The vacant lot on the north side of Wilshire Blvd., between Irving Blvd. and Bronson Ave., has been in and out of the news for years, as the Eastern Presbyterian Church, which owns the property, has made several attempts – all in violation of the parcel’s zoning under the Park Mile Specific Plan – to either develop the property or turn it into a paved parking lot. (Under the PMSP, the property can be developed only with an apartment or office building, of no more than three stories, and containing no more than 11 units.)
Recently, however, the property has been put to a new use – as a temporary staging area for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power trucks and equipment. The equipment staging is part of the city’s current project to upgrade the area’s power grid (the urgent need for which became painfully apparent after extensive power outages during the July heatwaves this summer).
The new use for the lot was discussed briefly at the October 10 meeting of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, where CD4 Field Deputy and Community Planner Rob Fisher told the group that the DWP use will continue for about six months. At the GWNC meeting, Windsor Square resident Patty Hill expressed concerns about noise and dust from the new use at the lot, but Fisher assured her that sound blankets and new fence coverings have been installed, in addition to other mitigations, and said his office is working closely with the Windsor Square Association, and all other parties involved, to make sure the DWP staging is as minimally disruptive to neighbors as possible for the duration of the power line improvement project.
Fisher also said that, to help make up for the temporary disruptions to the neighborhood, he is working with the lot’s owners to fully remove driveway aprons and curb cuts that were illegally installed by the church for a previous paved parking lot, restore the original curb configurations, and return the lot to its pre-parking-lot, Park-Mile-Plan-compliant condition after the DWP finishes with the property.
A few days after the GWNC meeting, Hill told the Buzz that the tarps and sound blankets installed by the DWP have helped with noise control, and that they have also helped prevent homeless camps on the property, which was a big problem when the lot was just lying vacant and more open, with only a derelict chain-link fence around it. Hill said she would prefer that the DWP put a wood wall around the property, instead of just the more opaque fence, to provide even better security and noise control…but she said that otherwise, so far, the DWP is being “respectful” of the neighborhood, with vehicles parking along the periphery of the property, and no dumping large dirt piles on the site. Hill also expressed gratitude for Fisher’s negotiation efforts so far (“he’s been lovely”), and said her biggest concerns now are for the future of the property. Specifically, Hill wonders if the owners will now either sell the lot or develop it properly, when the DWP project is over, instead of once again leaving it vacant and neglected, as they have for years. “If you’re not going to sell it, you need to keep it up,” she said.
Mark Pampanin, CD4 Communications Deputy, told the Buzz yesterday that in addition to the green cloth fence cover and sound blankets, CD4 also got the DWP to keep all port-a-potties at the site inside the fence (less visible and less likely to be used by unauthorized people), and that trucks parked there at night will back into their parking spaces in the evening, so there are no loud backup beeps when they exit the site during early morning hours. And Pampanin, too, confirmed that his office will remain in “constant contact” with both DWP and the property owners (both of which, he said, have been “friendly and helpful so far”) to make sure all goes according to plans during the DWP project, and that agreements made by all parties are kept.
Finally, John Welborne, a Windsor Square resident, land-use lawyer and Vice President for Land Use of the Windsor Square Association, said that he, too, is satisfied so far with the temporary DWP use of the property, and the mitigations that the city has put in place: “It seems to me like an interim use by the DWP is a good way to negotiate improvements such as getting rid of the illegal curb cuts and getting whatever sort of fencing (or no fencing) is best for the neighborhood until the property is developed according to the Park Mile Specific Plan.”