2016 Year in Review
Following are updates and reminders of some of the most important stories we covered in 2016.
RYU FOR CONGRESS?
In December, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu toyed with the idea of running in a spring 2017 special election for Xavier Becerra’s 34th Congressional seat after Becerra was selected by Gov. Jerry Brown to replace state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who won U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat in the November 8th election.
But less than a week after the news was leaked, Ryu decided against it.
“I have spent the last several days talking to family, friends, and constituents about the future of our communities and our country, and I thank all those who encouraged me to run. However, after careful thought, it’s even more clear to me that my heart remains here in Los Angeles, in the neighborhoods and schools where I grew up, and with the diverse communities I have the honor of serving. Therefore, I will not seek the 34th Congressional seat.”
The 34th District includes Koreatown and parts of Hancock Park and Larchmont Village as well as Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Mt. Washington and other communities.
Ryu was elected in May 2015 to represent Los Angeles City Council District 4, formerly represented by termed-out councilmember Tom LaBonge.
CITY LIGHTS DEVELOPMENT IN LOS FELIZ
A controversial apartment and retail complex at the six-point intersection of Hillhurst Avenue and Hollywood and Sunset boulevards was approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission in September, and according to Corey Leff of developers Chandler Pratt & Partners, they hope to break ground on construction by the end of 2017.
The project will be a four to six story building with 202 apartments and 14,725 square feet of commercial space.
The development was first announced in 2014 and throughout various iterations and presentations at public meetings, has been called by some locals “obscene” in size, “an abomination” and “cookie cutter” in design.
“We spent a lot of time with the Los Feliz Improvement District and the land use committee of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council (LFNC) as well its governing board,” said Leff. “We really tried to take in all the comments we heard.”
Ultimately, at the LFNC’s request, the developers met in 2015 with local architects Brenda Levin and Michael Lehrer for input on the project’s look.
According to Leff, some of the architect’s recommendations, including adding more retail along Hillhurst Avenue, have been included in the final design, but he was unspecific.
Leff additionally said plans now reduce the “big feeling of the building,” but “the exterior won’t change too much,” he said.
Earlier in August, the developer received approval to combine 12 different land parcels and a public alleyway into one parcel for the project. Some locals, especially those with children, had hoped the alleyway—which has been used by elementary and middle school students to ride their bicycles to and from school—would remain, but the city disagreed.
At the August hearing, a handful of locals spoke against the project, including one Los Feliz resident who said she had about 1,300 signatures against it.
According to Luke Klipp, president of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, “the developers’ revised proposal that came before [the] LFNC in June of  included additional parking and removed…variance requests, in response to the initial concerns of the LFNC when the project first came before the board in December 2014.”
However, some lingering concerns of the LFNC, like traffic and pedestrian crossing issues and a designated pocket right turn-lane heading southbound on Hillhurst Avenue at Hollywood Boulevard, were read into the record at the City Planning Commission in August, ostensibly to be considered later, as the commission’s hearing only concerned combining the various parcels at the site into one.
Because the project did not ask for anything beyond what is allowed by current city planning rules, a vote on the project was not required by the Los Angeles City Council.
8150 SUNSET BOULEVARD/ FRANK GEHRY PROJECT
The Los Angeles City Council approved in November a controversial Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use apartment complex on the eastern edge of the Sunset Strip at Crescent Heights Boulevard, but only after Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu sought changes to the project, including a height reduction and fewer residential units—229, down from 249. The project will also have 65,000 square feet of commercial space with plans for a grocery store, retail and restaurants.
During much public debate on the project, some have derided its look and density, while others have said Gehry’s design is a masterpiece and will assist Los Angeles in becoming a world-class city.
Complicating the issue is the Lytton Savings and Loan Building—now a Chase bank—designed in 1960 by renowned architect Kurt Meyer and considered by many to be an important example of mid-century modern design. In December, the Los Angeles City Council voted to designate the structure an historic cultural monument.
However, Lytton’s historic designation does not negate the council’s previous approval of the Frank Gehry-designed project proposed for the same location, which currently calls for the bank’s demolition.
Instead, the designation will initiate an additional 180-day review process before construction on the Gehry project can begin.
According to Brian Lewis of Marathon Communications, a spokesman for Townscape Partners, the developers of the Gehry project, Townscape has no intention of revising the project to prevent Lytton’s demolition.
“Recognizing that the Historic Cultural Monument status merely adds additional time for us to implement our mitigation measures, we remain committed to moving forward with our approved project that will bring world-class architecture to Hollywood, provide much-needed housing, attract great retail options for the area, and create new jobs,” said Lewis in a written statement.
Additionally, three lawsuits were filed in 2016 against the city regarding the project, including one from the Los Angeles Conservancy over the Lytton issue and another by the activist group Fix the City, regarding the project’s density and scope, which petitioners say is not in scale with the surrounding neighborhood.
