Santa Monica ballot measure would require ‘supermajority’ vote for taller, denser buildings

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Would it put an end to development wars—or bring them back?

Development battles in Santa Monica have largely fizzled out. Now, two City Councilmembers seeking reelection say they want to end the building wars for good.

A measure on the November 6 ballot would require developers to get the approval of a “supermajority” of the Santa Monica City Council to deviate from the city’s building height and density limits.

If Measure SM passes, for the next 10 years, developers wanting to build taller or denser would need a “yes” vote from five of seven members of the City Council. Right now, the threshold is four votes.

That’s an important distinction, says Kevin McKeown, who co-sponsored the measure with Sue Himmelrich. Both councilmembers are seeking reelection.

Historically, votes on some of the biggest, most high-profile development projects in Santa Monica have been split, McKeown says.

“Measure SM eliminates those squeakers that previously got through on the barest majority vote,” he says. “It is significantly more difficult for a developer to earn that fifth vote to go beyond our adopted plans.”

Councilmembers Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day oppose Measure SM. They argue it would actually incite more fights over development.

“I was so looking forward to having an election on the ballot where we would not have development wars,” Davis said in June, when the council discussed it. “Now we are voluntarily inviting election wars.”

“The circus is coming to town again,” O’Day said. “Here’s the sideshow for development fighting.”

Two years ago, a far more extreme proposal to curtail building heights in Santa Monica appeared on the ballot. Measure LV would have subjected any new construction taller than 32 feet—the equivalent of two stories—to voter approval.

That measure was defeated at the ballot box, with more than 56 percent of residents voting against it.

But McKeown says it would be a “mistake” to ignore the 44 percent of residents who voted in favor of Measure LV.

If developers want “to exceed our limits in any way, they’d better come to us with a truly spectacular project,” he says.

Measure SM has an exemption for housing projects that are 100 percent affordable and projects on school district property. And, according to the Santa Monica Lookout, the measure wouldn’t affect development projects that have already been proposed.

The measure was placed on the November 6 ballot measure on June 26 on a 4-2 vote of the City Council.

“The premise of this supermajority provision is that if something is a really good idea, it will get five votes,” Davis said at the time. This measure “isn’t getting five votes tonight.”

“By its own definition, it might not be a very good idea,” she said.

Drake reportedly buys 1950s ranch home in the Valley

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The newly purchased home, with the YOLO estate on  the left.

Right across from the “YOLO estate”

Drake may be expanding his portfolio of Los Angeles-area real estate. Variety reports that the Grammy-winning artist paid $4.5 million for a house that neighbors his “YOLO estate” in Hidden Hills.

Drake purchased that over-the-top residence in 2012 for $7.7 million. In 2016, it was widely reported that he had paid $2.85 million for a 1950s ranch house across the street. Officially, that house is owned by the Richard Fitzenwell Trust (which may or may not be a Bart Simpson-style gag name).

At the end of August, the trust closed a deal on another neighboring residence.

With the purchase of the new home, a roughly 2,450-square-foot ranch with three bedrooms, Drake adds more than 2 acres to his growing compound in the western San Fernando Valley.

It’s unclear whether the rapper or any members of his entourage plan to actually live in the home. Built in 1957, the residence looks to be in need of some interior updates, but boasts some nice features, including beamed ceilings and a brick barbecue.

Drake’s main house across the way, meanwhile, has a swimming pool complete with grotto, a mechanical bull, and a revolving bookshelf that leads to the master bedroom.

Even while making real estate moves in LA, Drake is also investing boatloads of cash into a behemoth megamansion in his home city of Toronto. It will reportedly include a pool and hot tub suspended above a full-size indoor basketball court.

Plans emerge to turn former West Hollywood brothel into boutique hotel

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The Piazza del Sol at 8439 Sunset

A former brothel, the national landmark is located right on the Sunset Strip

The Sunset Strip’s hotel roster might be getting another addition. West Hollywood’s historic preservation commission is set to hear plans today to convert a 1927 office building, the Piazza del Sol, into a boutique hotel.

The four-story building houses roughly 56,000 square feet of offices and the hotspot restaurant, Katana. If the property owner’s plans are approved, the landmark building will function as an 36-room hotel with two restaurants and a rooftop pool and lounge.

