Last week, after City Council Member David Ryu’s office issued a statement saying he’s “inclined to support” a proposed Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for the Miracle Mile neighborhood, we reported comments from leaders of the Miracle Mile Residential Association, who said they are encouraged by the statement, and also hopeful that a number of blocks recently removed from the proposed boundaries of district by the City Planning Commission will be restored to it when the City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee discusses the proposal tomorrow.
But that doesn’t mean opposition to the plan has vanished. This weekend, the Buzz spoke with representatives of the SayNoHPOZ group, which has been vigorously fighting the HPOZ, still vehemently opposes it, and will now be launching a new organization to promote what they see as a more forward-looking perspective for the neighborhood.
SayNoHPOZ spokesperson Henry van Moyland told the Buzz that the views of his group are in no way tempered by Mr. Ryu’s statement of apparent support and, in fact, Ryu’s position was expected. “There wasn’t any surprise about the statement,” van Moyland said, because he believes that Ryu’s office has long been “coaching” the MMRA on how to achieve passage of the HPOZ.
Van Moyland also charged that both the MMRA and Ryu’s office continue to paint a false picture of neighborhood support for the HPOZ. The MMRA in particular, he said, “has been desperate to present the HPOZ as something that has broad community support, and it doesn’t have broad community support.”
As this has been a contention by SayNoHPOZ members for several months, Mr. Ryu’s staff recently sent letters to every household in the proposed HPOZ area (except for a small area that falls into Herb Wesson’s Council District 10), asking for feedback on the proposal. And in last week’s statement, Ryu’s office said it had received 533 responses from households in favor of the HPOZ and 153 opposed. (The MMRA says it has recorded more than 1100 individual supporters via letters and petition signatures, but their household totals would be similar to the count from Ryu’s office.)
Van Moyland, however, says those efforts are “meaningless,” and that a “proper” door-to-door survey would be the only way to gauge true support levels, and that has not been done. If it had, he said, it would reveal that most homeowners oppose the HPOZ, while more renters support it. And that, said van Moyland, is proof that the HPOZ effort is not, and never has been, about historic preservation. Instead, he said, the HPOZ campaign is mostly an effort by renters to maintain their rent controlled units and prevent evictions from and demolitions of their buildings for redevelopment. And that, he said, is not only disingenuous, but also “bad planning.”
It is true that lately the MMRA has been highlighting stories of renters who favor the HPOZ, as part of its effort to draw attention to the mostly multi-family properties on the blocks recently removed from the proposed HPOZ boundaries. (Those buildings would be most likely and immediately threatened with demolition and redevelopment if they are not protected.) But van Moyland says what the group is trying to protect is not and never has been the historic value of those buildings, but instead just their rent-controlled status. And he says recent developments involving multi-unit buildings and their tenants who support the HPOZ effort have only now brought that underlying motivation to the surface. “Nobody has any secrets” now, he said. “This has nothing to do with preservation.” In fact, he further contended, “apart from two [Rudolph] Schindler buildings, we do not have historic architecture in this neighborhood.”
(For the record, this statement conflicts with the official position of the City of Los Angeles, which, through its SurveyLA project and a survey commissioned as part of the HPOZ process, officially determined that the neighborhood does have historic significance, as well as a high percentage of surviving properties that are “contributors” to the historic fabric of the area. Van Moyland’s assertion also conflicts with the opinions of many residents, both owners and renters, who have spoken extensively about the charm of their vintage homes during the HPOZ adoption process over the last three years.)
Van Moyland said another clue that the HPOZ effort is “not about preservation,” is the very “strict” preservation plan created to govern the district, along with the city’s promises to interpret the plan fairly liberally…which he says is a “perverse” contradiction. (Again, for the record, city officials, including the Office of Historic Resources’ Ken Bernstein, have previously said the proposed Miracle Mile Preservation Plan is actually “one of the least restrictive” among the city’s 30+ HPOZs.) Van Moyland says HPOZ opponents would need to see a “more liberal plan,” with significant amendments, before they could consider supporting it. As the plan stands now, and despite two rewrites so far, he said it still contains some sloppy contradictions (e.g. one reference to paint colors being exempt from review, and another referring to paint color restrictions) as well as other terms that “will lead to litigation” if enacted (e.g. conditions for drought-tolerant landscaping, which is fully legal under state law).
Finally, Van Moyland said HPOZ supporters seem to want to “look backwards in time,” not forward as they should today. But his group is going to take up that fight, too. “Our business now,” he said, ” is to make sure this kind of craziness doesn’t happen again in Miracle Mile. ” And to that end, he said, SayNoHPOZ will announce today the formation of a new long-term neighborhood group, “Miracle Mile Forward,” which may serve as part neighborhood association, and part lobbying/advocacy group, focusing on the future of the neighborhood. Further details, he said, are still being worked out, but more information will be available soon.
Meanwhile, stakeholders who are interested in the HPOZ discussion are strongly urged to attend Tuesday’s City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Room 340 at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, 90012. The HPOZ item is #8 on the agenda.
City Council PLUM Committee
Tuesday, March 21, 2:30 p.m
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring St., 90012