LABONGE DESTRUCTION OF DOCUMENTS/LAWSUITS
The First Amendment Coalition filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in August against the city of Los Angeles, alleging it illegally destroyed public records and therefore has used taxpayer funds to “implement, enforce or otherwise carry out illegal policies and practices,” in doing so.
The case is now wending its way through Los Angeles Superior Court with the next hearing on February 7, 2017.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the city from “destroying any public records less than two years old…and from spending the money of the [c]ity and the State of California in furtherance of its illegal policies and practices, which further the destruction of records that are less than two years old.”
The issue of the city’s destruction of public records came to light after former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge ordered the destruction of at least 113 boxes of documents from his office in the weeks prior to his last day in office in July of 2015.
In court documents filed in October in response to the lawsuit, the city indicated: “In response to the actions by former City [C]ouncilmember Tom LaBonge, the [c]ity created a formal disposition schedule for [c]ity councilmembers and their offices.”
Disposition schedules are routinely used by cities across the country providing timelines of how long city officials’ and staff’s records and documents must be retained and then either destroyed or archived.
The city of Los Angeles’s disposition schedules for elected officials were approved in September, the first such approval in decades.
“The City Council has not had a formal records retention schedule as a group that we can find for at least the last 30 years,” Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott wrote in an email to the Ledger September 4th.
The lawsuit was the second known filing seeking remedies related to the destruction of LaBonge’s documents.
In the first, a Hollywood Hills homeowner had requested an approval of a land-use issue as a punitive measure against the city for allegedly allowing documents related to his case to be destroyed. A judge this summer ruled against the homeowner.
Additionally, Los Feliz residents Michael Miller and Stephanie Scher, two retired city attorneys for multiple cities in Southern California, sent a demand letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on August 30th stating the mayor had failed in his duties overseeing the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office regarding the destruction of public records.
The five-page letter additionally requested remedies regarding the city’s allowance of document destruction by elected officials including the termination of City Clerk Holly Wolcott for “violation of duties pursuant to being the custodian of [c]ity records.”
According to Miller, 74, he never heard back from Garcetti.
“Yes, you are a big city but the idea of not responding is just abhorrent to me,” Miller said in an interview.
Miller said he was pleased the city has now implemented procedures to prevent future destruction of public records. But, he said, he felt Garcetti could have taken more responsibility regarding the issue, especially acknowledging that the city had been operating in violation of state and city law.
“Where is the statement?” Miller said. “I’ve not seen anywhere that what was done was improper and won’t be done again.”
When LaBonge’s replacement, David Ryu, took office in July 2015 he and other current and former city staffers had said LaBonge left no documents behind.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office received a few complaints regarding LaBonge’s conduct. According to spokesperson Greg Risling, the issue remains under review regarding a possible investigation.
For his part, Ryu authored a motion, which is still being considered by a sub committee of city council, for the city to create official policy for transitioning elected officials.
While that was not completed in 2016, according to Ryu spokesperson, Estevan Montemayor, the city has taken a major step by issuing disposition schedules for city councilmembers.
“The councilmember feels a major component of this has already been addressed by the document retention schedules,” said Montemayor. “By finding a solution on that, [Ryu] hopes that any further issues [relative to transitioning councilmembers in the future] will be mitigated.”
POLICE SHOOTING OF WALTER DELEON
Two important developments in the shooting of Walter DeLeon occurred in April of 2016.
DeLeon was shot in the head by Los Angeles Police Dept. (LAPD) officers while walking down Los Feliz Boulevard in June 2015, after they mistakenly thought he was concealing a gun under a towel draped over his arm.
On April 5, 2016, attorneys for DeLeon filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the LAPD and the two officers involved, alleging their client’s civil rights were violated and LAPD officer Cairo Palacios “acted unreasonably and without privilege or justification,” when he shot DeLeon, which resulted in “catastrophic injuries” to DeLeon.
According to legal documents, DeLeon’s injuries included the loss of one pound of his brain, two weeks in a coma, the inability to walk and the loss of one eye and near-complete and permanent blindness in his other eye.
DeLeon has said he was only enjoying a walk near 4300 Los Feliz Blvd. June 19th around 6:30 p.m. He said he often walked in and near Griffith Park, as he was staying with his sister, who lives nearby. He has also said he was carrying a towel only to wipe away perspiration.
Meanwhile, on April 19th, the Los Angeles Police Commission found that officer Palacios was justified in the shooting.
Spokespeople for the LAPD have said Palacios, a nine-year veteran of the force, and his still-unidentified partner, feared the gray towel DeLeon carried that evening was possibly concealing a weapon. They claim they shouted at DeLeon twice to put up his hands, and when he did not, Palacios opened fire.
DeLeon is being represented by the law firm of Geragos and Geragos out of downtown Los Angeles. Attorneys have said the commissioner’s ruling will have “no impact” on DeLeon’s civil rights lawsuit.
