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New Urbanism and Transit Oriented Development in Los Angeles

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New Urbanism and Transit Oriented Development in Los Angeles

  1. 1. 0 John Dornoff NEW URBANISM AND TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT IN LOS ANGELES
  2. 2. Del Mar Station History: The Del Mar Station is a 3.4 acre site in the city of Pasadena, California. For more than a century the area around the site belonged to the Santa Fe railroad, whose passenger and freight train stations sat on the property. The passenger station saw use until 1994 when Amtrak’s Southwest Chief was rerouted via Santa Fe’s other mainline through Fullerton and the line through Pasadena became the property of Metro, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority with a plan to put in a light rail line from Los Angeles to Pasadena with the line opening in 2003. The Site: The overall building site sits along Del Mar Boulevard between Raymond and Arroyo Parkway. Arroyo Parkway becomes the Pasadena Freeway about a mile south of the complex. To the south of Del Mar Boulevard and west of the Gold Line is Pasadena’s industrial district which includes the sight were a majority of the Rose Parade floats spend a year being built. Arroyo Parkway is largely made up of highway oriented suburban sprawl type stores and services such as filling stations. Complex: The Del Mar Station was envisioned by the city of Pasadena to be a showcase example of Transit Oriented Development. To build the complex a team was put together which included Urban Partners, Archstone, a major owner of apartment buildings, and Moule-Polyzoides Architects. The design included 4 separate areas that were designed to look like they were 4 separate buildings but still interconnected. The density of the complex was 100 units per acre which made this one of the densest areas in this quarter of Los Angeles County. One of the most interesting aspects of the complex was the inclusion of the former Santa Fe train station. While the intent was to keep the Spanish Mediterranean style depot, it had to be moved for a year while a new underground parking garage was installed, so the station was cut into thirds, moved across the street to Central Park where it sat while the parking garage was installed, then moved back to its original location but now on top of a parking garage. The building itself is now being used as a restaurant. The total complex includes apartments that range from studios to two bedrooms with price ranges between $1200 and $3000. For many cities that may seem like an extravagant price, it is actually very reasonable for this section of Southern California. The complex also includes 20,000 square feet of retail most of which is along the western end of the building beside Raymond Avenue north of the train station building. All of the stores are higher end specialty retailers including furniture and interior décor and clothing.
  3. 3. Walkability One of most important aspects of a good Transit Oriented Development is how walkable it is and if the complex allows people to reduce the number of car trips made. The complex sits to the south of Old Pasadena, which is the city’s original shopping district, which was gentrified by the city in the 1980’s in order to boost sales tax revenues after Proposition 13 was passed in the state that limited the amount of property tax increases that could be imposed. While the area includes a large number of stores most of them are oriented toward higher end retail, much like the retail at the Del Mar Station, which means that they are not stores that people would shop at on a regular basis. However, there is also a wide variety of restaurants in the area with a range of prices so this can be done without an automobile. The next important question is grocery stores, which is one of the most common non- commute auto trips made and this is where the complex does not do a good job. Looking at the Walk Score you would get the impression that there are plenty of grocery stores in walking distance of the complex however, when you take a closer look at those stores you will discover that Walk Score classifies tourist oriented stores that sell some specialty grocery items, such as local jams, a grocery store. After breaking down what truly could be defined as a grocery store you discover that there are only two stores in close proximity to the complex, and that is a Trader Joe’s and a Ralph’s grocery store. The Trader Joe’s is the chain’s original location along Arroyo Parkway but is almost a half mile away from the complex and Arroyo Parkway is a six lane highway that, while having sidewalks, is not a pedestrian friendly environment. In fact when I walked the area in December, 2013 there was not a single pedestrian seen for the time I was in the area, which was more than one hour. The Ralph’s store is about the same distance away but located west along Colorado Blvd and getting to it requires crossing the stub of a freeway. Neither option is very pleasant for the person trying to avoid using an automobile. Gentrification: One of the questions that seems to come up with most Transit Oriented Developments is whether the complex was part of the gentrification process of the area. When it comes to Del Mar Station that is a complicated question. The site itself was the property of the Santa Fe Railroad for more than a hundred years and was never used for anything other than rail service. However, as noted above the city did gentrify the Old Pasadena area and, like many governments needing additional sources of revenue, is looking to bring in more money to the city and the city is now starting to see some of those changes. Three new higher density developments have been built across the street and within a block of Del Mar station along Cordova to the east in the last three years.
