Through the years I’ve had many opportunities to stand up for what I believe in. I protested a war during a march in Washington DC, went braless as an expression of liberation, picketed to save the old Brown Derby in mid-Wilshire and the Garden Court Apartments on Hollywood Boulevard and advocated for the importance of the arts as part of the Hollywood Leadership Alliance that helped kick start the Hollywood renaissance.

I’ve appeared at countless hearings and community meetings both for and against various developments deemed either good or bad for the community. But, it’s an entirely different story when it literally hits close to home.

Our bucolic hillside is about to be assaulted by a double lot project plan to construct a 16,300 square foot single family residence that includes a basement of 7,600 square feet requiring the excavation and hauling of 8,500 cubic feet of earth. This amounts to 1,000 round trips of 10-wheel trucks over substandard narrow streets disrupting the lives of scores of residents over a three-month period. All because this is considered a “by right” project—that is, it is your right as a property owner in Los Angeles.

Having been notified by the city about the project, we soon learned that our only recourse was to try to stop this over sized, over scaled project by stopping the haul route plan.

Joining neighbors to protest the haul route before the Department of Building and Safety Commission, we witnessed what other homeowners in the west Hollywood Hills have been experiencing for years. Homes in their area have been enlarged and extensive hauling has left their streets in massive disrepair with excavation, noise, dust, and parking issues disrupting lives for months and, in some cases, years on end.

Despite their pleas to deny the projects and testimony from the Department of Transportation and Street Services explaining why their streets could not be repaired, the commissioners blithely approved the haul routes.

Although our matter was continued thanks to the intervention of Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu and support from the Hillside Federation, the writing is on the wall and it’s not encouraging. We have hopes that the owner may have second thoughts and possibly downsize his grandiose plan. We’ll be back at Building and Safety the end of the month.

After last month’s column, I received an email stating that any effort to create an HPOZ to protect our community would be vigorously opposed by the writer, a land use attorney. I wonder how this fellow would react if a project such as this was happening next to his home.

From my experience, I can tell you that when it hits home, it’s an entirely different story.

By right, but wrong as it can be.


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1 Response

  1. Allison Cohen says:

    Received via email and posted by Los Feliz Ledger Publisher, Allison B. Cohen:

    The July and August 2017 editions of the Ledger included columns by Nyla Arslanian, President of the Los Feliz Improvement Association concerning her interest in applying the Los Angeles Historic Preservation Overlay Zone Ordinance (HPOZ) to Los Feliz. Her columns are replete with a mistaken view of the HPOZ, and as residents of that neighborhood we are sending this letter in rebuttal to Ms. Arslanian’s viewpoint.

    My wife and I are both members of LFIA and were active city attorneys and land use lawyers, before retirement. We have written our position to Ms. Arslanian, and her last column in your paper referred to me as the land use attorney who responded to her. Her statements about my viewpoint also require rebuttal in the same paper, the Los Feliz Ledger.

    Like Ms. Arslanian, in recent years we have had several land use projects in our immediate neighborhood, including a complete rebuild right now. Yes, they sometimes disturb things, but that is life in any community. It has been more than worth it; the improvements, some of which took over a year, greatly enhanced the neighborhood including both aesthetic and property values. Her personal experience and that of her neighbors as reported in her column dealt with what she termed a double lot project, a “by right” project in Los Angeles. It is is a very large project without City mitigation. This is the problem: the lack of meaningful statutes and enforcement in Los Angeles for large residential property. In addition, a 2014 editorial by the LA Times notes that the HPOZ process is bogged down. It is a process that is more concerned with preserving properties that have certain historical significance as opposed to stopping development that you don’t like.

    In fact, the HPOZ process imposes a Board, historical standards, and surveys to determine it’s application, if any. It will not be applied or used without these requirements which are doubtful for the whole Los Feliz area, or even parts. Instead, other statutory measures are more expeditious and can specifically deal with the out of scale projects of her concern.

    HP0Z applies a burdensome, unnecessary ordinance. It is classic overkill, not necessary, and will lead to a slow down on improvements, a diminishment of property rights, and values, without really dealing with the reported concerns.

    In reality the subject matter dealt with in the two columns by Ms. Arslanian can be handled by what is termed an “Anti-Mansionization Ordinance,” which many cities have been Implementing for years. These along with grading provisions, sight of line regulations, and related building code provisions, help assure a case by case application of rational standards that don’t result in the blanket foreclosure of all improvements to residences in Los Feliz which seems to be her preference. Los Angeles needs to work on these provisions and related property maintenance statutes to accomplish a fair ordinance and get the results she really seeks. The fact that LA is behind the times on some of this does not mean they cannot work towards the accomplishment of reasonable protection that deals with real problems. Reliance on HPOZ is a mistake.

    The above summarizes our position and that of our neighbors, most of whom are LFIA members.

    Michael H. Miller and Stephanie R. Scher
    Los Feliz

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