The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them), Jones opted to include what scientists have dubbed the “Other Big One.”

Meaning, a statewide megaflood.

“Who’s afraid of the rain? You get a prediction, you see things coming, you get out of the way,” says Jones.

But in 1861 it started raining and didn’t stop for 45 days, inundating much of the state.

“In LA, they said there was water from ‘mountain to mountain,’” says Jones. “All of Orange County was underwater. And the Central Valley was underwater for six months.”

Sacramento’s downtown during the Great Flood.

The Great Flood, as it was named, was the result of a series of atmospheric river storms that pummeled the Pacific coast from December 1861 to January of 1862. Roads were washed out and communication systems were severed. Every major city was flooded; Sacramento’s downtown was only accessible by boat.

In the end, the Great Flood forced lawmakers to temporarily move the state capitol to San Francisco, destroyed the state’s economy, and killed just over 1 percent of the state’s population.

Imagine that: A disaster that relocates the government, bankrupts its citizens, and leaves one out of every 100 Californians dead.

It could happen again.

Jones’ book explores the science behind major disasters like the Great Flood, the eruption of Pompeii in 79 A.D., and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But it’s also about the way cultures move forward after total devastation.

The chapter about the Great Flood is entitled “What We Forget,” because it examines the evolutionary phenomenon that makes humans ignore risk and focus more on short-term, immediate crises. Without relatable stories passed down from grandparents or great-grandparents who experienced the flood first-hand, for example, we’re not very good at evaluating how vulnerable we might be to the same disaster.

“Our fear of randomness makes us create patterns to explain why bad things happen,” she says. “We don’t want to think it can happen to us.”

Scientists are now responsible for authoring those stories that used to be handed down through generations to help us remember.

Even Jones, who is a fourth-generation Californian, didn’t know about the Great Flood until the U.S. Geological Survey authored a report based on the flood. The ARKstorm scenario looked at how the same storm would affect California today, estimating that a similar event would inundate 25 percent of the state and cost $725 billion—three times as much as the most powerful earthquake scenario.

The report also forced the state to confront its vulnerability in an age when climate change has boosted the power and frequency of atmospheric river storms. Scientists referenced the report as they watched the near-failure of the state’s Oroville Dam during heavy rains in 2017.

Helping cities come to grips with risk from the natural world has been a key part of Jones’s career. During her three decades at the USGS, Jones was known as the “Earthquake Lady” due to her regular appearances on local news after major seismic events. She then worked as the first city seismologist for the city of Los Angeles, where she delivered a game-changing 2014 report on earthquake preparedness.

Great Southern California ShakeOut Teaches Earthquake AwarenessPhoto by David McNew/Getty Images
Seismologist Lucy Jones (L) demonstrates how to drop and cover at Stevenson Elementary School in Burbank in 2008.

The good news, she says, is that four years later, everything she recommended in the city report is going forward, with the retrofitting of the city’s most dangerous buildings moving faster than expected.

In her role with the city, Jones also tried to get LA’s leaders to think bigger—because the greater damage wrought by a natural disaster is not necessarily the physical damage from the disaster itself.

Long after the life-threatening aspect of a disaster is over, a society might suffer far greater longterm economic and social impacts due to how long the power is out, schools are closed, and central business districts are shut down. In New Orleans after Katrina, and more recently, Puerto Rico after Maria, the amount of time it took for everyday life to return to normal triggered mass migrations that permanently altered communities.

Especially after a record-breaking year of costly natural disasters—and a federal government less equipped to respond to them—cities are changing the way they approach disaster preparedness with a new focus on how quickly they can be back up and running.

Jones is championing a proposed change to California’s building codes that would keep more people housed after a seismic event. Right now, buildings here are engineered to “life safety” standards, meaning they’re designed to protect human lives—not necessarily to structurally survive the shaking.

It also means that about 10 percent of buildings will collapse in a major earthquake, something Jones says is unacceptable. “Enough buildings will be so badly damaged that people are going to find it too hard to live in LA or San Francisco,” she told the New York Times.

Other countries with seismic risk are taking their building standards one step further—moving towards stricter “reusable” standards. This would mean not only fewer collapsed buildings, but also that repairs to damaged buildings would take weeks, not months or years.