  4. 4. Affordability: Another question that often arises with Transit Oriented Developments is the affordability question and here the complex does not do well. While the rents in the complex could be considered comparable for the city of Pasadena and the surrounding area, there is no affordable housing included in the complex and the rents are out of reach of anyone who is low income. Problems with the complex: As already mentioned, this complex does not do well in the area of affordability and can be considered poor for reducing auto trips. The other major problem with the complex is that like all three of these case studies, it does nothing to put “eyes on the street” to make the streets seem safer as Jane Jacobs would say. While many of the apartments do have windows that face the streets, because Arroyo Parkway tends to be a highway more than a city street and Del Mar Boulevard also is a major auto and truck route, most of the apartment’s main features are facing inward on itself. There are no balconies on any of the apartments, even those that face the public space next to the Gold Line stop and old train station. Conclusion: There is a lot to like about the Del Mar Station, it is located directly on a light rail line, it is a modern complex with nice apartments, has a historic element in the former train station that gives it a sense of place, and has a public plaza next to the former train station. However, the complex does not benefit the surrounding neighborhood; it does not put eyes on the streets, does not have an affordability element, and does not have the amenities that could substantially reduce the number of auto trips. With that being said, if I was moving back to Pasadena while I currently need a three bedroom apartment if I could rent a two bedroom I would definitely look at the Del Mar Station for what features it does have. Del Mar Station Transit Village. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2015, from http://www.cnu.org/resources/projects/del- mar-station-transit-village-2006 Lund, H., & Willson, R. (n.d.). The Pasadena Gold Line: Development Strategies, Location Decisions, and Travel Characteristics along a New Rail Line in the Los Angeles Region. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.equinoxcenter.org/assets/files/Caltrans Pasadena Gold Line Study.pdf Moule & Polyzoides. (n.d.). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.mparchitects.com/site/projects/del-mar- station-transit-village
  5. 5. Picture 1: Light Rail train goes through TOD complex at Del Mar Station, photo by Bettercities Picture 2: Light Rail Station and former Santa Fe train station, photo by Cooltownstudios.
  6. 6. 0 Picture 3 Overhead view of Del Mar Station by MacUrban Picture 4: View from Arroyo Parkway and Del Mar by MPArchitects
  7. 7. Picture 5: Former Santa Fe Stations with apartments in the background by BuildABetterBurb Picture 6: Swimming Pool at Avalon Apartments
  8. 8. Mission Meridian Village History: Meridian Village sits across the street from the spot where the city of South Pasadena was founded in the late 1800’s and next to the Santa Fe train station that bisected the area. Over the years the main business district moved to the area of Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Streets while the Mission Street near Meridian continued to be home to an eclectic blend of retail businesses serving nearby residences. Unlike the Pasadena train station, the South Pasadena station was abandoned when Amtrak took over all rail passenger service in 1971 and was subsequently torn down. The city saw rail service again with the opening of the Gold Line light rail service from Los Angeles to Pasadena. Public Outreach The city of South Pasadena was incorporated in 1888 and its borders have largely remained the same since then with 3.4 square miles and hemmed in by the cities of Los Angeles, Alhambra, San Marino, and Pasadena. South Pasadena shares more in common with its neighbor to the east, San Marino, than any of the other cities in that its demographics show it having much higher income than average in Southern California and substantially higher home prices. Residents of the city fought the Gold Line fearing that it would bring more traffic and more density to the largely single family community. The city has become well known in its fights against change, particularly the proposal to send Interstate 710 through the city. To ease residents’ fears about the development, Creative Housing Associates held 23 public meetings about the complex to get resident’s opinions on what they were creating. As required by city code the complex did blend the architecture of the complex with the surrounding neighborhood of single family residences, taking design clues from the Green and Green Architecture homes that were built in the early 1900’s. The Project: The Meridian Mission Village includes 67 Condominiums and Townhouses and 3 single family residences at the corner of Meridian Avenue and Mission Avenue. The complex also includes 5000 square feet of retail, 324 parking spaces which includes 124 spaces set aside for transit riders. All the new buildings were designed to blend in with the existing character of the neighborhood which is part of the city of South Pasadena’s codes. Financing for the project was $2 million from the developer, $2.5 million from the transit agency, $500,00 from the city of South Pasadena, $2.5 million from Caltrans (California Department of Transportation), developer equity of $2.5 million, and a general construction loan of $12 million. The development was built by Creative Housing Associates and the architect was Moules and Polyzoides like the Del Mar Station in Pasadena.
