Last night’s monthly meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council featured a jam-packed agenda, with a visit from City Council District 5 Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, a presentation from the United Neighbors coalition on its recommendations for the city’s new Housing Element, a quick introduction from former city attorney Mike Feuer on his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives, and votes on a number of land use issues.
A Visit from Katy Yaroslavsky
At last month’s GWNC board meeting, City Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez, who represents Council District 13, covering much of the eastern half of the GWNC’s territory, visited to discuss several concerns in that part of the area. This month’s meeting brought a similar visit from CD 5’s Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents much of the GWNC’s western half.
In her brief introductory remarks, Yaroslavsky said that after 10 months in office (which sometimes “feels like 10 years”), her priorities remain the same as they were during her campaign last year – homelessness, housing, quality of life issues, and constituent services. More specifically regarding homelessness and housing, Yaroslavsky reported that the 5th District currently has the city’s fourth-highest eviction rate, and that she’s working hard to bring people in off the streets…but it’s challenging because the district currently has no interim housing for the people she’s trying to shelter.
That said, though, Yaroslavsky reported she has moved 120 people off the street so far, and is hoping to soon announce another Inside Safe project in cooperation with the Mayor’s office. In addition, she said, she’s also working to accelerate the availability of affordable housing citywide, with 7,000 new units scheduled to become available in the coming months.
Other efforts Yaroslavsky said she’s working on at the moment include bike lanes, speed humps, and the new “Clean Team” her office recently launched, which can provide clean ups of trash, trees, weeds, and more within 24 hours. In addition, she’s been working on increasing transparency at City Hall, and has called for a new Office of Compliance to help fight corruption and make it easier for city officials to operate within law. Also, public safety and hate crimes are a high priority, and she’s been organizing a series of conversations between neighbors and our local LAPD Senior Lead Officers.
Finally, and more specifically, Yaroslavsky said she’s also working with residents of the building at 410 N. Rossmore Ave., who have been living with the threat of eviction for several years now, and with neighbors near a duplex at 200 S. Orange Drive, which has apparently been converted to use as a full-time synagogue without city permits.
During a quick question-and-answer period following Yaroslavsky’s remarks, GWNC President Conrad Starr noted that California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed SB 411, which will allow Neighborhood Councils to resume meeting online if they choose to do so, and if the City of Los Angeles officially opts in to the remote meeting option. Starr asked Yaroslavsky if she would be willing to introduce the necessary motion to allow Neighborhood Councils to meet remotely, and Yaroslavsky said she would.
GWNC Land Use Committee Chair Brian Curran asked about the status of plans to redevelop and adopt a new Specific Plan and Regional Center designation for the historic CBS Television City facility at Beverly and Fairfax, and Yaroslavsky said a City Council vote on the project has been postponed, so additional community meetings can be scheduled and more feedback collected. Yaroslavsky said she also has talked to the developers recently, and they say the project will now be smaller than originally presented.
GWNC board member Cindy Chvatal-Keane, who gave a presentation on behalf of the United Neighbors coalition later in the meeting (see below), asked Yaroslavsky if she would commit to protecting single-family neighborhoods, many of which have been targeted for possible up-zoning in the city’s new Housing Element of its General Plan. Yaroslavsky said she believes the city should put new density “where it makes sense” near job centers and train lines…which means that, more specifically, “I don’t support up-zoning single family neighborhoods.”
Finally, Citrus Square resident Mark Yellen, who said he represents more than 40 neighbors living near the duplex/synagogue mentioned above, said the facility has hosted large services that bring disruptive noise, traffic, congestion, and parking problems, and asked for more details on Yaroslavsky’s efforts to bring the property back into compliance with city laws. Yaroslavsky said that in addition to the non-residential change of use (in a property zoned for housing) there are apparently unpermitted structures constructed in the building’s back yard. She said a Department of Building and Safety inspector visited the property recently and was denied entry, but she said officials will go back, and there are other measures the city can take, too, to help remedy the situation.
Other Government Representatives
After Yaroslavky’s talk, CD 5 Field Deputy Michelle Flores announced that the district will be holding a post-Halloween “Pumpkin Bash” on Sunday, November 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pan Pacific Park, where attendees can smash their jack-o-lanterns for composting instead of sending them to landfills. (See the flier to the left for details.)
Also, Metro representative Ned Racine reported that there are just two weekends left during which Wilshire Blvd. will be closed for the removal of subway-construction-related concrete decking and the restoration of a new asphalt surface between Mansfield Ave. and Detroit St. on Wilshire Blvd. The closures begin on Fridays at 9 p.m., and end by 6 a.m. on Mondays. Racine also noted, in response to a board member’s question, that the opening date for the new Purple Line (now known as the “D” Line) Extension has been pushed to the spring of 2025. He said water table issues, the discovery of a large piece of metal in the tunneling path a couple of years ago, and the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant supply chain issues all contributed to the delay.