Jones was up in Sacramento last month testifying in support of a new bill, AB 1857, which would require these more stringent codes for new multi-story buildings. The new standards only add about 1 percent to overall construction cost, she says.

The challenge of designing for resilience, rather than just for recovery, is one of the key reasons Jones founded the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, where scientists can serve as a resource for city leaders. “My learning process was coming to understand about how large the divide was between what scientists were doing and what the government was actually using in policy.”

Resilience also means embarking upon a larger effort to disaster-proof local resources. In LA, this means investing in solar energy or recharging groundwater basins so we’re not relying on fragile power lines or an aqueduct that has to travel through the San Andreas Fault in a century-old wooden tunnel. These changes not only allow cities to survive after a major life-threatening event, they also help mitigate the impacts of climate change, long before the disaster arrives.

A megaflood might have the potential to cause more devastation statewide, but an earthquake is still top of mind—especially after this month’s rattler—so what should Angelenos do?

“I couldn’t get myself to say, ‘make a kit, have a plan,’” says Jones. “I don’t think that’s how we go forward. What really matters is our communities. Even in Pompeii, 90 percent of the population escaped. It’s about living after the event and how miserable that can be. It’s whether your society survives the earthquake. Is LA even going to be here after this?”

One resource for Angelenos is the Community Emergency Response Training program, which allows neighborhoods to organize their disaster response, block-by-block.

“Don’t go into your bunker,” she says. “Go to your neighbors, go to your church, your school, and say, ‘how do we work together?’ And guess what—we’ll have a more connected community and we’ll have a better place to live before the earthquake hits.”

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Bel Air spec house gets a $62 million price chop

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Called Billionaire, the spec house has 12 bedrooms and 21 bathrooms.

It’s no longer the nation’s most expensive house

An enormous Bel Air mansion that hit the market last year with a $250 million price tag is no longer the nation’s priciest listing, after a healthy $62 million price reduction.

Dubbed Billionaire, the 38,000-square-foot spec house was built by developer Bruce Makowsky, who previously sold an amenity-rich Beverly Hills residence to Minecraft creator Markus Persson. After being de-listed last summer, the home returned to the market last week seeking $188 million.

That means that The Manor, the wildly extravagant former Holmby Hills residence of Aaron and Candy Spelling, can officially reclaim its title as the most expensive home up for sale in both Los Angeles and the nation.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the latter home is significantly larger than Billionaire, with two extra bedrooms and nearly 20,000 additional square feet of living space. Makowsky’s spec house, though, boasts bonus features few other homes can claim—including a helipad and a garage full of Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

It’s also got 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, six bars, three kitchens, and a 40-seat home theater with a James Bond theme.

The most expensive American home ever sold is a Hamptons estate that fetched $147 million in 2014, so if either Billionaire or The Manor get anything close to asking price, that record could fall.

In Los Angeles, no home has ever sold for more than $100 million—the price commanded by both the Playboy Mansion and a spec house purchased by Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores in 2016.

The Manor may not hold its “most expensive” title for long; developer Nile Niami is hard at work on one of the largest private residences ever constructed. Niami plans to list the Bel Air mansion for $500 million.

Bond-themed movie theater
Bowling alley
Bel Air spec house
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First look at Silver Lake condos headed for Sunset Boulevard

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A rendering of the under-construction project at Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena Street.

Prices will start in the $500,000s

The under-construction condo project at Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena Street in Silver Lake is readying to open in the spring of 2019, but we’re getting our first glimpse of the project now, thanks to renderings from developers Barth Partners and Barry Leddy Developments.

The development, called Vica, will bring 31 new condos and 2,000 square feet of street-level storefronts to a property next to the long public staircase on the south side of the intersection.

Resident amenities are slated to include swimming pool, a gym, a “meditation garden,” a rooftop deck, and conference rooms for residents who work remotely.

Vica is advertised at the first new-build condos to come to Silver Lake in more than 10 years. List prices for the units are expected to start in the $500,000s and go up to about $2 million.

Sales for the project are expected to launch this spring.

A view from inside the ground-floor retail space, looking out toward Sunset Boulevard.

SpaceX will build rockets to Mars at Port of LA, says Mayor Garcetti

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A new facility at the Port of LA could produce rockets capable of interplanetary travel.