  9. 9. Retail: The complex does have a retail component along the Mission Street side of the facility and all of the retailers continue to be smaller, locally owned stores despite the rapidly increasing rents that have occurred since the opening of the Gold Line. Walkability According to the Congress of New Urbanism, one of the most important aspects of a good Transit Oriented Development is that it is designed to reduce the number of automobile trips, especially non-commuter, which represent 85% of all single vehicle occupancy trips. What services are nearby that reduce the need for an automobile? In the case of Mission Meridian there is a fitness center and restaurant on the site and, in fact, there are numerous restaurants within walking distance of the complex. For those looking to do grocery shopping without a car the trip is a bit longer as the nearest grocery store is an older and smaller Trader Joe’s which is about a third of a mile to the west along Mission Street, and the nearest full line grocery store is the suburban style Pavilion’s which is located a half mile to the Southeast. Problems with the Development: The question is what could have been done better with this development? One of the first things you have to look at is the lack of density in the development. Compared to most TOD projects the density is very low but on the other hand it is also keeping with the character of the rest of the city and making the development any higher density would have triggered a firestorm of protest from local residents who don’t want their neighborhood changed. Unlike the other two case studies gentrification has not been a major worry for the area since it was already a high priced community. However, some smaller stores and restaurants near the complex have closed and been replaced due to the increase in rents that have occurred since the opening of the Gold Line. Affordability is another question that comes up with most Transit Oriented Developments and this one is no exception. As mentioned above the city of South Pasadena is not an inexpensive place to live and prices in this project have been averaging within 20% of the surrounding neighborhoods with prices starting at an astronomical $859,000. Compare this to Pueso Del Sol at the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park station in the third case study where prices start at $185,000 which is actually about half the Los Angeles county average. Finally, does the complex create eyes on the street as Jane Jacobs’s talks about? The answer to that question is no. While the residences that border Mission Street do have windows overlooking the street, the entrances and balconies are all focused toward the courtyards of the complex, in other words they are inner directed. In addition, many of the retail shops located along Mission are clothing and other stores that do not create a regular clientele, fewer chances for those neighborhood characters.
