In a very big step yesterday, the City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved a proposed Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for the Miracle Mile neighborhood and, at the request of City Council Members David Ryu and Herb Wesson, restored several areas – which had been abruptly removed from the proposed district by the City Planning Commission – to the official HPOZ map.
Back in December, the City Planning Commission had also approved the proposed HPOZ, but did so only after blocks between 8th street and Wilshire Blvd., and along Olympic Blvd., were removed from the proposed protected district, to allow for future transit-oriented development and densification in those areas.
In the last few weeks, however, as divisions over the HPOZ and its proposed boundaries seemed to deepen in the neighborhood, and both proponents and opponents claimed to represent a majority of residents, both Ryu and Wesson made their own attempts to solicit and tally responses from stakeholders. And representatives of their offices reported at the PLUM hearing today that results from those polls ran heavily in favor of the HPOZ, and in favor of restoring the recently omitted areas to the proposed historic district.
In fact, Council Member Ryu’s office reported that it received responses from 533 households in favor of the HPOZ, and only 133 opposed. Mr. Wesson’s office reported that responses it received ran 3 to 1 in favor of the HPOZ.
As a result, Ryu and Wesson submitted and recommended a revised map to the PLUM committee today, which restores all of the blocks along Olympic Blvd., and most of the blocks between Wilshire and 8th Street, to the proposed HPOZ. The two areas that would remain excluded, under the new boundaries, are properties located to the west of Ogden Dr. and north of 8th Street (including Orange Grove Ave. and the west side of Ogden), and properties on the west side of Orange Grove, south of 8th Street. According to Ryu’s office, those overall boundaries are more consistent with the original survey area and were also certified by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission.
After the reports from the two Council Districts on Tuesday, the PLUM Committee heard 15 minutes of public comments from opponents, and another 15 minutes of comments from supporters. As has been true at other public hearings up to this point, opponents of the measure spoke mostly of not wanting to lose the right to make changes to their properties at their own discretion, and of the potentially higher cost of historically-compatible styles and materials when changes are made. Supporters of the HPOZ spoke more about preserving the overall historic character and charm of the neighborhood, as well as the large number of rent-stabilized units in the area’s historic multi-family buildings.
After the testimony, PLUM Committee Chair Jose Huizar asked a few questions about the blocks along Olympic Blvd. in particular. But after being assured by Ken Bernstein and Renata Dragland, from the Los Angeles Office Historic Resources, that Olympic Blvd. has been included in other nearby HPOZs, that it is further from major transit lines or stops than the areas near Wilshire Blvd., and that it is zoned for residential, not commercial, development in current city plans, Mr. Huizar moved that both the revised map and the HPOZ itself be adopted. There were no objections from the other four committee members, so the matter will now move to the full City Council for a final vote this Friday, March 24. The meeting will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Room 340, Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St.
When Huizar’s motion was approved, cheers erupted from the right side of the John Ferraro Council Chamber where a large number of stakeholders who attended the hearing were seated. The crowd of supporters of the HPOZ, many who had been working toward its adoption for nearly three years, appeared to outnumber the opponents by a large margin.
After the vote, statements from some of the HPOZ’s chief backers were short but joyful. Jim O’ Sullivan, president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association, which has championed the HPOZ from the beginning, said, “We are thrilled that the HPOZ is back on track for approval and want to thank council members Ryu and Wesson for their support.”
Ken Hixon, MMRA Vice President, agreed: “It takes a village to save a village.”
And Robby O’Donnell, who worked on the Historic Resources Survey for the HPOZ, said she was thrilled with both the hearing and the result. “The whole thing was so amazing,” she said.
Finally, though, O’Sullivan did express some disappointment that the Orange Grove and Ogden blocks originally included are still left out of the new draft of the HPOZ map, and would thus be more vulnerable to demolition and redevelopment than their neighbors. “My immediate thoughts are for those buildings that were left out of the HPOZ,” he said. “The MMRA will offer to work with the Council office to make sure all residents get the best possible advice should they receive eviction notices.”