LACMA Redevelopment Update: Viewing Room, New Renderings…and Continued Opposition

One of the new LACMA renderings shared by the UrbanizeLA blog this week.

It’s been less than three weeks since the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report for the proposed LACMA redesign, which opened the door for the project to proceed as planned, but while LACMA has issued positive announcements that show the project is progressing, there have also been some indications that the strong opposition that emerged from the art community and local neighborhood groups in the days leading up to the vote has not abated.

Moving Forward…

One of the first small pieces of news we heard after the Supervisors’ vote was an e-mail announcement from LACMA Director Michael Govan, announcing the victory and also announcing that the museum has opened a new “Building LACMA” display room at the museum, where visitors can now view “the approved site model for the exterior form of the building, new renderings that are continuing to evolve, and a brief history of the development of LACMA’s Wilshire campus.”

Also, this week, the UrbanizeLA blog posted a gallery of new renderings of the proposed museum building from Atelier Peter Zumthor, which provide some previously-unseen views of the structure, its interior spaces, and how it will flow across Wilshire Blvd.

…But Maybe Not So Fast

Meanwhile, though, community opposition to at least some aspects of the project – notably a proposed new parking garage at Wilshire and Ogden – has continued as well.

Just two days after the Supervisors’ vote, the Miracle Mile Residential Association, which represents neighbors south of Wilshire Blvd. near LACMA, where the proposed new building will extend across Wilshire, voted unanimously to authorize MMRA President James O’Sullivan to take legal action against the County and City of Los Angeles over the FEIR approval, either by filing a lawsuit on behalf of the MMRA or joining with other parties in legal action.

“The FEIR is rife with inaccuracies and inadequate information that skips and jumps around in order to disguise the project’s real impact on our community,” said O’Sullivan in a statement released by the MMRA after the vote.  “Neither LACMA nor the County Supervisors have honestly addressed our many concerns and questions. They have taken a damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead approach. We have no choice but to pursue legal action.”

O’ Sullivan told the Buzz a few days after the announcement that while the MMRA is most concerned about the proposal for a new LACMA parking garage on the south side of Wilshire, at Ogden Dr., other community groups have equally serious issues with other parts of the LACMA proposal.   It’s kind of like the proverbial “elephant in a dark room,” he said, where everyone in the room touches the intruder and describes the part they touch differently…but “we all know the elephant shouldn’t be in the room.”

The MMRA’s concerns about the parking garge were more clearly delineated in letter a few days later to the Mid-City West Community Council, saying the MMRA “adamantly opposes plans to build a five-story garage at 715-731 South Ogden Drive.”   According to the MMRA’s letter, “The proposed five-story parking structure would have two levels of underground parking to accommodate 260 vehicles. The structure would be 55’ in height, not including a 10’ elevator shaft and 20’ lighting poles on the rooftop parking level.”

According to the letter, the Association’s opposition stems from the fact that two of the lots that would be used for the garage are currently zoned with  “Q” conditions (special zoning considerations) that limit the land’s use to surface-level parking lots or residential development up to R3 multi-family density.  The lots are also subject to the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay (CDO), which contains specifications for both use and design of anything built within its area, and which the letter contends the garage proposal would also violate.   (The guidelines were developed as part of the most recent Wilshire Community Plan Update (WCPU), and were designed to act as a buffer zone to help prevent commercial land uses along Wilshire Blvd. from creeping into the adjacent residential areas.)

According to the MMRA’s statement about the proposed new LACMA garage, however, “The construction of the proposed Ogden Parking Structure would completely contradict the goals of the WCPU as it pertains to the Miracle Mile, which was the product of public hearings and comprehensive public input. This structure would boldly defy a central tenet of the WCPU – which was expressly intended to prevent commercial intrusions to the residential areas of the Miracle Mile.”

The MMRA statement also contended that the LACMA EIR, certified by the County Supervisors on April 9, “is filled with inaccurate and misleading information regarding the land use regulations on the Ogden Lot,” especially when it states that “the proposed parking garage is “consistent with the use permitted” by the [Q] Conditions on these lots. That is not true, these lots are not zoned for parking buildings.”

The Mid-City West Community Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee took up the LACMA proposal (and the MMRA’s objections) at its April 16 meeting, and passed two motions, one (with four votes in favor, one opposed and four abstentions) to recommend that the MCWCC board oppose the vacation of the city’s air space rights over Wilshire Blvd. (which would be necessary to build the bridge-style building over the street) and one (by a margin of 8 votes in favor, none opposed, and one abstention) to recommend that the MCWCC board oppose the above-ground parking structure at the Ogden site.

After the meeting, Keith Nakata, co-chair of MCWCC’s Planning and Land Use Committee, told the Buzz that it wasn’t just the Q condition on the Ogden parcels that influenced the parking garage vote, but also the fact that while both the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County are dealing with a major housing crisis,  the very valuable piece of land at Wilshire and Ogden – which is already zoned for multi-family housing – could be used for an appropriately dense housing project near the new Purple Line Subway extension, but would, under LACMA’s proposal, be used to house cars instead.

“Here you have a piece of land right on top of a Metro station,” said Nakata.  “There could be no better place for affordable housing than on top of a Metro station…and a parking structure is in conflict with these priorities.”  Nakata said that the committee members felt that LACMA is not looking at the greater context for the land use in its plans and that the proposed “design is not efficient… not dense at all.”

The MCWCC PLUM Committee’s votes will be forwarded to the full MCWCC board for further discussion and action.

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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.

2 thoughts on “LACMA Redevelopment Update: Viewing Room, New Renderings…and Continued Opposition

  1. How does the County Planning Department approve a project being built on their own property? Is there not a conflict of interest? The Miracle Mile Residents Association has promised before to take legal action on another LACMA project, the almost completed May Company theatre complex. No legal action was ever taken and probably won’t be taken this time. What LACMA wants, LACMA gets, unfortunately, at the expense of the surrounding community!

    1. To clarify: the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is the governing body for LA County, much like the LA City Council is the governing body for the City of Los Angeles. So it’s specifically the Supervisors’ job to oversee and approve what gets built within LA County-controlled areas, as it is the LA City Council’s job to oversee and approve projects within its jurisdiction.

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