  10. 10. Conclusion: While the Mission Median Village is not the ideal complex, considering the nature of the city it is located in, it is somewhat amazing that the complex was actually approved. Because of the tight architectural standards in the city only a small number of developments happen each year in the city. The developer deserves credit for the outstanding public outreach it performed during this project. Mission Meridian Village shows suburban density done right. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/16469/mission-meridian-village-shows-suburban-density-done-right/ Moule & Polyzoides. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2015, from http://www.mparchitects.com/site/projects/mission- meridian-village TOD That Works. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/dced/pdf/phoenix-sgia-case- studies.pdf Weaver, S., & Pahl, D. (2011, January 1). Mission Street Revitalization, South Pasadena, California. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from https://lii-production.s3.amazonaws.com/cms- uploads/presses/25/Case_Study_Mission_Street.pdf
  11. 11. Picture 7: Light Rail train passes Mission Meridian Village, photo by MPArchitects Picture 8: Corner of Mission and Meridian by city of South Pasadena
  12. 12. Picture 9: Mission Meridian Site Plan by Moules-Polyzoides Picture 10: Townhomes as part of the complex photo by South Pasadena Examiner
  13. 13. Picture 11: Along Meridian Avenue photo by Greater Washington DC Picture 12: Parking Structure and Gold Line train, photo by MP Architects
  14. 14. Puerta Del Sol Background: Of all the stations located along the Gold Line when it opened in 2003, most experts would have listed the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park station as the least likely to see any type of development. The area around the station has largely been industrial for many years; however the area adjacent to the station had been abandoned for several years which meant there was opportunity to develop the land without dislocating any businesses or residents. The post-World War II era had not been kind to this part of the Los Angeles. To the west and north of this land the area had been cut off from the rest of the city by first the Arroyo Seco Parkway (now Pasadena Freeway) and then the Golden State Freeway to its immediate west, which combine for a huge spaghetti bowl of ramps to the northwest of the complex. In the last 20 years another problem came to the neighborhood in the form of gang activity. The area to the north, across the Pasadena Freeway, is a hot spot of gang activity with all the negative aspects that come along with it. New Beginning: With the opening of the Gold Line in 2003, a new beginning was envisioned for the area, one that would create a new residential community that would be the catalyst for positive change, not only around the station but in the surrounding neighborhoods. A plan was put together as a studio by the University of California Los Angeles planning department along with stakeholders in the area to redefine what the area was and what changes should occur in the area and the many constraints that limit the potential of the area. The Complex: The complex includes 165 mixed-use condominiums with 39 studios, 13 studio lofts, 15 live- work, 50 two bedrooms, 4 two bedroom lofts, 28 three bedrooms, and 16 four bedrooms. Financing for the complex was made up of a CitiBank Community Development Loan of $35,400,000 along with $6,000,000 in equity by the reality group that built the complex. The architect for the complex was Newman-Garrison Gilmore and Partners. Walkability: If there is one major problem with this complex it is walkability. The complex is currently an island in a sea of industrial. The area could almost be considered a food desert as there are very few locations to buy even a minimum amount of groceries in the vicinity, beyond a couple of convenience stores that are located at Avenue 26th and Figueroa, which is to the north past the Pasadena Freeway and a few restaurants in the same neighborhood. The nearest full line grocery store is located 1.6 miles away.
  15. 15. Gentrification: Is this complex the “Wild West” as Smith describes it in this article about Gentrification in the Lower East Side? So far the answer to the question is no, although things could always change. So far none of the surrounding properties have been developed granting that could vary at any time. At the present time it would seem that developers are looking at other opportunities in Highland Park, which is the station before South Pasadena on the Gold Line, as fears of gentrification are heightened in that area right now. However, the question that has to be answered is, can gentrification be a good thing? Both this area and the Highland Park area have suffered from severe gang violence. Can gentrification be a benefit to the neighborhood by getting rid of those problems or are we just moving those problems into someone else’s neighborhood? Affordability: The one area where this complex scores a major win is in the area of affordability. As mentioned in the case study of Mission Meridian Village, prices in this area are very low, even by Los Angeles standards. In addition 40% of the housing was set aside as affordable housing. Problems with the complex: This complex, like the other two case studies presented, would fail the Jane Jacob’s test of putting eyes on the street. The complex is primarily designed to face inward, to its own courtyard, and not putting those eyes on the street, which is so desperately needed in this neighborhood. Also, none of the residences in the complex have balconies that look down on the street so there is little reason for people to pay attention to what is happening out there. Conclusion: Is this the best that can be done for the neighborhood? While the development does bring new dollars into an area that has suffered for more than 60 years, you have to question whether this complex could have been built to better urban planning standards. The complex has done little to improve the immediate neighborhood although some revitalization is now being seen in the Cypress Park area on the north side of the Pasadena Freeway. Avenue 26: Reconnecting a Community. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://164.67.121.27/files/UP/final_report_gp4.pdf Puerta Del Sol | AMCAL Housing. (n.d.). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.amcalhousing.com/communities/puerta-del-sol/
