OPINION: An Open Letter to Councilmember Jose Huizar

The Biscuit Lofts are an excellent example of what works in our Arts District. © Photo by Melissa Richardson Banks

Many of you know me personally. I don’t normally use my blog to discuss politics and mostly refrain from publicly stepping into touchy community issues; rather, I am a huge booster of Downtown Los Angeles, especially the Arts District, which is why I am posting this tonight.

The fate of the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles is on the line. On Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 2:30pm, Councilmember Jose Huizar, in his role as chair of the Planning & Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) for the City of Los Angeles, is asking PLUM members to review and cast their votes to adopt a citywide Hybrid Industrial Zone (HI-Zone), formerly developed over the past year and a half as the Arts District Live/Work Interim Zone.

Dirt lot in front of SCI-Arc was empty for decades. © Photo by Melissa Richardson Banks

In spite of the involvement and hard work of many dedicated Arts District artists, business owners, residents, employees, and other stakeholders who helped shape the original version, the new HI-Zone has dramatically shifted away to what was carefully researched, studied, reviewed, and communicated by many — click HERE for the Arts District community’s version. By renaming the proposed zone to the HI-Zone and stating that it should be expanded to address other communities, which have remained largely inactive and silent, Councilmember Huizar’s office and the Planning Department of the City of Los Angeles, in effect, have made a strategic move to silence the Arts District community.

The repurposing of what works => transforming a former flour mill into a world-class art gallery known as Hauser Wirth. © Photo by Melissa Richardson Banks

If passed, what is being presented as the HI-Zone to the PLUM committee will open the floodgates to further construction of low-lying (no more than five stories) stucco buildings that will not stand the test of time, and pave the way to destroying many sturdy structures built to last for years, which could also be repurposed and incorporated with new elements as even taller and larger spaces to accommodate residential growth of our city.

While my work takes me away from Los Angeles tomorrow, I want every person in the Arts District who is able to attend the meeting at City Hall to speak up — in person, by email, and online.

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PLUM MEETING LOCATION on TUE 9/22 /2015 @ 2:30 PM
City Hall (ID required for admittance)
Council of the City of Los Angeles
Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee

200 N. Spring St., Rm. 350
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Jose Huizar

Dear Jose,

You know me … I have lived, worked and played in Downtown Los Angeles, particularly the Arts District, since 1993. I am a HUGE proponent of responsible development, and I am so happy with much of what’s going on here in my neighborhood. Just this weekend alone, I went to the opening of two new businesses — American Tea Room and ERB; I supported many of our wonderful existing businesses like The Pie Hole and Woo Souvenir Shop, I hosted the new chef of our upcoming Salt & Straw ice cream shop in my home, and I participated in the art exhibition that honors the 6th Street Bridge through artwork by me and over fifty other artists who have lived and worked in the Arts District over the years.

Like many committed friends and neighbors, I have been involved in helping to shape what we were told was going to be the Arts District Live/Work Interim Zone. I trusted you and your staff, and I now trust that you will listen to your constituents to do the right thing, not kowtow to developers who might be willing to contribute to your Officeholder Account so they can build in our neighborhood as they please (by the way, if the latter is all it takes — and I think I know you better than that, you should know I am a helluva fundraiser … if money talks, talk to me so we can save our Arts District neighborhood).

Please provide special provisions to protect and enhance the unique character that has led to the success of the Art District:

1.       Set the floor area ratio (FAR) at 1.5 to ensure that commercial production uses can be maintained so we can sustain and increase the job growth, innovation, and creativity that is the hallmark of our neighborhood.

2.       Set the average unit size at 1,000 square feet so that we have a range of units sized smaller than 1,000 square feet to larger than 1,000 square feet. This ensures a supply of affordable housing to fit a multitude of needs.

3.       Designate affordable housing for artists so people who contributed to the success of the Arts District are not displaced and so we can attract young artists who are just beginning their careers.

4.       Require buildings to be constructed with a column-beam system to preserve the flexibility to change these structures as needed in the future. Those stucco buildings now blanketing our city get outdated too fast and cannot be modified to adapt to the changing environment.

5.       Prohibit the demolition of any building constructed prior to 1965 unless an approved building permit for the same site is on hand. Maintaining the wonderful landscape of factories and warehouses is critical while making sure that new buildings add value and do not detract from the character of the Arts District.

Thank you for your time. Once again, I am placing my trust in you as our entire neighborhood is looking to your leadership to guide our beloved Arts District to a successful future.

Your friend,

Melissa


Can’t go to City Hall? Here’s the agenda (note that our community item is BURIED – click HERE). You can listen to today’s session live or via a recorded version by clicking HERE. Most important, you can send emails to PLUM Committee members and their representatives by clicking below (be sure to copy Sharon Dickinson on all emails:

Office of Councilmember Jose Huizar
Councilmember Jose Huizar
Paul Habib
Sara Hernandez
Councilmember Mitchell Englander
John S. Lee
Hannah Lee
Councilmember Gil Cedillo
Gerald Gubatan
Jennifer Rivera
Councilmember Felipe Fuentes
Rebecca Valdez
Claudia Rodriguez
Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson
Solomon Rivera
Joanne Kim

6 Comments
  • AJ Herrera
    Posted at 21:36h, 21 September

    Well said, Muse! Love you, Woman!

  • Janet
    Posted at 02:42h, 22 September

    I can’t name one part of LA that the city council members and their corporate sponsors have actually cared about keeping their communities authentic and balanced. There is no “responsible development” in Los Angeles. There’s only two settings for the fate of L.A. communities – 1. Full exploitation and 2. Fuller exploitation. Both are filled with elitist developers, techies, trust funders, and industry henchmen drooling at the chance to shame concerned residents by shrieking nimby at them in one way or another.

    You let an ounce of development in and that’s it. The floodgates are open. I’ll pray for you, Art’s District but until the people and communities grow a pair and regularly vote in L.A., us working class will continue to get jack ish from the city AKA corporate real estate USA.

  • Victor
    Posted at 08:15h, 22 September

    Well said. I hope that Huizar reads this and takes your words into thoughtful consideration and rethinks his strategy. This is really scary for downtown’s current residents and although development needs to always move forward there are ways of doing it without ruining its current infrastructure. Best.

  • Melissa
    Posted at 12:30h, 30 September

    Can you update us on what happened?

  • MRB
    Posted at 09:54h, 04 October

    It passed through the City of L.A.’s Planning & Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) in spite of letters and testimony by hundreds of Arts District residents and business owners. Here’s a link to hear the proceedings for yourself: http://bit.ly/1hjjNGX. My understanding is that the next step is for City Council to approve PLUM’s recommendation on Tuesday, October 6.

  • lou schad
    Posted at 14:21h, 23 June

    Just found and read this article today! I just moved to DTLA in October from NY as I believe this city has become the better option for artists and a more thriving arts culture. Thank you for these thoughts- I wish I was a part of any action or change at the time. On this day Jose Huizar was arrested for corruption proving your case against him. Keep on creating content like this! Yours is an incredibly relevant opinion!

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