“The stakes have not been higher for the LAPD in over a generation,” said Ben Meiselas, an attorney with Geragos and Geragos. “Walter DeLeon survived the unthinkable. In cases like this, usually there’s not a survivor. It’s usually the officer’s word versus a dead person’s word.”
The lawsuit on behalf of DeLeon requests a jury trial and unspecified damages.
GATTO’S CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY REPLACEMENT
Glendale City Councilmember Laura Friedman will replace termed-out California State Assemblymember Mike Gatto (District 43) after beating Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian 65% to 35% in the November 8, 2016 election for the seat.
Friedman, 49, ran on a platform of curbing rising housing prices, rising childcare costs and unemployment in Glendale and more.
Friedman additionally cited homelessness in the district as well as access to mental health and substance abuse care and resources for the district’s aging population as key issues if elected.
Kassakhian, who ran on a platform highlighting stabilizing education costs and ensuring sustainable job growth, received 13 endorsements out of 15 current elected Glendale officials and that of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, among others.
Thank you to Mike Gatto for your tireless work in Sacramento on our behalf and always submitting your monthly column to the Ledger on time. Look to our February 2017 edition to read Friedman’s first column as our new Assemblymember.
When Scientology Media Productions opened in May 2016 in the former KCET Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Los Feliz, along with it came the controversial addition of the church’s illuminated logo to the top of the site’s existing 150-foot communications tower.
When church officials showed the logo design to the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council in 2015, a committee of the council recommended not approving it, as some local residents had complained the logo was “intrusive,” “an eyesore,” and would beam light directly into their windows.
The full council was to have weighed in on the issue in 2015, but a representative from the church asked that the item be withdrawn from hearing. Many had expected the church would represent revised plans to the LFNC based on community concerns, but they never materialized.
Ultimately, the church received approvals from two city departments for the signage.
CRYSTAL SPRINGS BALLFIELD
After years of litigation and then finally a compromise to build one larger ballfield south of the primary picnic area of the Crystal Springs area of Griffith Park instead of two smaller fields immediately adjacent to the area’s 117 picnic tables, an internal city memo indicated the cost for the project—initially estimated at $500,000—was grossly underestimated by over $2 million.
In November 2016, voters approved a ballot measure for an additional annual property tax of 1.5 cents per square foot—estimated at about $22.50 per year for a 1,500 square-foot home—which would go towards improving existing city parks as well as creating new ones.
Shortly after the ballfield funding shortfall was discovered, in June 2016, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu indicated that funds from that ballot measure could possibly be used for the ballfield.
“That is still our plan,” said Ryu spokesperson Estevan Montemayor, adding that the council office is currently waiting for the county to announce its plan to prioritize projects now that the measure has passed.
“When they announce the process,” Montemayor said, “Crystal Springs is definitely on our list of projects. Once they do that, we will move forward.”
Griffith Park, which is 4,200 acres, has one baseball field for high school or adult play, but none for children.
PERFORMANCE ARTS STAGE
A performance arts stage will now be built in the Old Zoo area of Griffith Park, after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city of Los Angeles in October over the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and the non profit Friends of Griffith Park that the stage was “unobtrusive” and would not impose substantial negative impacts to the site.
The judge’s decision was a victory for Los Feliz based Symphony in the Glen and the Independent Shakespeare Co., both of which have provided free performances at the site for years. But doing so required the costly and time-consuming practice of building a stage and striking it each season, typically summertime.
In a released statement, a spokesperson for Friends of Griffith Park indicated settlement talks with the city broke down when the city’s Dept. of Recreation and Parks would not agree to “operational limitations,” specifically that performances be free, that sound and light be kept at a low level to minimize the impact on wildlife, that performances end before the park closes at 10:30 p.m. and that attendance be capped at 2,500 per evening.
It is not clear when construction of the stage will begin. Barbara Ferris of Symphony in the Glen said she has not been alerted of any next steps and a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks did not return a request for comment on deadline.
NUNS AND KATY PERRY
A trial date of May 23, 2017 has been set in the case of two nuns and local entrepreneur Dana Hollister versus the Los Angeles Archdiocese and singer Katy Perry over who has the right to purchase a convent on Waverly Drive in Los Feliz.
The legal case dates back to June 2015, when the Los Angeles Archdiocese filed a lawsuit against nuns, Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman of the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who had entered into an agreement to sell the property to Hollister, who wants to turn the property into a boutique hotel.
The archdiocese, who wishes to sell the property to Perry, claims the nuns have no legal authority to enter into such an agreement.
Elements of the case have been appealed to a higher court. In one instance, a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled in September that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge abused her discretion by not allowing the nuns’ attorneys time to prepare for a hearing. The higher court’s ruling subsequently negated a previous ruling by Judge Stephanie Bowick that the sale to Hollister was void.