The “Italian Rennaissance-style” Piazza del Sol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the state historic register, and is a designated West Hollywood historic monument. It predates the Chateau Marmont and the Sunset Towers.

Built in 1927, the Piazza—then called the Hacienda Arms Apartments—operated as a luxury hotel. By the 1930s, it was the most famous brothel in the state, according to documents prepared by history consultants for the project’s review.

When Lee Francis, the madam who operated the brothel, was arrested in 1940, it marked the beginning of a decades-long decline and a handful of name changes for the property.

In the 1980s, the property was briefly owned by singer Rod Stewart, who hoped to make it into a luxury hotel. That plan was never realized and the hotel was sold. In 1983 a possible arson fire ravaged the structure. That same year, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Property records show that the current owners, Mani Brothers, acquired the Piazza and an adjoining parking garage in 1999. The West Hollywood-based group owns a number of other properties on the Sunset Strip, including office buildings at 9000 and 9200 Sunset Boulevard.

City staffers are recommending that the historic preservation commission approve the conversion and rehab of the building. In a report, they write that “that the proposed work will help preserve the cultural resource without impacting its integrity.”

If approved by the commission, the plans would still need the approval of the full West Hollywood City Council.

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Inside a ‘timeless yet modern’ home in Encino

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Making classic and contemporary elements “play nice”

It’s not often that a client plays matchmaker for designers, but in the case of Los Angeles-based interior design firm Proem Studio and a homeowner in Encino, California, that’s just what went down.

Interior designers Ashley Drost and Marie Trohman each had their own practices when a homeowner approached them about, well, getting together. Drost had worked with the client on a previous home and Trohman knew the client personally. The client saw a partnership waiting to happen.

“It’s very unusual for somebody to be like, ‘Hey, designers, start working together’ because usually people have pretty big egos,” Trohman laughs. But the project brought them together, and Proem Studio was born. The Encino project was their first together and the rest was, as they say, history. “I know it’s not a normal way to start a business,” she continues. “But ever since, we’ve taken on six or seven other projects in LA and New York. So, [that client] was right.”

Custom chairs and a sofa from Croft House with white-linen cushions cut a more structural figure than the furnishings inside.
A dining table by Harbour Outdoor and director’s chairs by Skargaarden sit under the pergola. The barstools (right) are from Tolix.

The homeowners, a couple with two dogs, moved into the new-build house in 2016, which was developed by LA-based Jason Pietruszka. Trohman and Drost describe the home’s design as a mix between traditional and modern, something they referred to as California modern. Oak floors laid in a handsome herringbone pattern play nicely with the kitchen’s Shaker-style cabinetry as they do with the sleek painted-brick fireplace, with its built-in firewood storage; in other areas of the house, the flooring is composed of long, elegant oak panels, as in the entry and formal living and dining rooms, which the designers styled in a not-so-formal way.

Barstools from Lawson Fenning in Edelman leather line up along the kitchen island, while pendants from Circa Lighting hang above. The cabinets sport brushed-brass hardware from Emtek. Wishbone Chairs by Hans Wegner sit around the dining table.

In the kitchen, a statement marble backsplash and brass fixtures keep things current, and, throughout, the home’s color palette is largely neutral, which gives it a timeless feel. Outside, there’s plenty of room for entertaining, with a large, grassy yard, a pool, and an expansive patio.

Through all of their work together, the Encino project continues to stick with Drost and Trohman, particularly because of the collaborative and involved nature of their relationship with the homeowner. “[The wife] wanted to love every single piece that was going in there,” Trohman explains, noting that the wife took the lead on the design process. “She wanted everything to say something and she wanted things to jive, so she was really involved in every detail of the project.”

Lawson Fenning nightstands and leather Materia sconces flank a Restoration Hardware bed, in front of which sits a wood bench by Lostine. An antique Mallayer rug from Woven brings everything together.
In the master bathroom, a woven pendant by Palecek adds warmth and texture to the marble on the wall and floor. A vintage milking stool and a Lostine wooden ladder sit beside the bathtub, and a photograph by Alex Cave hangs on the wall.

Drost and Trohman helped the couple furnish basically every square foot, as their previous home was more midcentury modern in style. “We did a lot of classic midcentury furniture [in the previous home] which just wasn’t translating well in this style of house,” Drost says. “We sold everything that they had and started fresh.” They did bring along the Restoration Hardware bed and and the bedroom sconces, from Materia, as those pieces were more muted.

