City Planning Commission Votes to Support Miracle Mile HPOZ

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Map of the northern part of the proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ area, including the blocks north of 8th Street, which the CPC yesterday voted to exclude from the protected district.

On Thursday, December 8, the City Planning Commission voted 5-3 to support an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for the Miracle Mile neighborhood, and to support a draft Preservation Plan, the document that will set the rules and procedures for the HPOZ.  The HPOZ effort has been in the works for several years, and has generally been well supported by the neighborhood, but it ran into some neighborhood opposition recently, after a first draft of the Preservation Plan was released last summer.

That disagreement prompted a last-minute negotiating session a few weeks ago, among the pro-HPOZ Miracle Mile Residential Association, representatives of the SayNoHPOZ opposition group, members of David Ryu’s City Council District 4 staff and the Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.  After that meeting, the Plan was returned to the OHR for re-tooling based some negotiated compromises.

At yesterday’s CPC hearing, there was lengthy discussion among the Commissioners about certain aspects of the HPOZ proposal, especially the boundaries of the proposed district.  An initial vote on the item resulted in a 4-4 tie, but then there was further discussion, in which the group decided to exclude the blocks of Miracle Mile between 8th Street and Wilshire Blvd. as well as several multi-family properties on the west side of the 800 block of S. Orange Grove Ave. (Owners of multi-family buildings on those blocks – adjacent to rapidly developing areas on Wilshire and Fairfax – had argued vociferously against their inclusion if the HPOZ, on the grounds that it would hinder the value of their properties for future sales to developers.)  There was also some discussion of whether or not Olympic Blvd., between La Brea and Fairfax, should be included in the HPOZ, but that issue was not clearly resolved at yesterday’s hearing, according to Mark Zecca, chair of Miracle Mile’s HPOZ committee.

After the boundary adjustments were made, said Zecca, the Commissioners took a second vote, and approved the HPOZ by the 5-3 margin.  Zecca said the hearing was a bit of a “nail biter,” for those in favor of the proposal, but he is “very happy” with the results.

That sentiment was shared by MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon, who said, “What was most important, walking out of the meeting yesterday, was that the Commission agreed that this qualifies as an historic district.”  He says the MMRA still disagrees on some of the boundary issues, particularly the blocks north of 8th Street, and will work hard to convince the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (the next stop for the HPOZ proposal) to restore those blocks to the HPOZ.  Those blocks, he said, include 261 rent-stablized housing units, “the closest thing to affordable, workforce housing in Miracle Mile,” which could quickly be lost if they are not specifically preserved.

While the MMRA representatives were generally happy with yesterday’s outcome, however, the same could not be said about SayNoHPOZ representatives who, according to an e-mail distribted by the group yesterday evening, found yesterday’s proceedings much less than satisfactory:

“The motion by which the HPOZ was confirmed was so disorganized that we are still not sure what was approved…We believe this [second vote] was procedurally suspect because the first vote seemed to have defeated the HPOZ until the Commission President pressured the Commissioners to re-vote and pass it. We will be examining the audio recording with great interest…We will regroup, take the weekend to strategize and follow this through to the end.”

Assuming the Commission’s vote stands, the next stop for the proposed HPOZ will be the PLUM Committee vote, probably sometime in January.  The revised Preservation Plan was not available as of this story’s deadline, but Zecca said it should be available very soon from the Office Historic Resources.  Hixon also said that the MMRA, committed to transparency in the HPOZ process, will be scheduling another round of educational meetings for community members, to help answer their questions about the HPOZ and its Preservation Plan.

[Note:  this story was updated at 12:22 p.m. to include comments from MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon.]

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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