Let L.A. Be L.A.

by Joel Kotkin – published 7-30-2012 in City-Journal.org
Unrestrained high-density development doesn’t become the City of Angels.

Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments. The proposal—which calls for residential towers of 50 stories or more along Hollywood Boulevard, where no building currently tops 20 stories—has been approved unanimously by the city council and will now probably be challenged in court.

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SaveHollywood.org is currently suing the City to prevent it from being destroyed. The facts and the law are on our side but we will have to show it in court. Lawsuits are costly. We need your financial support to save the Hollywood we all love. Now is the time to act. Please take a moment to use the “Donate” button or write a check to SaveHollywood.org to make it a success.

Transit Oriented Development a Huge Failure

Mayor Villaraigosa’s promise of “elegant density” is falling flat on its face. The labor union Unite Here Local 11 has drawn attention to troubled sales at the new W Hollywood Residences, and warns buyers and real estate agents of the luxe condos’ sharply declining prices. According to county assessor figures only 29 out of 143 units have sold since the condo/hotel project opened in May 2010.

Transit Oriented Development a Huge Failure

 

Communication Breakdown on Mt. Lee

by George Abrahams

This Daily News article highlights the extreme vulnerability within our communication system – the very system that makes 911 calls save lives, gets fire engines to your home on time, and allows seamless communication between officers, dispatch, etc. This vital communication hub on Mt. Lee was offline for a full 12 hours on Tuesday, April 3rd due to an accident during the testing of a back-up generator. Mayor Villaraigosa attempted to downplay the significance of the communication failure, the magnitude was significant.

Councilman Mitch Englander of the 12th Council District, blamed Tony Royster, the General Services Department General Manager, for the error and is even calling for his head on some bureaucratic platter.

The real fault is with the mayor and the city council. They are responsible for the absence of a fully redundant emergency communication system. While they have been wasting money on pet projects and busy diverting the tax base increment to failed, money-losing CRA projects, our infrastructure has been badly neglected.

I suggest anyone living in Hollywood or Los Angeles, for that matter, do two things right now:

1)    Write to Councilmember.Englander@lacity.org and tell him not to get rid of Royster! This man is being made a scapegoat. There’s no value in adding one more person to the unemployment lines. The City Council and Mayor should take full responsibility for this event.

2)    Write a letter to Sharon.Gin@lacity.org in the City Clerk’s office. Refer to file number 12-0303. This is one more example of why we need to oppose the increased density element of the Hollywood Community Plan Update. Our inadequate infrastructure cannot support the development we currently have.

LAPD Radio System Fails For 12 Hours

Daily News – Rick Orlov, Staff Writer

After Los Angeles Police Department radio communications went down for half the day on Tuesday, a city councilman on Wednesday demanded the firing of the official whose agency caused the problem.

Councilman Mitch Englander said he will call for the dismissal of General Services Department general manager Tony Royster for the power outage Tuesday at Mount Lee, where all LAPD radio communications equipment is housed.

Englander, who is a reserve officer, said General Services crews were sent to the Mount Lee facility – located not far from the Hollywood sign – to test a backup generator. However, he said, the test failed and knocked out all power at Mount Lee, shutting down radio communications.

“It placed the public and officers at extreme risk,” Englander said.

LAPD officials and the Mayor’s Office, however, said backup systems were used that ultimately prevented any serious breakdowns in communication.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the power failure turned into a test of the department’s emergency response operations.

“We were able to handle it without too much of a problem,” Smith said. “We run drills all the time to test our system and that’s what this turned into.”

“It was a good exercise for us. Our center was down for about 12 hours, but we still had communication from the stations to the cars and the car computers never went down.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office was informed of the problem and said backup systems were put into effect.

“When that equipment didn’t work, other redundant systems kicked in at the LAPD,” spokesman Peter Sanders said. “The LAPD successfully handled 911 calls and no emergency responses were threatened.”

Englander, however, insisted that the problem was more serious than that. The communications breakdown meant a delayed response to emergencies, as 911 calls had to be answered manually with operators then calling stations to dispatch an officer, he said.

For officers, he said, the danger came in the form of an inability to get immediate access to information, such as a driver history based on license plates.

“We weren’t able to find out if the person had a record, was being sought for anything or had violent tendencies,” Englander said. “A traffic stop can be the most dangerous stop we make.”

Because the Valley Dispatch Center was also down due to electrical problems, Englander said the department also lost communication with the main Metropolitan Communications Dispatch Center.

“They should have checked with the department first and there is no way they would have allowed them to work on Mount Lee until the Valley Dispatch Center’s problem was fixed,” Englander said.

“While the system is back up and operating normally, a failure of the GSD management of this magnitude resulting in the shut down of our most critical system (demands answers),” Englander said. “Whoever is responsible for this lapse needs to be held accountable.”

rick.orlov@dailynews.com

213-978-0390

twitter.com/rickorlov

The Hollywood Community Plan Update – a Fiasco in the Making

By Dick Platkin –

Published in CityWatchLA.com –

THE CITY – The Update of the Hollywood Community Plan is not only opposed by every neighborhood council and resident group in Hollywood, but also by city planning professionals like myself.  I was part of the team of Los Angeles city planners who prepared the General Plan Framework in the mid-1990’s, the adopted citywide plan which public officials, like Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmembers Garcetti and LaBonge, claim the Update implements. (Link)
In fact, the Update totally conflicts with LA’s General Plan.  It is nothing more than the city planning version of the fantasy film, Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer built a baseball diamond that magically materialized high caliber baseball teams and games.

The politicians promoting this “plan” believe that a slew of mega-projects in Hollywood will propel economic growth.  Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why the General Plan Framework is strongly opposed to such real estate bubbles.

First, Hollywood’s public infrastructure and services cannot support super-sized projects, a barrier clearly documented in the Update’s Final Environment Impact Report.

Second, there is no evidence that the upscale tenants, shoppers, and residents required to make these mega-projects succeed will ever materialize.  LA is no longer a boomtown, but an old, deteriorating city, mired in poverty, inequality, and decay.  Instead, like the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, the new skyscrapers encouraged by the Update will languish until their developers are forced to beg for public handouts to avoid bankruptcy.

If City Hall really wants to revitalize Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles, it must provide amenities, not green light financial speculation.  This city desperately needs code enforcement, bans on supergraphics and billboards, undergrounded utility wires, good schools, extensive transit and bike lanes, more parks and community centers, repaired streets and sidewalks, and an urban forest.

This ought to be the clear local lesson from the Wall Street financial crisis that began in 2008 and has yet to be resolved.

(Richard Platkin is a veteran planning professional and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at rhplatkin@yahoo.com) -cw

Richard (Dick) H. Platkin, AICP