Proem approaches design by considering what the client has in mind and how they plan to use the space; where the light is coming from; and where clients’ things go. “[We’re trying to figure out] the nuts and bolts of what daily life in that home looks like, so that no matter what we put in there, it’s going to age well with them,” says Trohman. She mentions that they’ve never used the same brand throughout a home because “once you pull out one piece of furniture, it’s hard to replace because the whole thing falls apart.”

A Restoration Hardware sofa anchors the media room, behind which sits a custom console with a Croft House leather top. The console displays a ceramic Ben Medansky bowl and ceramic M Quan chains. Large doors open up the full length of the wall so the house has an indoor-outdoor feel.

In the Encino home, they started their work from the media room and worked from there, with a central feature being a really comfortable couch, from Restoration Hardware, that would be “forgiving for pets and wine spills.” This space, with the black-painted brick fireplace and bar, was the comfortable zone the couple needed—just off the kitchen—to watch TV, hang out with the dogs, and cook. Beside the media room and kitchen, a wall of sliding doors looks out onto the yard and its structural furniture.

Barstools by Lostine sit atop handsome herringbone-wood floors at the bar’s counter, where the client’s large collection of Scotch and whisky is on display.
A light fixture from Circa Lighting hangs above the billiards table. Stools from Lawson Fenning upholstered in Zak+Fox fabric sit under a Freddie Mercury photo from the client’s collection.
Two Lawson Fenning chairs covered in Zak+Fox fabric sit opposite a Chesterfield sofa. A custom black marble coffee table holds court at the center of the room, sitting atop an antique Mallayer Rug from Woven. Nestling beside the fireplace is a vintage chair from Nickey Kehoe. A floor lamp by Jason Koharik illuminates the sofa from the corner (right).

The client decided to forgo a formal entry and eating area in the dining room, and Trohman and Drost decided to flip the whole formal-dining-room idea on its head by making it one of the house’s most informal areas in the house.

“We did a billiards table, which we’ve never done before in a formal dining room, and that kind of pushed us into doing a whiskey gentleman’s lounge up front with a piano and a Chesterfield leather sofa.”

“What I really appreciate about this project is that there’s no filler in the home,” Trohman says. “I think sometimes it’s like ‘we just need a black cabinet, let’s find a black cabinet’ and ‘that one ticks all the boxes, so let’s use that one.’ I would say that nothing that was put in that home isn’t dearly loved by that client.”

LA’s haunted landmarks and their ghost stories, mapped

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 Several ghosts supposedly haunt the Colorado Street Bridge.

For such a young city, Los Angeles does quite a swift business in hauntings (maybe it’s the specter of the film industry?). It’s not just creaky old West Adams mansions that have ghosts either—pretty much every tourist spot is also said to host a spirit or two or 17. For Halloween, we’ve collected 20 such landmarks and their accompanying ghost stories, in handy map form. Enjoy/beware!

Today is the last day to register to vote

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Everything you need to know before the November 6 election

Today is the deadline to register to vote in the November 6 general election, when Los Angeles County residents cast votes for 11 state measures and a number of local ones, plus a new governor.

To vote in the election, your registration must be postmarked or filed electronically no later than today. To find out if you are already registered to vote, click here.

This general election might not seem as glamorous as voting for president, but there’s a lot at stake, including a potential repeal of California’s gas tax and a proposal to allow cities and counties—not the state—to regulate rent control.

But first, you’ve got to cast your vote. Here’s where you’ll find everything you need to know about voting on November 6, from when polls are open to how to find your polling place.

When to vote

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day, but, if you are waiting in line to vote at 8 p.m. when the polls close, you’re legally allowed to vote. You’re guaranteed time off to vote, so take it! (Under state law, only two hours of it has to be paid).

You can vote early any time between now and November 6 at the Norwalk headquarters of the Los Angeles County Registrar. Nine additional early voting locations will be available the two weekends before Election Day (Oct. 27-28 and Nov. 3-4). Those locations will be posted soon on the county registrar’s website.

How to vote by mail

Voting by mail is still a possibility. The last day to apply for a vote by mail ballot is October 30. (The application must be received by the county registrar by that date.)

Once you’ve filled out your vote by mail ballot, you can drop it off at any polling place on Election Day, or at any one of 150 designated drop-off locations across the county.