FRANKLIN HILLS ANNEXATION
After considerable controversy concerning possible declining property values and potential home insurance hikes, the Franklin Hills Residents Assoc. (FHRA) has declined to pursue extending the boundaries of Franklin Hills into a portion of Los Feliz, according to the association’s fall/winter 2016 newsletter.
Had the FHRA continued with its plans and received Los Angeles City Council approval to add a “community identity sign” at the corner of Tracy and Talmadge streets—thereby changing the area’s city-planned boundary—approximately 250 to 300 households in Los Feliz would have been annexed into Franklin Hills.
According to the FHRA, they had simply wanted to add an 8th community identity sign for recognition of work the organization has done at and near that intersection.
SILVER LAKE RESERVOIR REFILLING
The Silver Lake Reservoir will finally be refilled, with a projected start date of May 1st, officials from the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power (LADWP) confirmed in September.
During a September 20th meeting that brought over 200 locals to Los Feliz’s John Marshall High School, LADWP officials confirmed the refilling would indeed happen and spent a good deal of time discussing methods of getting the water—and what kind—to the location.
At the very least, more underground pipes will need to be installed and trees removed and replanted for the refilling. So more construction is on the way and could begin soon in 2017.
The Silver Lake Reservoir was emptied and taken off line as a city water supply source in 2015.
For years now, dust has been flying up into the neighborhood from the bottom of the reservoir, and many locals complain it’s generally an eyesore without water in it.
Locals are anxious to bring the lake back to life. Some have suggested transforming a refilled reservoir into “Silver Lake Plunge,” complete with swimming, a sandy shoreline, umbrellas and lap lanes, while others envision making the dam between the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe reservoirs an esplanade.
The third anniversary of the murder of Joseph Gatto, the father of now retired California State Assemblymember Mike Gatto, passed in November 2016.
Earlier in the year, the Ledger reported Nicole Gatto, the daughter of Joseph and sister to Mike, was married the same day, November 12, 2013, her father was killed in his Silver Lake home.
Additionally, in November 2016, the Ledger reported the elder Gatto had confided in his cousin and his accountant that he had rewritten his will to exclude Nicole as a beneficiary. The sources indicated Gatto was displeased with Nicole’s relationship with her now husband Mark C. Moreno.
However, Nicole and Moreno both denied those accounts, saying they were close with Gatto and remain distraught over his death.
Additionally, in November, the Ledger reported the family is now involved in probate hearings over a valuable wood cradle that Nicole, the estate’s executrix, wants to sell as part of her late father’s estate, over her brother Mike’s claims their father had intended it be bequeathed to him.
Finally, in December, the Los Angeles Police Dept. released partial information from two police reports filed regarding a possibly related car burglary that occurred blocks away the same night Gatto was murdered. The report indicated the suspect in the burglary, according to one witnesses was carrying a “blue semi-automatic handgun.”
That detail of the gun’s description, according to Mike Gatto, had never been released.
ST. MARY OF THE ANGELS LAWSUIT AND BUILDING LEASE
Nearly all of the ongoing legal issues involving St. Mary of the Angels Church, except for an appeal filed a year ago without any action, have been resolved.
Most recently, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled on behalf of Father Christopher Kelley December 12, 2016 in a summary judgment that the petitioners fighting to remove him, including Los Feliz resident Marilyn Bush, “had no standing to initiate the litigation” according to Kelley.
Bush and others filed suit in 2012 to remove Kelley and assume control of the church. Ultimately, the lawsuit morphed into four separate cases, including a civil suit filed by Bush and others against Kelley and his family, which Kelley said was also dismissed last December 12th.
“We have cleared the rubbish from the back past,” said Kelley in an interview.
At one point during the 3-½ year legal proceedings, Bush and others won control in court and took over the church, while Kelley and his supporters refused to leave.
Locks were changed, security guards hired, and at one point the parish’s warring factions even operated from different floors inside the church building.
Finally, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled December 15, 2015 in Kelley’s favor and he and his supporters retook possession of the church in February of 2016.
Bush and others did file an appeal shortly after that December 2015 ruling, which is the one legal challenge that remains.
Kelley was the rector at St. Mary’s from 2007 until his firing in 2012 by the Anglican Church of America.
The complex saga began in 2011 after the parish voted twice to exit the Anglican Church and become Roman Catholic after then Pope Benedict XVI opened the door in 2009 for Protestant parishes to do so.
Overlapping that issue, was a vote, taken by the church’s governing body—called a vestry—asking Kelley to resign as their priest in 2011.
Kelley refused, indicating, in part, he and the church were no longer under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church, citing the parish vote to move to Roman Catholicism. At that time, there was a so-called “holding tank”—a gray area, for lack of a better term—for parishes awaiting confirmation into the Roman Catholic faith.
Bush claimed in legal filings that the vestry had reason to fire Kelley, mostly over church financial wrongdoing. However, court documents showed those claims were unfounded.