Big Falcon Rockets will be constructed at the Port of Los Angeles

A new SpaceX manufacturing facility planned for the Port of Los Angeles will be used to build the company’s much-anticipated Big Falcon interplanetary rockets, Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed Monday.

Speculation that the Hawthorne-based company could build vessels capable of reaching Mars in the city of Los Angeles had been growing since the Board of Harbor Commissioners signed off last month on a proposal for an enormous new building at land that SpaceX currently leases at the port.

The plans call for a 203,450-square-foot structure, flanked by 12,000-gallon tanks for storage of argon, helium, nitrogen, and oxygen. Its seaside location would be critical, as the rockets will be too large to transport on city streets and can instead be deposited directly onto barges.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk predicted in 2017 that the Big Falcon Rocket, designed for both interplanetary travel and lightning-fast travel between far-flung Earth cities, would be capable of reaching Mars by 2022.

In his annual state of the city address, Garcetti was more focused on the local impact of the technology. “This isn’t just about reaching into the heavens,” said the mayor. “It’s about creating jobs right here on Earth.”

According to plans for the new port facility, it would bring about 750 new jobs to LA’s harbor. Construction on the project is expected to take between 16 and 18 months.

Musk’s projects have proved popular with LA officials. City Councilmember Paul Koretz last week proposed expediting a proof-of-concept tunnel for the tech CEO’s proposed new transportation system beneath LA’s streets.

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‘It’s becoming a norm… losing people on the bike’

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A “ghost” bike for Frederick Frazier, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

“It’s becoming a norm… losing people on the bike”

More than 150 mourners poured onto Los Angeles streets Friday night, pedaling to City Hall from Manchester Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, where, in a startling chain of events, one young man was killed and another badly hurt, both by hit-and-run drivers.

Friday night’s ride was one part memorial, one part protest. Cyclists are calling on city leaders to ensure that LA’s streets are safe for people to ride bikes.

“We have to… make the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians,” Edin Barrientos, who leads a popular Monday night group ride called Chief Lunes, told mourners. “The culture we have in LA, our car culture, it’s not promoting life. It’s not safe for anyone to be on the streets.”

The tight-knight bicycling community is on edge. This week, 22-year-old Frederick Frazier was killed, then his friend was seriously injured during a smaller memorial held at the scene of Frazier’s death.

Frazier was struck and killed Tuesday while riding his bike near Manchester and Normandie. Known as Woon to his friends, Frazier worked security at LAX and aspired to compete at the highest levels of velodrome track racing.

He was hit from behind by the driver of a white Porsche SUV, and was thrown beneath a heavy commercial truck just a few blocks from his home, according to local news reports and witnesses. The driver fled, leaving Frazier’s body in the middle of busy Manchester, witnesses and his family say.

“We all grew up in this bike-world together for a whole six years,” says Quatrell Stallings, who rides bikes and was Frazier’s friend. “Everybody is going to miss him.”

Friday night’s memorial ride on the steps of LA City Hall.

The next day, at the same intersection, the driver of a gold Toyota Avalon plowed into a a crowd of people who had gathered to remember Frazier and to protest hit-and-run crimes.

The car hit Stallings, who was trying to clear people from the intersection during the chaotic scene. The impact was captured by local news channels, and the video went viral. Stallings says his femur, kneecap, and ankle are broken; he has 10 stitches on his forehead, where his head hit the ground.

“I wouldn’t think that we would have to fight to show people that we are people, and that every lane is a bike lane,” he said. “All that stuff hurts me, and then I actually get hurt during this process, too.”

Frazier, 22, was hit from behind while riding his bike near Manchester and Normandie.

Stallings says his injuries aren’t life-threatening, but the event was so scary and unbelievable that cyclists are feeling especially uneasy on LA’s notoriously bicycle-hostile streets.

“I’ve been doing this eight years, and not any of those years have I felt fear for my life as I do at this moment,” says Barrientos. “It’s becoming a norm, you know, losing people on the bike. We lost a teenager in Woodland Hills less than two weeks ago.”

They’re also angry with how the LAPD handled the situation. On Wednesday, Frazier’s family and friends used a peaceful protest tactic known as a “circle of death,” where they ride in circles, effectively shutting down the streets.

It was a call to hold hit-and-run drivers, including the one who struck Frazier, accountable for their crimes. The LAPD solves only about 20 percent of hit-and-run cases, according to the Los Angeles Times. Of those, less than half ever result in an arrest.