If your vote by mail ballot is postmarked on or before November 6 and returned to the county registrar’s office by Friday, November 9, your ballot will be processed and counted. (But please, return your ballot on or by Election Day—don’t push it!)

Where to vote

Your polling place is listed on the back of your sample ballot, but if you’ve misplaced it, don’t worry. This state website lets you plug in your address to find out where you need to go. (If you’re in Los Angeles County, it sends you here.)

If you did not get a sample ballot, make sure you are registered to vote! Check your voter status here.

Get yourself to the polls

If you’re driving, note that parking rules will be “relaxed” within a one-mile radius of every polling location, says Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesperson Oliver Hou. That means parking meters, time limits, preferential parking districts, and street cleaning can be ignored for one day so you can do your civic duty.

Still deciding which way to vote?

You can access all of Curbed LA’s local election coverage here.

What about wearing my “Yes on 10” t-shirt?

Don’t. California has a law forbidding passive electioneering—i.e., wearing any visible campaign statements or carrying signs to a polling place. You will be asked to cover up any politically-charged signage on your body prior to voting.

What to do with your phone down while you’re voting

You can use your cell phone at the poll to access your sample ballot, apps, and to reference any notes you might have taken. And yes, if you feel you must, you can also take a ballot selfie. The in-booth photo is now legal in California.

In bustling downtown Santa Monica, rent-controlled apartments flipping to offices

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Demand is high for office space in beach cities

Santa Monica-based architecture firm KFA Architecture announced this week that it’s leading the restoration and reuse of an 104-year-old landmark.

It’s a new chapter for the handsome brick building, located at Second Street and Arizona Avenue, in the city’s increasingly pricey and bustling downtown. The restoration will turn the Renaissance Revival-style building, once home to more than a dozen disabled and senior renters, into offices for businesses.

Office space in beach neighborhoods, including Santa Monica, as well as Venice, and Playa Vista, continues to be in demand, especially with start-ups and tech companies.

As part of the renovation, the three-story building at 1305 Second Street will be retrofitted for earthquakes, its brick facade and decorative cornice and corbel details will be restored, and a deck area will be added on the roof. Wilshire Skyline, in partnership with Kings Arch, Inc. owns and is developing the project.

Formerly named Mar Vista Apartments, the building, until recently, held 49 rent-controlled apartments. Eight of those units were rented by Section 8 tenants.

The building’s transition from a residential space was not smooth. In March 2014, Wilshire Skyline settled a lawsuit with a group of tenants who had sued alleging harassment. The residents had claimed that the owners were trying to push them out to rent the units at higher rates.

The settlement was aimed at improving conditions for tenants. The owners and management company agreed to receive training in fair housing practices, adopt written policies for making repairs, and halt the practice of offering commissions to employees who persuaded tenants to move out.

Then, less than one year later, in February 2015, the owners invoked the Ellis Act, a state law that allows owners to boot tenants from a rent-controlled building in order to take the building off the rental market.

The last remaining tenants left the building one year later. Fifteen of those residents were disabled or seniors, a report from the Santa Monica Rent Control Board shows.

An opening date for the offices has not been announced.

After heated town hall, LA councilmember ‘still committed’ to Venice homeless shelter

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Venice is home to the largest concentration of homeless residents on the Westside.

The shelter could get a redesign but remains on track to open in 2019

After an acrimonious town hall Wednesday night in which residents shouted, booed, and chanted “recall,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin says he remains focused on building a temporary homeless shelter at a former bus lot in Venice.

“The Councilmember is still committed to helping reduce encampments in Venice by building bridge housing” at the Metro-owned site, Bonin spokesperson David Graham-Caso tells Curbed.

Bonin was joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore at Wednesday night’s meeting. Battling off jeers, the officials discussed plans for the 154-bed shelter, which would be funded through the mayor’s “A Bridge Home” program.

Announced in April, the initiative is aimed at developing temporary housing centers in each of the city’s 15 council districts to give homeless residents in those areas a place to stay while working with service providers to find permanent housing.

Another shelter in Bonin’s district is already moving forward at the Veterans Affairs campus in Brentwood. But the councilmember told the crowd Wednesday that roughly half of the 2,000 homeless residents living in his district are in Venice.

The neighborhood is home to the largest concentration of homeless residents on the Westside.

“Doing nothing is not an alternative,” said Bonin Wednesday. “We must act.”