Regarding the lease of the church’s property—what locals still refer to as the old Citibank building—negotiations to find a new lessee, Kelley said, are still ongoing.
Citibank moved from the space in October 2015 for smaller quarters on Hillhurst Avenue.
According to Kelley, Box Brothers used the building’s downstairs space throughout the 2016 holiday season, but still, he said, there is no announcement for a new tenant.
“It’s taken a while,” Kelley said. “It’s been vacant for over a year.”
GREEK THEATER UNDER CITY MANAGEMENT
Aside from a few early hiccups, the first city of Los Angeles-run Greek Theatre season was, by most measures, a resounding success, according to an end-of-year report delivered December 14th at a meeting of the city’s Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners.
2016 marked the Griffith Park venue’s first season under city management in four decades, following a controversial decision not to renew long-time booking and management company Nederlander’s contract when it expired in October 2015.
Instead, the city decided to maintain control of the Greek, and implement an “open venue” policy, which allows multiple promoters, including Nederlander and Live Nation—who were initially being considered to take over running the venue—to book concerts there.
“We decided we would try for a year, then determine the long-term fate of the Greek Theatre,” said Recreation and Parks Chief of Staff AP Diaz.
Now, one year later, Diaz said the department plans to continue its open venue model “long term.”
Previously, Recreation and Parks General Manager Mike Shull said the primary motivation for taking over control of the venue was to generate more revenue for city parks, and the city seems to have achieved that goal.
According to the report, under city control, the venue generated $5.2 million in profit for the city’s Recreation and Parks Dept., compared with a previous 10-year average of annual $1.56 million in profit when Nederlander was running the venue.
Additionally, the city made $1.5 million in renovations during 2016 to the venue, including some needed structural reinforcements, creating a new entrance with lit signage and replanting the hillside behind the venue, after hundreds of trees died due to California’s now six-year drought.
Now, “the trees are growing and healthy” thanks in part to new irrigation installed during the replanting, said Diaz.
Other improvements include increased offsite parking and shuttle service to the venue, as well as a designated pick-up and drop-off area for rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber, to help mitigate some of the traffic and noise issues in the quiet residential neighborhood immediately surrounding the venue.
The city will also implement stricter noise regulations and penalties for 2017, following an April 28th Iggy Pop concert, which the Los Feliz Improvement Assoc. said generated more residential complaints in one night than the last three years combined.
PATRONS REPORT BEING ROOFIED AT SILVER LAKE BAR
After a June tweet by stand-up comedian Kate Berlant warned of women allegedly being “roofied”—or unwittingly dosed with a “date rape drug,” such as Rohypnol or GHB, slipped into their drinks—at Silver Lake bar Tenants of the Trees, several patrons came forward saying they, too, had been roofied at the bar.
In July, the bar’s co-owner Reza Fahim told the Ledger via email that the owners were taking allegations seriously, had reached out to police and were working to raise awareness of the issue among their patrons.
However, when asked for an update on their investigations, bar representatives did not provide a comment by our publication deadline.
In July, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council sent a strongly worded letter to the Los Angeles Police Commission, asking that they refuse the bar’s request for a new live music permit, citing the alleged druggings, along with noise, safety and other neighborhood quality of life issues caused by the bar, which the council said exhibited “[a] lack of basic common decency towards our community.”
The bar was granted the new permit in November by the Los Angeles Police Commission.
MULHOLLAND FOUNTAIN DAMAGE
A report on the extent of the damage to the William Mulholland Memorial Fountain—an historic cultural monument and popular backdrop for wedding photos, located at Los Feliz Boulevard and Riverside Drive—caused by California’s drought is expected at the end of January, according to Amanda Parsons, Media Relations Manager for the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power (LADWP).
The 50,000 gallon fountain, known affectionately as the “Kool-Aid” fountain for its brightly colored lights, began to dry out and crumble in fall of 2016, due to drought restrictions, that summer’s unusually high temperatures and, to a lesser extent, the draining and cleaning required after several instances of people using the fountain as a restroom.
Pending the report, repairs are expected to be completed by the summer of 2017, according to LADWP’s Anselmo Collins.
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) is gearing up for its annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which will take place January 24th through 26th at several locations throughout Los Angeles.
The count will help determine how to best allocate the city’s resources—including the $1.2 billion housing bond measure HHH, passed by voters in the November 8th election—to combat homelessness.
The 2016 count revealed 628 homeless individuals living in Council District 4 (CD4), which includes Los Feliz and part of Silver Lake, and 3,036 living in Council District 13 (CD13), which includes Atwater Village, East Hollywood and Echo Park.
These numbers represent an increase of just over 1% in CD4’s homeless population, and a nearly 35% increase for CD13 from 2015, compared with a 6% increase citywide.
Locally, that increase is perhaps most reflected in a recurring encampment at the three-point intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont and Prospect avenues, known as the Vermont Triangle, which sits in CD13, bordering CD4.