No arrests have been made in Frazier’s and Stallings’ cases, according to the LAPD.

LAPD officers also drove a cop car into the crowd, endangering demonstrators and crushing bicycles laid out on the ground, say several attendees. While the LAPD cruiser circled about in the intersection with lights and sirens, the woman driving the Toyota Avalon aimed her vehicle towards the intersection.

“These things are happening way too often, and people are fearful for their lives,” says Barrientos. “There’s a lot of rage and anger, especially with the young people. And there’s just a lot of sadness, too.”

Stallings says more bike lanes with barriers are needed to keep people on bikes safe.

“We need them on Normandie, we need them on Western, we need them on Gage,” he says. “It needs to be safer for us to ride in Los Angeles, because Los Angeles is the place to be. It’s sunny, we got the beach, we got Downtown, we have beautiful sightseeing. And what other better way to see those beautiful places is to get on a bike and ride. There’s things on a bike that you can see more than when you’re sitting in your car.”

Without dedicated road space, bike riders say they are often left to the mercy of impatient and inattentive drivers.

“When a car comes at you at 40 or 50 mph, and within inches of hitting you, just the fear that runs through you is unlike anything else,” Barrientos says. “If people driving experienced feeling even once, they’d know not to get too close to cyclists and pedestrians.”

Mourners pause Friday night near Frazier’s home to offer support and condolences to his mother.
Bike riders gathered in front of LA City Hall Friday night to call for safer streets.

LA Times is moving to El Segundo

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The move would be permanent, and it’s a big deal

At a meeting with the Los Angeles Times staff, the paper’s soon-to-be owner Patrick Soon-Shiong announced that the paper would be leaving its longtime Downtown home and moving west—far west, into a spot in El Segundo.

The Los Angeles Times reports the paper’s new home is under construction now. When complete, it will sit on about 4.5 acres and include an eight-story, 120,000-square-fot building. Event space, storefronts, and a “museum gallery of The Times’ 136-year history” would fill out the building’s first floor.

The move to El Segundo, first reported to be temporary, will be permanent. “We need to build a campus that is there for the next 100 years, not to lease a building,” Soon-Shiong told Times staffers.

Staff writer Carolina Miranda, tweeting from the meeting, says the decision to leave the paper’s Civic Center location came after the newspaper and Onni, the Canadian developer that owns the building, couldn’t agree on terms for a new lease.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Onni had asked the Times for a “$1-million-a-month rent increase.”

Such a move will likely cause a stir in the newsroom. In January, the paper’s union organizing committee argued strongly against a rumored move to Playa Vista orchestrated by the paper’s then-owner, Tronc.

The committee noted that not only would such a move limit the paper’s ability to cover local government, which is based in Downtown, but it would also dramatically increase reporters’ commute times.

It’s also possible the paper could rent up some space at its former Olympic printing plant for reporters who need to be close to Downtown. The 26-acre property between the southern tip of the Arts District and the 10 Freeway sold to Harridge Development Group for $120 million in 2016.

Last year, Onni announced plans to redevelop much of the site, adding two residential towers and refurbishing the Moderne Los Angeles Times building constructed in 1935.

There is no word on when the move is scheduled to happen, but it might be soon: The lease in Downtown’s Times Mirror Square was originally due to expire in June.

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Midcentury ranch home with vintage appeal asks $849K in Eagle Rock

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A snazzy room-divider screen and a bounty of colorful ceramic tile

Built in 1949, this Eagle Rock home’s modest exterior may not turn many heads. But as we all know, it’s what’s inside that counts, and beyond that unassuming facade, there’s charm and personality in spades.

Measuring approximately 1,500 square feet, the traditional ranch has two bedrooms, one and a half baths, living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen, and laundry room.

Among the home’s standout period features are hardwood floors, a stacked-stone fireplace, wainscoting, a built-in dresser, a snazzy room-divider screen, and a bounty of colorful ceramic tile.

Located on a 6,196-square-foot cul-de-sac lot one block south of Hill Drive, the property is on the market for the first time in 42 years. Asking price is $849,000, and open house is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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60-story apartment tower pitched for Olympic and Hill

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The tower would include 700 apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial space.