  16. 16. 0 Picture 13: Gold Line train at Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park Station with Puerta Del Sol in background, photo by free e-books Picture 14: Condos and Apartments, photo by Ave 26
  17. 17. Picture 15: View along Avenue 26 by AMCAL Housing Picture 16: Maine and Ave 26 photo by KFA Los Angeles
  18. 18. Picture 17: Inside courtyard of complex, photo by AMCAL Housing Picture 18: Train leaving station toward Pasadena, can see industrial of the neighborhood in background, photo by oldtrails
  19. 19. Playa Vista Los Angeles, California (Playa Vista) Playa Vista, California sits on the west side of Los Angeles just north of the Los Angeles International Airport and to the south of Santa Monica. Immediately to the northwest does Marina Del Rey which is most made up of condominiums and apartments and is one of the more expensive places in Los Angeles own to the fact that is on the water at a major marina. History: For many years the property was owned by the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes and was home to industrial buildings and an airport. It was here that he built his plane the Spruce Goose that now resides in a museum in McMinnville, Oregon. After his death in 1976 his heirs wanted to develop the property but faced many road blocks along the way including environmentalist who did not want any of the property developed and neighbors who wanted development but only low density. The family was firm that it wanted to build something better than a typical subdivision so after a few years brought on Stefano Polyzoides one would later be one of the founding members of the Congress for New Urbanism to design the development. For years the family and Polyzoides looked to get city approval and arrange financing to create a true New Urbanist community but funding for non-traditional (compared to what was being built for the last 30 years – suburban tract homes) was difficult and impossible to come by and the city dragged its feet on approvals for the project. In the mid-1990’s Dreamworks studios attempted to build a studio in the development but were unable to secure the financing for the project. After several years of frustration in trying to get the project approved a new developer was brought on board in 2001 who did not keep Polyzoides as part of the project team. Construction was finally started in 2002 but major portions of the complex did not open until 2010 almost 35 years after the death of Howard Hughes. Development: The final development of Playa Vista includes a mixture of office, retail, housing and open space. What is interesting is that I could find not data on the amount of homes and apartments that have been built already although the Playa Vista website does note that in their next and last phase of the project there will be 2600 for sale and apartment homes, 200 independent and assisted living residents, more office space, a new resident club, plus additional parks and open space. Construction on the Runway a mixed use commercial center with 200,000 square feet of retail, office and residences started last year and should be opening soon. The Polyzoides Critique: In 2012, Stafanos Polyzoides was interviewed about what the Playa Vista development and what he thought of what was finally built there. His first statement concerned the city of Los
  20. 20. Angeles City Council and the planners who he blamed for many of the problems that he faced when first trying to create a working plan for the community. He said the both the planners and the council seemed to be stuck in the 1950’s and couldn’t comprehend what he was trying to design with Playa Vista. Second, he thought that the final product was flabby and characterless and did not come close to the standards that they were originally looking to. He points out that many of the buildings do not have much character and appear just general plans. He thought that the final product would have been much better had they been able to get approval for the building types that they were trying to design. He was also critical of office complexes that were built despite that they are home to the Los Angeles branches of such notable companies as Microsoft, Facebook, You Tube, Google, and others, they are largely standard suburban office buildings with auto centric features and not design to welcome pedestrians. The Open Space Debate: In Jon Christensen’s article called “Contingent Ecological Urbanism” he discusses a proposed new urbanist development by Peter Calthrope in Redwood City, California that would built on a former salt works site on the San Francisco Bay. Christensen argues that even though the development would be replacing what was an industrial site for more than a hundred years and half of it would be restored from its industrial past. Much the same argument was used by the opponents of the Playa Vista plan who wanted the entire site turned back into its original landscape. It is a difficult question to answer, many of us see the need to protect the environment and here you have a case were the environment was irritably harmed many years before most people understood the problems that filling in these marshes had on the environment. Today as the Los Angeles area continues to grow and there is a serious shortage of affordable housing (caused by a host of issues including the effects of Proposition 13 that one housing project will not solve). In the end almost 60% of the property became open space. How do you balance the needs to house citizens and the needs of the environment? Walkability: Walkability is a mixed bag with Playa Vista. There are nice mixed use areas but the major office buildings were designed to be auto centric. In addition transit service is minimal at best and the streets boarding the devilment are all high speed busy thoroughfares that are not for the faint of heart. Gentrification: In the 2000 census the racial make-up of Playa Vista was 34% Latino, 32 % White, 21% Asian and the rest made up of a large number of races. However the incomes in the area at that