The East Hollywood Business Improvement District (BID) took over management of the Triangle, which has been host to a constant rotation of homeless encampments and city-funded cleanups, from the Los Feliz BID in July.
In August, the East Hollywood BID drafted the first of many proposals to rework the Triangle—a controversial plan, which would have fully landscaped the median and removed the four existing crosswalks.
But the East Hollywood BID’s Jeff Zarrinnam said in September 2016 that proposal was only meant as a jumping off point, and that the East Hollywood BID was actively seeking public input.
“We want proposals from everybody,” said Zarrinnam. “Nothing has been decided at all. There is no formal proposal from anyone, especially not the East Hollywood BID.”
A request for comment from Zarrinnam on public input received since last September and next steps for the Triangle was not returned on deadline.
In May, Griffith Park’s Friendship Auditorium was removed from a list of potential storage sites for homeless people’s belongings at Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu (CD4)’s request.
The auditorium is a source of revenue for the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks, renting for up to $1,750 per day on weekends and is also used regularly by the Los Angeles Breakfast Club and the Griffith Park Adult Community Center, as well as multiple neighborhood organizations.
The list of potential storage sites was part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Homelessness Strategy, released in January, after Garcetti declared a “war on homelessness” in 2015.
COVE APARTMENT COMPLEX
Residents of Los Feliz’s Cove apartment complex, a three-story, 43-unit, rent controlled property on Commonwealth Avenue, learned in August of 2016 they would be allowed to stay at their building following a hard-won battle with developers.
Tenants said trouble began when Ness Property Management purchased the building in May of 2015. Shortly thereafter, they said, Ness left notices on tenants’ doors, informing them the building would be converted to condos in 90 days, and advising them to contact the on-site manager to negotiate a relocation fee.
These notices led tenants to believe that Ness was invoking the Ellis Act—a 1985 California law originally intended to allow landlords to retire from the rental business, but one increasingly exploited by investors and developers as rents rise—to evict them.
However, upon further investigation, residents discovered Ness had not filed any of the necessary paperwork for such a conversion, leading them to speculate that the notes were meant to get them to sign away their legal rights and move so that Ness could raise rents.
According to Cove resident J.P. Lavin, the management company also conducted short-notice unit inspections, ignored maintenance requests, had tenants cited for hoarding and used other “bullying tactics” before Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu stepped in.
Ryu sent a strongly worded letter to Ness, informing them that their practices violated both state law and city code, and assigned a deputy to assist tenants and monitor the situation.
“Ness did a complete 180 when Ryu’s office got involved,” said Lavin, and ultimately the tenants who had chosen to stay and fight through the yearlong ordeal were allowed to stay.
Those tenants continue to pay between $1,000 and $1,900 a month for their rent-stabilized apartments, while the building’s new tenants pay $3,000 per month for the same, albeit renovated, units.
DEVELOPMENT AT BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER
A 102-unit 110,000 square-foot mixed-use apartment complex called Marionette Square, which would surround the historic Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Echo Park, was approved by Los Angeles City Council in September of 2016.
The plan would leave the theater’s party room and much of its performance space intact, but would eliminate the workshop area, its storage space and a portion of its performance area, making the theater’s operational area significantly smaller.
GRIFFITH PARK TRAFFIC PLAN
Implementation of the long awaited “Griffith Park Observatory Circulation and Parking Enhancement Plan,” intended to mitigate traffic and parking issues in the park and its surrounding residential neighborhoods, will begin March 1, 2017 according to Rose Watson with the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks.
Elements of the plan include the conversion of some streets in the park to one-way, increased shuttle and DASH bus service in the park and the implementation of paid parking in the Observatory lot—the most controversial element of the plan.
However, free parking will still be available in auxiliary lots throughout the park, with complimentary shuttle service to the Observatory.
The plan was approved in September of 2016, after delays caused by a longer-than-usual community outreach period.
HOLLYHOCK HOUSE/OLIVE HILL
Consideration for a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List nomination for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Park was delayed by a year in August of 2016, pending “a few needed tweaks” to the house, according to Hollyhock House Curator Jeffrey Herr.
Meanwhile, Olive Hill, the six-story mixed-use development proposed for construction at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Edgemont Street, which threatened to disqualify the Hollyhock House from UNESCO consideration by obstructing its view, has been indefinitely postponed, according to Blake Lamb with the Los Angeles City Planning Dept.
According to Hollyhock Curator Herr, if Hollyhock were to receive the UNESCO nomination, it could still be revoked at any time—even years later—if the Olive Hill development is built.
“We’re in a sort of tricky intersection,” said Herr. “We could be inscribed [on the World Heritage List] and within a year or two, we could be back defending our nomination.”
DISNEY V. CAMELOT
A hearing is scheduled for February to determine whether a lawsuit filed by Disney heirs Tim and Neda against Camelot Kids Child Development Center and its director Renae Plant has merit. If the judge rules the lawsuit is valid, the case will go to a non-jury trial April 6th, according to court records.