Next, Rachel Sherman, Community Engagement Manager for School Board member Nick Melvoin, announced an upcoming school cleanup event on Saturday, December 2, for which volunteers will be needed at Hollywood High School, Bancroft Middle School, and both Van Ness and Vine Street Elementary Schools.
Two candidates running for seats in upcoming elections also visited the GWNC last night. The first was Dr. DeWayne Davis, a 29-year education professional (former teacher, assistant principal, principal and more) who is running for the LAUSD District 1 seat in the 2024 spring election…
…and the second was former Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who is now running to represent the 30th District in the U.S. House of Representatives (the seat is currently held by Adam Schiff, who is stepping down to run for Dianne Feinstein’s old Senate seat). Feuer, who has been endorsed by L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, stressed his long experience in public service, and his interest in partnering with city officials on issues such as homelessness and the climate crisis. That election will take place in November, 2024.
The other major presentation at last night’s meeting was from United Neighbors, a statewide coalition of neighborhoods working to protect multi-family and single-family residential neighborhoods while supporting affordable housing. The group was represented by GWNC board member Cindy Chvatal-Keane and GWNC alternate board member Cathy Roberts, repeating a presentation they gave a couple of weeks ago to the GWNC Land Use Committee.
In their talk, Chvatal-Keane and Roberts explained that the state is requiring the city to zone for an additional 255,000 housing units in the next eight years, creating a total capacity of about 485,000 new units. But according to United Neighbors’ calculations, the city’s current plans, as stated in last year’s update of its Housing element, would create the capacity for more than 1.4 million new units…far exceeding the state mandates.
Chvatal-Keane and Roberts also presented a series of maps showing how the city has proposed to create room for those 1.4 million additional housing units with a variety of up-zoning and densification strategies in several GWNC residential neighborhoods. And then they presented several alternate maps showing how the city could create more than enough density to exceed its mandated housing targets by simply redeveloping space along the area’s existing commercial corridors, without re-zoning any current single family or low-density multi-family neighborhoods.
Finally, Chvatal-Keane and Roberts noted that the city must implement its new housing plan by 2025, but so far no final maps have been published, and opportunities for public input have been few and far between, with the Planning Department holding only limited office hours to consult with stakeholders. And that means, they said, that we have no idea whether or not the city’s plans have evolved since the release of the initial Housing Element proposals. Finally, they also said there is no official City Council File designated for comments on the city’s housing plan, though CF 21-1230 – the council file for the 2021 rewrite of the Housing Element – is still open, and comments can be submitted there.
For more information, the full United Neighbors presentation is available here.
Land Use Votes
Reviewing several recommendations from its Land Use Committee, the GWNC board last night voted to:
- Support a proposed mixed-use building at 531 N. Larchmont Blvd., which would contain a ground-floor dental office and 15 residential units in three additional stories. Conditions of approval included the addition of a six-foot barrier between rooftop mechanical and common areas, limiting the hours of the rooftop common area to 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and the request that these conditions and others be submitted in writing to the City Planning Department and the GWNC.
- Oppose the Housing Element’s proposed rezoning and densification of R1 and multifamily neighborhoods beyond what SB9 and ADU laws currently allow, and file a Community Impact Statement on this topic – with a copy of the United Neighborhoods presentation attached.
- Request the temporary suspension of issuance of all permits (planning, building, filming, public works, etc.) at a notorious party house at 300 N. Plymouth Blvd., for at least 120 days or as long as it takes to investigate illegal activities there.
In other business last night, and as noted above, GWNC President Conrad Starr reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law AB 411, which could allow neighborhood councils to resume meeting online if and when they choose to do so. Before that can happen, the LA City Council also needs to approve the policy…but anticipating that this will happen soon, the GWNC board also voted last night to – pending approval by the City Council – hold its first monthly meeting each quarter in person, and its second and third meetings each quarter virtually. It also voted to allow the occasional substitution of a virtual meeting for an in-person meeting, or vice versa. This means that if the City Council does vote to approve virtual meetings for Neighborhood Councils, in concert with AB411, the GWNC’s November meeting would likely be online instead of in person.
And finally last night, the GWNC board also voted to support the Mayor’s appointment of GWNC alternate board member Julie Stromberg to the Central Area Planning Commission.
The next meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council is scheduled for Wednesday, November 8, at 6:30 p.m. Location (and whether the meeting will be held in person or online) will depend on whether or not the City Council approves, between now and then, the resumption of virtual meetings by neighborhood councils.