Members of the audience voiced a legion of concerns about the project, from whether it would lead to an increase in crime in the neighborhood to whether it could attract more homeless residents to the area.

Garcetti, Bonin, and Moore tried to dispel these fears but were often drowned out by chants of “Venice says no.”

Residents of Koreatown also reacted with fierce opposition to a proposed shelter near the Wilshire/Vermont subway station. Councilmember Herb Wesson, who represents the area, eventually agreed to construct a shelter at a different site.

Graham-Caso says that Bonin and members of his staff are still reviewing input gathered at the meeting in Venice and are having conversations with residents.

Designs for the site, presented at the meeting Wednesday, “will likely change based on community feedback,” he says. “There will be a review process and series of public hearings after a [new] design is finalized.”

Plans for the project call for 100 beds for adults, located in a large canopy-like structure with a climate-controlled interior. An additional 54 beds for homeless youth would be located in portable trailers similar to those at a Downtown LA shelter near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.

That facility opened in September and is the first—and, so far, the only—shelter built through the Bridge Home initiative.

According to Graham-Caso, a design change won’t stall the Venice project. He tells Curbed that the council office aims to open the shelter “around the spring of 2019.”

Another hot and dry winter for LA?

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A forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts drought conditions will persist in Southern California.

An El Niño may be developing, but it’s not likely to soak Southern California

Los Angeles is in for another hot winter, with little chance for relief from drought conditions that now exist throughout California, according to a new forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That’s in spite of a probable El Niño event, which could bring above-average rainfall to the southwestern United States. The NOAA estimates that there’s a 70 to 75 percent chance that an El Niño develops in late fall or early winter, but it’s likely to be a weak El Niño, meaning that it’s less likely to bring higher than average rainfall to Southern California.

Two winters ago, even a strong El Niño, which many meteorologists predicted would cause torrential downpours and flooding in Southern California, failed to bring even above-average rainfall to the region.

“California’s tricky,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, told reporters Thursday. “Even [in 2016] when folks thought the stronger El Nino would tip the odds pretty strongly towards wet, that didn’t really pan out.”

This year NOAA climatologists are hedging their bets, predicting neither a wetter-than-average nor a drier-than-average winter for most of California.

Halpert says the agency is more confident that temperatures will be hotter than normal. In fact, warmer temperatures are in the forecast for every state west of the Mississippi.

According to a temperature outlook from the National Weather Service, there’s a 76 percent chance that temperatures near Downtown LA will be near or above average this winter, and only a 24 percent chance that they will be below average.

Warmer weather certainly won’t ease drought conditions in the region. California relies on snow from the Sierra Nevada mountain range for much of its water supply, and if temperatures aren’t cold enough, some of the precipitation the mountains do get this winter could fall as rain.

Thanks to a wet 2017, current drought conditions aren’t nearly as bleak as they were two years ago, but a dry winter could exacerbate the issue considerably.

Halpert says that a key factor in the wetness or dryness of California’s winter will be the number of atmospheric rivers, or streams of water vapor, that develop above the state during the season.

“Six to eight is kind of the ‘holy grail,’ says Halpert. “At this point we don’t really have the ability to predict those.”

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Chairman of LA’s Olympics organizing committee lists Beverly Hills estate for $125M

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If sold at that price, it would be LA’s most expensive home

A home built for sports and marketing executive Casey Wasserman wants to be a record-holder. The Wall Street Journal reports the sprawling contemporary Beverly Hills estate will come on the market with a $125 million price tag.

If it sells for that much, it would be the county’s most expensive house, unseating a Malibu property that Hard Rock Cafe founder Peter Morton sold earlier this year for $110 million.

The three-acre Beverly Hills compound is owned by Wasserman, an entertainment and sports executive who serves as the chairman of the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the 2028 Games.

The property was originally three separate parcels—two owned by Wasserman’s grandparents (the Hollywood studio mogul Lew Wasserman and his wife, philanthropist Edie Wasserman) and one owned by Frank Sinatra.

The house, named Foothill Estate, was built in 2016 and designed by Richard Meier and Partners Architects. Its communal spaces include a “great room” with high ceilings and large automated steel and glass doors that open onto a lawn, dissolving the barrier between indoors and outdoors.