  21. 21. time were $68,000 which was higher than many other areas of town. Therefore it is hard to imagine that this development has caused much gentrification in the immediate vicinity. Public Spaces: There is several public spaces spread throughout the complex. I could not find any information on any of the public spaces beyond the fact that they exist. There is a large section of the property set aside as wetlands but is open to public but the most interesting information about the public spaces is that there is a pet in Ballona Creek but pets are not allowed in the pet center…go figure. Final Thoughts: Playa Vista appears to be the preverbal political comprise that does something’s ok but in an attempt to please as many groups of people, fails to do anything really well. The architecture of the buildings is underwhelming at best. While some buildings do have some local Spanish influenced architectural character, many of the other buildings look like a host of new urbanist buildings that have built both here in Portland and in Daybreak, Utah. Further there is little housing that is affordable in the complex. According to reports 15% of the apartments are set aside as affordable although it does not specify what the cost for those apartments are in an area where apartment rents range anywhere from $3000 to $6000 a month. In addition 10% of the for sale housing is supposed to be considered affordable although there is not mention of how that set aside works, how you qualify for it and if it is required that those affordability standards transfer when you sell the complex. The least expensive housing in Playa Vista is a small micro condo that is currently for sale at $800,000 with all other properties being well over a million dollars. There is also 131 units set aside for groups such as teachers, fire fighters, police officers and other public servants to purchase at low cost but once again there is little information on what those costs are. References Ballona Wetlands. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/ballona-wetlands Home - Playa Vista. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://playavista.com/ Playa Vista. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/playa-vista Playa Vista Today. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.playavistatoday.com/
  22. 22. 0 Photograph 1: Site Plan of Playa Vista from MDRC Condos Photograph 2: Mixed Use in Playa Vista by Activerain
  23. 23. Photograph 3: Photo of open space, condominiums and apartments by the MLS Photograph 4: Retail development that recently opened, photo by Curb LA
  24. 24. Photograph 5: Office Buildings in Playa Vista by JayRicky Photograph 6: Open space by Wikipedia
  25. 25. 0 Hollywood and Highland Los Angeles, California (Hollywood) History: Despite its prime location in the heart of Hollywood, just a few hundred feet from the world’s famous Chinese Theater and along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for many years the intersection of Hollywood and Highland languished being the site of tourist shops and lots of parking for all the tourist that hit Hollywood Blvd. Despite all the presence of tourists Hollywood overall from the 1960’s through the 1990’s had a reputation of being seedy and for those down on their luck. While some of the major movie studios were still located in town (including Paramount Pictures and Jim Hensen Productions), Hollywood seemed to have lost its entire glamor from its glory days. With the opening of the Red Line subway with a stop at Hollywood/Highland, the city of Los Angeles saw an opportunity to revive its cultural icon and bring new life to the community. The city of Los Angeles proposed a new Transit Oriented Development at the intersection in order to revive the area. Development: The development was originally built by the Trizec Properties which is a Toronto based company that took over the development arm of Earnest Hahn Corporation that developed many malls throughout the nation. Trizec leased the 1.35 acres of land from Metro the transit agency that runs the red line that has a station beneath the complex for 55 years at an annual cost of $492,000 a year. In addition to its own funding sources the city of Los Angeles contributed $90 million from the Community Redevelopment Agency to help fund construction of the complex. New Ownership: The development was sold in 2004 for just over $200 million meaning that the original developer took a major bath from the loss on the complex. The new owner of the complex is the CIM group which bills itself as a “premium” real estate fund manager with projects across the nation but is ironically located across the street from the complex in the TV Guide building. The first change the new owners made was to kick out most of the existing tenants of the complex and bring in high end chain retailers. The Development Today: Today the development includes the Dolby Theater (Formally Kodak Theater) that is best known as the new home of the Academy Awards Ceremony, a hotel and resort, 74 retailers, and 25 full service and casual restaurants including a Hard Rock Café along with a bowling alley and two night clubs. The office space that is part of the complex is most notably home to the regional headquarters of Wolfgang Puck.