Another skyscraper in booming South Park

Another towering high-rise may be on the way to Downtown LA’s booming South Park neighborhood, where many of the city’s tallest construction projects are now in the works.

Plans published by the the city planning department this week offer a glimpse at the project, proposed by prolific Canadian developer Onni Group, which is also working on a massive redevelopment of the Times Mirror Square complex in Downtown’s Civic Center.

The 60-story tower would rise at the southeast corner of Olympic Boulevard and Hill Street, replacing a parking lot next to the Mayan Theater. It would include 700 apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. A seven-level underground parking garage would hold 1,075 spaces.

Urbanize LA notes that the project was originally proposed two years ago as a smaller 48-story development with 498 units of housing. The developer has scaled things up considerably since then.

At 760 feet in height, it would be the fourth-tallest building in Los Angeles if finished today—though a handful of other projects in the works, including an 88-story megaproject at Angels Landing, promise to be even taller.

The project is being designed by Chris Dikeakos Architects, a Canadian firm with an office in Los Angeles. Renderings show it would have a glassy exterior, with long balconies jutting out from the sides. A fifth-floor amenity deck would have a swimming pool, spa, and basketball court. A rooftop terrace and a landscaped courtyard space would provide additional outdoor space for residents.

The project will still need to work its way through the city’s long approval process, but a preliminary estimate predicts that construction would take about 30 months to complete, with work finishing up in 2022.

LA must commit to building more housing—now

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District by district, it’s time to hold our councilmembers accountable

Our elected officials should be sprinting to fix our housing crisis. But they continue to drag their feet. Instead of taking the drastic action that Los Angeles needs, lawmakers are taking incremental, politically safe steps to address a growing epidemic that has forced an estimated 42,828 people to live unsheltered on city streets.

It’s time to demand concrete goals for more homes in our neighborhoods. It’s time for residents to hold our elected officials accountable.

The Los Angeles City Council passed two more ordinances Wednesday intended to create more housing for the city’s homeless residents by loosening regulations for supportive housing projects and allowing developers to convert motels into apartments.

This legislation should, in theory, unleash a flood of new housing projects—that is, if Angelenos don’t keep blocking them.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that these types of ordinances easing restrictions may not be not enough to accelerate the construction of new homes. Nine supportive housing projects have been fully funded by the implementation of Measure HHH, $1.2 billion homeless housing bond approved by voters last July. Only two have broken ground.

It’s not just supportive housing that’s lagging. According to the housing scorecard from the mayor’s office, the city is also not meeting its goals for creating more affordable units.

The construction of new housing might even have slowed overall. In 2017, the number of certificates of occupancy issued—a good measurement for how many new homes have been created—was 20 percent lower than 2016, according to department of building and safety data analyzed by Abundant Housing.

Because there’s no easy way for the average Angeleno to find out which projects are being proposed, we often don’t know if our councilmembers are advocating for the specific types of housing that our neighborhoods need. We don’t have the data easily accessible to hold our elected leaders accountable and ensure that enough new homes are being built or preserved.

We need to put the pressure on our elected representatives to show us what they are doing every day—with specific numbers, locations of proposed projects, and detailed goals—to address our housing crisis.

Last month, we got a peek at what this could look like. All 15 city councilmembers pledged to build 222 supportive housing units in each of their council districts by July 1, 2020.

The idea behind the pledge was to get each district to contribute its fair share of homeless housing. “It needs to be done across our city, and everyone needs to bear the burden,” said Councilmember Nury Martinez.

As part of the agreement, some councilmembers made a big deal about “fighting” NIMBYs who wouldn’t want homeless housing in their neighborhoods. Councilmember Paul Koretz said his wealthy constituents would be the most likely to oppose such developments, but he promised not to cave. “I’m 100 percent committed,” he said.

The number works out to 3,330 units of supportive housing. That’s one-third of the way to Measure HHH’s goal to create 10,000 units of supportive housing citywide.

But in some cases, 222 units might only be a single project. For example, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s district is home to the first Measure HHH project to break ground, PATH Metro Villas, which consists of 187 permanent units and 88 short-term beds, and was already in motion well before the pledge.

Several councilmembers will also get units counted toward their total even if they didn’t want them in the first place. Councilmember José Huizar will get “credit” for the approval of Lorena Plaza, the 49-unit Boyle Heights supportive housing project, even though he had previously opposed the project since 2013.