Four bedrooms plus the expansive master suite are upstairs, while staff quarters, a gym, and a screening room are on the first floor. 10- and 12-foot-tall ceilings run throughout the house.

The grounds include a tiled, 85-foot infinity pool, a pool house, and an area for outdoor dining.

Listing agent Stephen Shapiro of the Westside Estate Agency told the Journal that Wasserman was selling because of frequent travel for his role on the Olympic Committee.

Casey Wasserman is a board member at Vox Media, Curbed’s parent company. Vox Media board members have no involvement in Curbed’s editorial planning or execution.

Measure W: LA’s parcel tax for stormwater recycling, explained

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The county wants to institute a parcel tax to clean up water that flows into the ocean.

What would it do, and why is it on the ballot?

Measure W seeks to create a special tax for parcels located in the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, which covers the majority of Los Angeles County. The tax revenue—which homeowners would have to pay—would pay for projects, infrastructure, and programs to capture, treat, and recycle rainwater.

If “The Safe, Clean Water Act” passes, parcels within the flood control district would be taxed at a rate of 2.5 cents per square foot of “impermeable area” (i.e. paved or built-on surfaces that that prevent “stormwater and urban runoff from entering the earth,” like concrete patios).

There would be some exemptions available for properties owned by “qualifying low-income seniors,” government-owned parcels, and those owned by nonprofits. Property owners could apply for credits to pay reduced taxes if they capture or treat stormwater themselves.

Input your address in this online calculator to get an estimate for how much you’d pay if the measure passes.

Who’s behind it?

The parcel tax was proposed by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. In July, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to put the measure on the ballot.

What impact will it have on Los Angeles County?

If the parcel tax is approved, it would raise an estimated $300 million per year for such projects in the LA County.

That money would be doled out to the flood district and cities in the county for projects and programs.

The back story

County officials have said that this tax is needed to help the county and the cities it contains comply with federal water quality laws that require them to capture, treat and recycle runoff.

“The Federal Clean Water Act requires us to clean up our stormwater, but it’s an unfunded mandate,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said at the July 17 supervisors meeting where the measure was approved for the ballot. “We’ve got 88 cities in the county who have been unable to fully address water quality issues because there is no source of funding, and the deadline to meet the requirements is getting closer and closer.”

Arguments for:

  • Approving the measure “will strengthen the county’s capacity to improve water quality and increase water supplies, effectively prepare for emergent environmental and natural hazards, and address the threat of climate change,” county documents say.
  • Urban runoff is a significant source of water pollution. By capturing and treating stormwater, the county could reduce that type of pollution.
  • Approving the measure would help the county use to its advantage billions of gallons of water that would otherwise just run into the ocean.
  • Upgrades to our water system are overdue and much needed.
  • Creating a funding source for stormwater cleanup required by federal law now would help the county avoid expensive penalties later (potentially hundreds of millions of dollars) for not meeting those standards.

“L.A. County is heavily reliant on imported water and faces an uncertain future. Storm water capture systems are a sound investment in our water security efforts.” —Mark Pestrella, director of the LA County Department of Public Works

Arguments against:

  • The measure doesn’t outline specific projects that the money would go toward or any project costs.
  • The parcel tax doesn’t have a set end date, which concerns critics. County residents would have to vote again to end it. Though official wording includes a provision for the county Board of Supervisors to reevaluate the need for the tax in “a period no longer than 30 years,” there are no guarantees the tax would necessarily end at that time.
  • Though property owners who capture stormwater can apply for credits to reduce their taxes, they must essentially reapply for the credits every two years—a process which some say is onerous.

“There are no guaranteed projects, no objectives for capture, no timeline and no guarantees of what the money will pay for. It’s kind of like a blank check,” Los Angeles County Business Federation Advocacy Director D’Andre Valencia told the Long Beach Business Journal

Who supports it?

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
  • Los Angeles County Supervisors Hahn, Kuehl, Solis, and Ridley-Thomas
  • Friends of the Los Angeles River
  • Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO)

Who opposes it?

  • Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed)
  • California Taxpayers Association
  • Valley Industry & Commerce Association
  • Pasadena Chamber of Commerce

For more information:

USC report says average LA rents will go up $91 by 2020

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The report projects that rents will rise 4 percent in the next two years.

“What we find is depressing”

The average Los Angeles renter will spend a little over $90 more per month on housing in 2020 than in 2018, according to a new report from USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.