The Disneys filed suit in October 2015, claiming their then four-year-old daughter was wrongfully expelled from the preschool.
According to the lawsuit, Plant fired four Camelot teachers in 2015 without explanation and then expelled the Disneys’ daughter after they discussed the firings with other parents and on social media.
The Disneys allege this constitutes fraud, since Camelot’s parent handbook encourages parental involvement in the school.
In November of 2016, a judged ruled not to enforce a potential $12,000 settlement agreement, which Plant’s attorneys claimed was reached last February over email, but the Disneys’ attorneys said they never formally agreed to.
In December, the Ledger reported on a phony car accident scam, in which several Los Feliz and Silver Lake residents said they had been targeted by two men and a woman in a silver Prius with the license plate number 7KLE343, who would honk at their victims until they pulled over, claim the victim hit their car, then demand money for repairs.
Now, another local, Kara Ford-Martinez, said she was targeted by the same scammers in November, but this time they were driving a large black SUV.
“There were two people in the vehicle and they looked exactly like the driver and passenger that were described in the article,” said Ford-Martinez in an email to the Ledger. “There are a ton of similar details like them following me and honking, asking me if I was okay…threatening to call the cops [and] mention of the lady’s mother who had ‘just passed away.’”
In the December article, Los Feliz resident Donna Gonz described the driver as a man about 6’ tall, heavyset and balding and his passenger as a woman about 5’4” and heavyset, with bleach blonde hair and blue eyes. Gonz also described a second male passenger, who Ford-Martinez said was not present for her encounter.
Several victims have said the scammers, who are still at large, attempt to emotionally disarm and confuse their targets.
FORD THEATERS HIKING TRAIL
Plans for a hiking trail that will wind around the John Anson Ford Theatres complex in the Cahuenga Pass remain on hold as sources for funding are still being explored.
The ¾ mile trail, estimated at just over $1 million to build, is just one element of a larger master plan that included the $65.8 million refurbishment of the John Anson Ford Theater that re-opened to the public in July of 2016.
This past spring, the Ford Theatre Foundation approached the Discretionary Funds Task Force of Los Angeles City Council District 4—an advisory board of community leaders who consider proposals requesting money from the Councilmember David Ryu’s discretionary funds—and requested $250,000 to meet a matching grant offered by the state of California.
In July of 2016, Estevan Montemayor, a spokesperson for Ryu said both the taskforce and the councilmember were supportive of the hiking trail proposal, but that the office was reviewing its options.
“We’re looking at various ways to fund it, including discretionary funds,” said Montemayor, “but also exploring the possibility of a private donation, or multiple private donations and also whether it qualifies for Quimby funds.”
Quimby funds are fees paid by developers, in exchange for approval of their projects, which are used to acquire new parkland or fund capital improvements at existing recreational and park facilities.
As of early December, both Kim Glann of the Ford Theaters and Montemayor said that those explorations are still in motion and that an announcement will be forthcoming when funding is secured.
The city’s “Coyote Management Program” underwent review in 2016 resulting in new recommendations for community outreach and enforcement and was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in November.
The program stresses the importance of educating the public on how to co-exist with coyotes. Tips include not leaving food outside meant for pets and hazing techniques such as banging pots together to scare away coyotes.
Los Angeles policy does not advocate the killing of coyotes as a means of control, nor does it advocate “intensive hazing” techniques that might injure, but not kill, aggressive coyotes with tools such as paint ball guns, or rubber bullets.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Busciano asked for the review last May after a spike of coyote sightings in parts of the city.
In the summer of 2016 the city’s Dept. of Animal Services responded with recommendations to improve the program.
In late October, Los Angeles City Councilmember Ryu authored a motion that built upon these recommendations. The motion called for the city’s Bureau of Sanitation to work with Animal Services providing wildlife-proof trash containers, an exploration of the best ways to enforce laws that prohibit the feeding of coyotes and the placement of signs to educate the public about how to co-exist with coyotes.
Both the Animal Services plan and Ryu’s motion were approved last November.
ROWENA “ROAD DIET”
Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu has assembled a group of Silver Lake residents to work with a consulting firm to examine the issues surrounding the Rowena Avenue “Road Diet.”
According to Estevan Montemayor, Ryu’s spokesperson, members of the group have various views on the road diet and the traffic mitigation issues regarding Rowena Avenue and the adjacent area.
“We brought them together,” said Montemayor, “to find common solutions that can benefit all constituents in Silver Lake.”
Montemayor said the contract for the consulting firm is still being prepared, but is estimated to be around $80,000.
According to Montemayor, the consultant will conduct data gathering, community outreach efforts and implement potential solutions in 2017.
The road diet was implemented in 2013 as a response to a fatal pedestrian accident. Four traffic lanes were reduced to one in either direction, and bike lanes were added on either side.