In Koretz’s district, a huge Department of Veterans Affairs plan calls for 900 supportive units as part of a court settlement. Maybe he won’t have to fight for supportive housing at all.

If City Councilmembers want to pat themselves on the back for delivering 222 units of supportive housing by 2020, fine. At the very least we now have a number to hold them to.

But it is mostly a symbolic pledge. As many have noted, councilmembers have extraordinary power to bolster or block the housing being proposed for their districts. To truly make an impact, councilmembers need to double or triple or quadruple that 222-unit commitment—and they need to make the same types of commitments to a wide range of housing.

In 2016, Mayor Garcetti signed an executive directive to build 100,000 new units of housing by 2021 (which is probably still not nearly enough).

Included in the total is a goal of 15,000 affordable units. That’s 1,000 affordable units each council district needs to add or preserve by 2021. The mayor’s office admits the city is “slightly below target” on the most recent report. How many councilmembers will be able to meet that goal?

Here’s another example. As part of its new accessory dwelling unit pilot project, which is getting lots of attention this week, the city’s Innovation Team has a goal to add 10,000 ADUs across the city by 2021. That’s 666 ADUs that need to be built in each council district. Which councilmember can say he is on his way to approving those 666 granny shacks?

We also need more transparency to ensure councilmembers follow through with their commitments. The city administrative office issues a quarterly report on the city’s homeless strategy, but it’s not written in a way the average Angeleno can understand.

Plus, public-facing data sometimes isn’t current or specific enough to use. The recent housing goals report from the mayor’s office was last updated in June of 2017. Even then, the information about where these projects are located requires diving into the city’s data portal.

United Way’s Everyone In initiative provides a tracker that shows the number of new supportive units that have been approved and funded in each council district, as well as the number of existing supportive units. It also shows the disparity between the number of units “approved” and the percentage of units “funded.” A councilmember might approve a project, but until those units are fully funded, they can’t be built.

On any given day, we should know exactly how many more housing units our councilmember is working to add, where those units are located, if they are funded, and how we can advocate for them. Without a centralized, user-friendly database to learn about each new project, Angelenos will continue to find out about proposed developments when it’s too late—after groups have organized to fight them.

Let’s install a housing creation leaderboard in Grand Park to publicly display how many total units of housing are being built or preserved in each council district, highlighting the number of supportive and affordable homes.

Let’s put signs on every residential construction site that notes how many supportive or affordable units are being added, with a URL where neighbors can get more information, find out how many total units their district has created, and apply for the housing, if applicable.

Let’s launch a citywide competition to develop the city administrative office’s database of 129 city-owned parking lots that have been designated as ideal sites for supportive or affordable housing. Which district can add the most units using one of those sites?

Dividing up housing creation per council district will also help to illustrate that it’s not really about fair share—some districts should be building way more.

Underserved communities have historically shouldered the weight of the city’s social services; it’s time for other communities to pitch in. And when it comes to market-rate housing, much, much more of it should be built in wealthy neighborhoods that have been purposely under-building for too long.

Councilmembers, we are happy to hear your personal guarantee that you will fight for 222 more people to have homes in your district by 2020. It’s a worthy effort. But it’s not enough.

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Stately Country Club Park manor with lavish 1920s details wants $1.9M

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On the market for the first time in 60 years

Bordered by Pico, Olympic, Western, and Crenshaw, Country Club Park was developed between 1910 and 1930 on the site of what was originally the Los Angeles Golf Club.

Designated an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone in 2010, the neighborhood is a treasure trove of outstanding period-revival architecture by such illustrious architects as Alfred Rosenheim, G. Lawrence Stimson, and Elmer Grey, who designed this stately English Revival-style residence on the corner of St. Andrews Place and Country Club Drive in 1924.

Making its first appearance on the market in six decades, the five-bedroom home hasn’t exactly been trapped in amber—along with upgraded electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, it sports a remodeled kitchen and new bathrooms.

That said, there are still plenty of fantastic original details left intact, including leaded glass windows and ornate wrought iron on the grand curving staircase, sumptuous coffered wood and plaster work, glass doorknobs, beamed ceilings, Batchelder tile, and a show-stopping living room fireplace.

On a .38-acre lot with a detached two-car garage, guest apartment, covered patio, and expansive lawn, the property is asking $1.899 million.