The authors of the 2018 Casden Multifamily Forecast, a rental market study published Wednesday, estimate that LA renters now pay $2,267 per month, on average. They project that number will rise to $2,358 in 2020—an increase of 4 percent.

Tenants might not see that as cause for celebration, but that’s a far more conservative bump in prices than what was predicted last year in the same forecast. Authors of the 2017 report estimated that monthly rental payments would rise 6 percent by 2019, with average prices hitting $2,373.

The 2020 forecasted price is lower than that in 2019 in part because LA’s rental market has stagnated in recent months. According to the report, rental prices in the county climbed 1.1 percent in the last year. Between 2016 and 2017, they rose 5 percent.

The report’s authors note that, while more than half of LA residents rent rather than own their homes, the county’s homeownership rate increased by a full percentage point in 2017. The pace of new housing construction is also on the rise. In the first two quarters of 2018, the number of housing permits issued is up 44.8 percent countywide.

These factors may have contributed to a slight uptick in the countywide vacancy rate, which now stands at 4 percent. As the report notes, that’s still low enough to push rents upward, but lower demand is helping to keep prices from soaring.

None of this means that rents are affordable for residents—including those earning typical incomes.

“What we find is depressing,” write the authors of the report, in a section on affordability in Southern California.

In Los Angeles, renters who earn the county’s median income would need to devote nearly half of their earnings toward rent in order to afford a median-priced apartment.

Things get worse for lower-earning renters. For those in the 25th percentile of earners (meaning that they make less than 75 percent of residents), paying for a rental unit in the 25th percentile of price points would require an investment of 58 percent of their pay. That’s nearly twice the 30 percent threshold deemed appropriate for housing costs by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

”There is a poor match between people’s housing cost and incomes right now, and no amount of sorting will, by itself, fix this issue,” Richard Green, director of the Lusk Center and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

Green suggests the key to housing affordability in Southern California is ensuring that vacancy rates continue to rise.

“The way to raise vacancy rates is to build more,” Green said.

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Here’s the real-life ‘A Star Is Born’ house

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Bradley Cooper’s home from the star-studded film is actually this Calabasas charmer

An architectural star has been born in Calabasas.

Rumors circulated over the past week that Jackson Maine’s (a.k.a. Bradley Cooper’s) house from A Star Is Born was a rustic but modern charmer located in the upscale community just west of Los Angeles.

The rumor is true: Permits on file with FilmLA confirm that the film’s production team shot at the home.

Built in 1973, the single-story dwelling in the Monte Nido neighborhood of Calabasas was designed by Malibu architect Douglas Rucker, who, coincidentally enough, also designed a house for Kris Kristofferson, star of the 1976 version of A Star Is Born opposite Barbra Streisand.

The Calabasas home was later renovated by Dan Meis, the Staples Center architect who bought it in 2015 and lived there until last year, when he sold it to an LLC named Eden Wild for a smidge over $2 million.

While it’s located just on the outskirts of a major city, its secluded feel reflects the country singer’s low-key personality and apparent discomfort with his own fame.

 Celeste Lindell
‘A Star Is Born’ filmed all over LA, including at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.

Like the best film locations, it serves as a thematic outgrowth of the character. It’s also simply beautiful to look at.

The production would have filmed in the home during a period of transition. Meis listed the post and beam residence for $2.495 million in February of 2017, but it didn’t sell until September, giving Cooper and company enough time to swoop in and utilize the space in May and June of last year.

A Star Is Born was filmed all over Los Angeles, at such iconic locations as the Shrine Auditorium, the Chateau Marmont, Griffith Park, the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Regent Theater, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, and The Short Stop bar in Echo Park. The home of Lady Gaga’s Ally, meanwhile, is located at 5223 Shearin Avenue in Eagle Rock.

The Calabasas home was first identified on October 6 by Los Angeles Times reporter Amy Kaufman, who tweeted:

Nestled among a grove of mature native oak trees on a full acre of land, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom midcentury boasts an idyllic indoor-outdoor feel thanks to generous skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows that bring in natural light. Meanwhile, vaulted and beamed ceilings give it the unmistakable aura of a forest cabin, a quality that reflects Maine’s country-boy roots.

Appropriately, the 2,986 square-foot home also features a spacious art studio with its own private entrance, along with three fireplaces (two indoor, one outdoor), an outdoor deck with built-in barbecue, and a detached two-car garage.