  26. 26. Walkability: While the building is considered a Transit Oriented Development, it would be better characterized as a Transit Adjacent Development. The development while located on the METRO Red Line caters to the automobile with a four lane entrance to its parking lot and the hotel in the back of the building. However, unlike some developments that turn their backs to the streets this complex does open up to Hollywood Blvd owing to the fact that many potential customers are tourist walking along Hollywood Blvd looking at the imprints of stars along the sidewalk and walking to the Chinese Theater which is also owned now by the CIM Group. However, when you look toward what Jane Jacobs talked about when it comes to eyes on the street would this complex fit the build? The answer to that question is a resounding no. First of all the complex does not include any residential units unless you count the hotel in the back of the complex and being the fact that none of the hotel rooms actually face the street you have another strike against the complex. Further probably more than 90% of the people walking the streets on any given day are tourists and not the casual acquaintances of Jacob’s world in Greenwich Village. Gentrification: The goal of this project was to create gentrification in the area. The city wanted to bring more new businesses to the area that will increase the sales tax dollars in addition to new development that they can charge higher property taxes to that would not be covered under the Proposition 13 property tax imitative that limited tax increases to 1% a year. The problem with gentrification especially in this area of Hollywood is that it was home to some of the more affordable housing in the Southern California region. While the Metro station to the east Hollywood/Vine has seen gentrification so far there has not been much in the way of additional development at Hollywood/Highland. Across the street from the development you still have a line of the tacky tourist shops that have been there for years, right next to the classic and restored El Capitan Theater. Public Spaces: The Hollywood/Highland Complex does have a public space including a splash fountain that seem to be all the rage especially in retail centers that are trying to new urbanist in design. But the question once again has to be how public is the public space? Like so many other so-called public spaces because it is on private property there is a limit on who can be there and when. Fortunately there are other public spaces available nearby so not all is lost. Criticisms: While the complex has been getting accolades for some, it has also had its share of criticism from others. A few years ago LA Curb which is a major online news source in the Los Angeles region had a poll about the ugliest building in Los Angeles and the Hollywood and Highland complex ended up with the honor. Looking at some of the architectural features of the building
  27. 27. give the impression that the building would be more at home on Las Vegas Blvd as opposed to Hollywood Blvd. There has also been criticism that the complex has been given a 20 year exemption for the city billboard ordinance that allows them to have their huge multistory images plastered on its building including the corner of Hollywood and Highland. The biggest criticism the that the city gave the developers $90 million in Community Redevelopment Funds that critics say should have been used to develop housing especially low income housing that is vitally needed in the extreme Los Angeles marketplace. This was also cited as one of the reasons why Governor Brown and the state legislature did away with Redevelopment Agencies a few years ago. References Hollywood & Highland. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/hollywood-and-highland Home - Hollywood & Highland. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://hollywoodandhighland.com/
  28. 28. Picture 19: Image of the property with the TLC Chinese Theater to the bottom left and the corner of Highland and Hollywood to the center right. Picture 20: Hollywood Blvd side of the Hollywood and Highland Complex photo by Trip Advisor
  29. 29. Picture 21: Looking from the complex across Hollywood Blvd, photo by Otigan13 Picture 22: Picture looking toward the corner of Hollywood and Highland including the billboards that are exempt from the city sign ordinance. Photo by movieplaces.tv
  30. 30. Picture 23: The splash pool in the center of the complex along with some of the tacky architecture. Photo by valleynet.com Picture 24: Parking lot entrance and the hotel, photo by Parkwhiz