While some have heralded the diet as a success in reducing speeds and creating a more bike-friendly environment, others have said that the resulting cut-through traffic on adjacent streets has become dangerously heavy.
As the road diet is seen as a litmus test of how the city’s bike-friendly Mobility Plan 2035 might play out, it has been closely watched.
AVOCADO AND CITY REINSTATEMENT OF SPEED HUMPS
The city reinstated its speed hump program in 2016, which ceased in 2009 due to city budget cuts.
The city’s 2016-2017 budget includes $540,000 for city salaries and for the creation of 30 qualifying high priority sets of the bumps on residential streets to discourage speeding—two from each of the city’s 15 council districts.
According to city officials, applications for consideration for the program will start in January and the speed humps will start to be installed for approved streets in late spring 2017.
Previously, local elected officials had sought speed humps for Avocado Street in Los Feliz. In 2011, then Los Feliz Neighborhood Council (LFNC) President Ron Ostrow requested a traffic count be conducted for the street between Hillhurst Avenue and Rowena Avenue—before it turns into Lowry Road—to former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge and wrote “cars have been observed to traverse this narrow, family-with-children populated [Avocado Street] at over 60-miles-per hour. In other words,” the letter said, “these cars are flying.”
Another LFNC boardmember brought up the issue again with city officials in 2013 with no results.
But now, with the city program back in place, perhaps things might change.
“[The] LFNC is preparing to do wider outreach around speeding issues in our neighborhood, with the intention of taking into account as many constituent-provided speed hump requests as possible in order to provide some prioritized locations to CD4 for their future action,” said current LFNC President Luke Klipp. “This is going to be a future item coming up before the LFNC Transportation Committee.”
For info on how to submit an application for speed humps, visit ladot.lacity.org
DASH BUS SERVICE CONNECTING LOS FELIZ TO SILVER LAKE
Last September we reported the city’s Dept. of Transportation (LADOT) had recommended eliminating the DASH bus line north of Franklin Avenue on Vermont Avenue and entirely from Hillhurst Avenue, to provide service connecting Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
The elimination would mean connectivity of Los Feliz Village to Marshall High and Thomas Starr King Middle schools at the expense of service north on Vermont Avenue to Los Feliz Boulevard and all service on Hillhurst Avenue, but would keep, as a separate line, the weekend “Observatory Shuttle” with stops at the Observatory, in Griffith Park and at the Greek Theater.
DASH lines are bus routes intended to serve self-contained neighborhoods, as opposed to other lines that travel the length and breadth of the city.
In response, the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, also in September 2016, asked LADOT to consider a number of alternatives to its recommendations, including not eliminating service on Hillhurst Avenue and connecting Los Feliz to Silver Lake by way of Griffith Park Boulevard instead of Rowena Avenue.
According to LFNC President Luke Klipp, there has been no response from LADOT as of mid-December.
HOLLYWOOD SIGN TOURISM CRUSH AND BEACHWOOD CANYON
An ongoing battle over Hollywood Sign tourist traffic continued in Beachwood Canyon throughout 2016, sparking a fresh batch of controversies and the continuation of two lawsuits.
Beachwood Canyon sits directly below the Hollywood Sign, and since the advent of GPS in the late 2000s, the once bucolic neighborhood has become a magnet for hikers and tourists seeking close-up selfies with the sign.
Some estimates place daily foot traffic at over 1,000 people for the Beachwood Drive trailhead, which leads directly to the sign and sits at the top of the residential neighborhood’s one major thoroughfare.
For years, a well-organized and vocal group of residents have repeatedly asked the city to close the Beachwood Drive trailhead, claiming the high volumes of foot and car traffic it attracts create a public safety issue. But in October 2016, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu said the chances of closing the Beachwood Drive trailhead are slim due to legal issues.
However, the future of the trailhead remains uncertain as two lawsuits filed in 2015 demanding its closure, remain in play. Both suits are currently scheduled for trial in 2017.
2016 also saw the implementation of new parking restrictions along Beachwood Drive on weekends and holidays, which Ryu approved in January of 2016 despite fierce opposition from Beachwood Canyon’s local small business owners.
The restrictions are designed to limit visitor parking in the area, while homeowners can buy permits allowing them to park at any time.
The business owners said they had been open to the parking restrictions, believing Ryu would help offset their impact by having the city install nearby diagonal and metered parking and allowing business owners to purchase parking permits for use by their customers and employees—which is not currently allowed citywide.
But in 2016 those ideas were either ruled out by city officials as not workable or by Ryu, due to a lack of consensus by the business owners and the property owner from whom they lease.
The business owners say Ryu betrayed them.
“We were duped by our councilperson,” said Patti Peck, owner of the Beachwood Café.
According to Peck, she has lost almost 20% of her weekend business since the new parking restrictions were implemented in March of 2016.
She said this drop in business has hit her particularly hard because weekends have traditionally been the café’s busiest days.