It’s easy to see why Cooper, who also directed A Star Is Born, chose the house as Maine’s sanctuary.

But unfortunately for Kaufman and the rest of A Star Is Born’s arena-sized fanbase, the home is no longer up for grabs. Some dreams just aren’t meant to be.

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Venice residents jeer as LA mayor lays out plan for 154-bed homeless shelter

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“Venice Beach: Where human poop and needles are part of the fun,” reads a protest sign at a Venice town hall on a proposed emergency homeless shelter.

Residents say they fear the shelter would attract more homeless residents to the area

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Michel Moore were present Wednesday night at a heated town hall in Venice to discuss a proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

Members of the 400-plus crowd, some holding a banner that said “Venice Beach: Where human poop and needles are part of the fun,” shouted and booed as the mayor laid out plans for the project, which would rise from a former bus yard at the northern edge of the city.

“This is a decision about whether we keep people on the streets or take them off the streets,” said Garcetti, struggling at times to be heard over members of the crowd. “I think that’s an easy decision.”

The proposed shelter is part of the mayor’s “A Bridge Home” program, which calls for temporary shelters in each of the city’s 15 council districts. Announced in April, the plan has become a key part of the mayor’s strategy to address LA’s homelessness crisis.

Renderings of the shelter on display at the town hall.
Renderings of the shelter on display at the town hall.

Last month, the first of these shelters opened near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument in Downtown LA. According to the mayor, 11 of the shelter’s early residents have already been placed into housing.

The shelter in Venice would be about three times larger than the El Pueblo facility, in terms of capacity. It would contain 100 beds for adults and 54 beds for homeless youth, with separate bathrooms and showers for both groups.

But Venice residents speaking Wednesday night said they fear the shelter would attract more homeless residents to the area.

“Is this just a welcome mat for the rest of the country?” asked another resident when Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, and chief Michel Moore began taking questions from the audience.

One resident likened the shelter to a luxury hotel.

“You have transients here, and there’s going to be more of them if you put in this Ritz Carlton by the beach,” said Venice resident Travis Binen.

To address some of these concerns, city officials have promised to dedicate increased funding for sanitation in areas around shelters and step up enforcement of laws preventing residents from storing bulky items on the street.

That hasn’t satisfied opponents of the project, who wore matching shirts and chanted “Venice says no” throughout the meeting.

Many questions from the crowd centered on whether the shelter would lead to a rise in crime or drug use.

“Most people who are homeless in Venice are not criminals,” said Bonin, drawing boos.

The Venice project is one of 12 proposed shelters that the city is now moving forward with, in addition to the El Pueblo facility. Plans for a shelter in the heart of Koreatown were scrapped when neighbors protested the proposed location, near the Wilshire/Vermont subway station.

Proposed shelter sites in Sherman Oaks, Wilmington, and San Pedro drew similar objections from neighbors.

Not all residents in attendance at the Venice meeting say they are against the shelter.

“Venice is supposed to be about community and love,” said one resident, who identified as homeless. “We’re not going away.”

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American Airlines starts $1.6B renovation project at LAX

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American Airlines plans to build a connection to the airport’s future people mover system.

Getting ready for the airport’s new shuttle system

American Airlines kicked off construction Wednesday on a major overhaul of two terminals that the airline operates out of at LAX.

As part of a new lease agreement with Los Angeles World Airports, American plans to spend $1.6 billion over the next decade remodeling terminals 4 and 5.

To start, the airline will build a connection between the terminals and a planned people mover system that will shuttle riders from the airport to a future Metro station at Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street.

According to a statement from American, the company further plans to combine the entrances of the two terminals, creating a “unified departure hall” with new ticket counters and check-in areas. American will also upgrade the bathrooms, restaurants, seating, and shopping areas in the terminals.

The terminal upgrades are part of a larger overhaul at LAX that includes installation of the people mover system and a reconfiguration of the airport’s rental car facilities. Both are projected to open in 2023.

Some of the airport’s other terminals have already been upgraded, and Delta began a $1.9 billion renovation of terminals 2 and 3 earlier this year. LAWA, which operates LAX, is also adding a new 12-gate concourse to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It’s set to open at the end of 2019.

American Airlines departure hall
American Airlines terminal interior
American Airlines interior terminal

 
 
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