At the semi-annual meeting of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association, held on Tuesday, November 15, at Van Ness Elementary School, three specific subjects took the lion’s share of the spotlight: crime, traffic accidents and historic preservation.
The first of these – crime – was the focus of more than half the meeting’s total time, which wasn’t surprising since earlier that day, LAPD spent several hours, and about half the Olympic Division’s manpower, in a standoff with a suspect at an abandoned house at 301 N. Plymouth Blvd. According to Senior Lead Officer Joe Pelayo, after a transient was reported at the property by a neighbor, the man threw a pipe at a construction worker, then barricaded himself in the empty house. Because police had not yet confirmed what weapons the man might or might not have, a full SWAT response was called, and there was a long standoff before the police finally entered the home, found the suspect and safely arrested him.
Pelayo told the neighbors at Tuesday’s LVNA meeting, just a few hours after the arrest, that abandoned houses are connected in some way to most of the property crimes in the neighborhood. The empty homes attract squatters, who trash the properties and then use them as their “beehive” – a home base from which they spread out to burglarize other neighborhood homes and cars, and to which they return with stolen items…which are found in great numbers in the empty houses. Pelayo said there are a large number of abandoned homes in the Larchmont area these days, due to elderly owners dying or leaving for nursing homes, developers who buy up multiple properties for large developments but then do not demolish the old single-family homes quickly, and others who buy up properties to use as short-term rentals. “Almost all property crimes here [in Larchmont Village] and Windsor Square involve squatters in abandoned houses,” said Pelayo.
Pelayo asked residents to let him know as soon as possible about any new abandoned properties that pop up in the neighborhood. The police can’t take any official action until a crime is committed, he said, but they can encourage property owners to secure their premises to help discourage illegal activity. Pelayo also reminded neighbors to officially report all property crimes – including squatter activity, burglaries and thefts from cars – to the police, and not just post about them on social media. The police cannot collect accurate crime data, provide official data to others, or plan their own crime-fighting activities, he said, unless all incidents are reported directly to them.
Finally, Pelayo also urged people to be on the lookout for and to report any suspicious activity in the neighborhood, and to install security cameras, and camera-enabled doorbells, wherever possible. “This is a great neighborhood, but if we don’t look out for each other, there’s only so much we can do,” he said.
The issue of traffic accidents, especially on busy Beverly Blvd., was another major topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting. A number of neighbors expressed concern about several recent and especially severe collisions. They also noted that walking along parts of Beverly, where there is no parkway strip between the sidewalk and street traffic, feels especially dangerous. One neighbor, Vincent Cox, noted that Beverly Blvd. originally terminated at Rossmore Ave., and was never intended to carry the major crosstown traffic that it does today. LVNA President Charlie D’Atri explained, however, that traffic is a “toothpaste tube” issue – if you clamp down on it at one location, it just squirts out somewhere else. So if you add additional traffic lights to slow traffic on one street, he said, it will increase cut-through traffic on other neighborhood streets, which also isn’t good. In the end, neighbors were advised to collect information about trouble spots, and communicate it to the City Council District 4 office, which can request a traffic study as a first step in identifying and mitigating the worst problem areas.
The third major issue brought up at Tuesday’s meeting was an emerging effort to institute an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) to help preserve the historic character of the Larchmont Village area. Resident Chris Shanley, an architect, reported that a neighborhood committee has started working on the process and the next step will be an informational meeting for neighbors, including a panel discussion with city planners and historic survey experts, which will be scheduled soon. Shanley explained that an historic resources survey, involving every property in the Larchmont neighborhood, will also be an important part of the application process, and will require some neighborhood fundraising activities, which will be publicized as they develop. Shanley and fellow HPOZ committee member Karen Gilman distributed copies of an HPOZ information letter and interest survey, which they said will soon be mailed to every neighborhood homeowner.