Capitol Records-adjacent towers make a comeback

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The two-towered project contains over 1,000 housing units and open space for community programming. Rendering by Handel Architects.

The Capitol Records-adjacent structures would rise to 35 and 46 stories

The beleaguered Millennium Hollywood project has returned.

Developer MP Los Angeles announced today that it has filed new plans with the city for the project, now dubbed Hollywood Center. It would feature 1,005 apartments and condos, including 133 units set aside for low-income seniors.

The housing would be spread across two towers—one with 35 stories and the other with 46—and two 11-story structures on lots next to and across from the Capitol Records building at Yucca and Vine streets.

The development will also include two plazas and pedestrian paths that would cut through the Capitol Records block, between Vine and Argyle Avenue, and the block between Vine and Ivar. High Line designer James Corner Field Operations is overseeing the public areas of the project, which total 1 acre.

Mario Palumbo, managing partner of MP Los Angeles, says the firm is also submitting an application for an alternate version of the project that would involve swapping out some of the apartments for 200 hotel rooms.

The land set to become the Hollywood Center is now the site of parking lots.

The proposed project would comply with Measure JJJ, a ballot initiative passed by votes in 2016 to require developers to provide affordable housing in their projects and hire local workers to build them.

The project was proposed in 2013, but was fervently protested by locals. Opponents said said the towers were too tall and would generate too much traffic; plus there was a big debate about whether an active earthquake fault runs under the property.

In the end, it was traffic that sidelined the project. In 2015, a judge ruled that the city had failed to adequately address the development’s impacts on traffic on the 101 Freeway. Construction was halted and the developer, then named Millennium Partners, was sent back to the drawing board to begin the environmental review process again.

Palumbo says he’s aiming to secure city approval by the end of 2019, and that construction can begin in 2021.

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County starts laying out its vision for the LA River

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Everyone has a plan for the river, and now the county will too

Los Angeles County took a key step yesterday toward updating its LA River Master Plan from 1996, the latest in a growing collection of plans for the concrete flood channel.

Contributing to the county’s master plan is a committee made up of officials from nonprofits and public agencies who met Wednesday for the first time. One of the biggest questions its members posed: Is the plan really needed?

Michael Affeldt of LARiverworks, a division of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, asked which portions of the river weren’t already covered by a plan.

“Where do we need this? Why update it?” he said.

The county estimates that as the river flows for 51 miles from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, it snakes through areas already covered by some 114 community, regional, and river-related plans, as well as bike and pedestrian plans, general plans, and design guidelines.

Just last year, a plan to add bridges, bike and walking paths, housing, and parks to river-adjacent land was released for the 19-mile section from Vernon to Long Beach. Major projects, like the massive makeover that will turn the industrial G2 parcel into a 41-acre park, are also well underway.

The volume of plans guiding some or all of the river is, in part, why the county said it wanted to update its own.

When the Board of Supervisors voted to pursue the project, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said that a single county plan could stitch everything together and help “avoid ‘plan-demonium.’”

And though the county’s existing master plan is only 20 years old, its age is already showing, said Mark Hanna of Geosyntec, which along with Frank Gehry’s Gehry Partners, landscape architecture firm Olin, and River LA make up the county’s master plan update team.

Hanna told the committee that much of the infrastructure along the river is getting old, and there are some areas of the river where the water quality doesn’t meet current environmental requirements.

Updating the plan will allow the county to address those issues and others tied to the age of the plan, Hanna said. It would also allow for one unified plan to emerge for the whole river—something which Hanna said could help when it came for looking for funding to pay for the projects laid out in the new plan.

 Courtesy of Mayor Eric Garcetti
The city has its own plan to turn an industrial parcel along the bank of the river into a giant park.

When a steering committee member asked how the county would ensure that those plans were ultimately realized, and said that this was more than just another plan for the river, Hanna said the process would include creating a strategy for implementation.

The committee will meet seven more times and hold nearly two dozen subcommittee meetings to focus on specific aspects of the river from now to December 2019, when a draft review of the master plan update is expected to be made public.

There is an ever-increasing number of eyes on the river these days.

As plans to make the waterway more of a public asset proliferate, so do concerns about who is guiding the future of the river, and what an ecological restoration of the river could mean for the largely working-class communities it passes through.

 
 
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