  31. 31. 0 Blossom Plaza Los Angeles, California (Chinatown) History: For the early part of the 20th century, the Chinese community of Los Angeles was located east of Alameda Street. But in the 1930’s when the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads decided to build a new union station (to be talked about later), the Chinese community was forced to relocate to an area boarded by Hill Street on the west, Alameda/Spring Streets to east, Ord Street to the south and Bernard Street to the north. Today there is still a large traditional Chinese community in the area and is considered a more authentic Chinatown that even San Francisco has today. However, today that community is in danger as new development is now happing in the area which has seen a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and a Starbucks located in the area that has always been largely Chinese businesses. Blossom Plaza is a new development that is now taking shape on the eastern end of Chinatown taking advantage of the Gold Line light rail station located at Spring Street and College. The site where Blossom Plaza is being built has sat unused for nearly 15 years last being home to an Italian Restaurant called Little Joe’s. Blossom Plaza Development: The $100 million Blossom Plaza will replace the long abandoned restaurant and parking lot with a new multi-story mixed-use development. Blossom Plaza was first proposed less than a year after the Gold Line Opened in 2003 from Pasadena to Los Angeles it’s next to last stop at the edge of Chinatown. However that developer ran into a host of problems getting financing for the project then went bankrupt after the financial meltdown in 2009. The city of Los Angeles then bought the property at a bankruptcy auction and proceeded to get requests for proposals for various developers. Forest City Developers who developed Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards ended up with the winning proposal and became the new developer of the site in 2011. It was announced that construction would begin in August, 2013 but after an election the area had new representation on the city council who requested that the development be stopped until he had more time to look into the project. Finally after almost 10 years of delays Blossom Plaza broke ground in October, 2013 but was quickly stopped when it was discovered that a piece of Los Angeles history was sitting beneath the site. An aqueduct that was first used by the Spanish in the 1600’s then enclosed in the mid- 1850’s was found buried beneath the site. The developer with historic preservations looking on removed the section form the ground which was then turned over to a museum to be put on display.
  32. 32. The final approved project for the site includes 237 residential units with 53 of them being affordable housing units which are being paid for through a grant, 18,500 of “neighborhood serving” retail, and 392 parking spaces some of which will be set aside for transit users. Gentrification: One of the themes around many of these developments that I have been talking about is the problem of gentrification. While Chinatown in Los Angeles has seemed immune to the gentrification over the years in the last couple of years it is started to become a major issue. By the late 2000’s a growing number of young people were moving into the area including artists that are often the first sign of gentrification. A former city council member in the area and a member of the Chinese community himself said that the did not think that gentrification would be a major issue here because it is already happening and that major elements of the Chinese community have been moving to the San Gabriel Valley over the last 10 years anyway. The question also has be asked who exactly will rent those “neighborhood serving” retail spots. Chances are they will not be locally owned businesses since of them can afford the amount of rent that must be charged to make a project such as this make economic sense. The exact definition of what they mean by neighborhood serving has not be answered either Walkability: While it is difficult to ascertain what the walkability of a project will be like before it is open, we can take some educated guesses by looking toward how the building is designed and the type of retailers that the developer is looking to put into the building. In the case of Blossom Plaza we do see a positive sign that balconies which are considered vital to creating a walking environment are included in the concept drawings. Further the developer has stated that the retail businesses will be neighborhood serving but would not go into further detail on what they would consider those to be. There is will so be a pedestrian promenade that runs from the light rail station to Broadway the major north south street in the area and the heart of Chinatown. Design: The developers of the complex have incorporated Asian themes into their building to better blend into Chinatown. However, when taking a closer look at the of the details of the building designs questions arise about how much this development is really different from any other mixed-used development elsewhere in Los Angeles. In some of the pictures it shows the pedestrian promenade decorated with Chinese style lights but when you take down those decorations there appears to be no difference between this complex and any of the others we have look at.
  33. 33. Public Space: Once again we have a new development that is promising to provide set amount of public space as part of its design but how public will it be? One interesting feature of the design of the public space is that there is a direct connect from the Gold Line station which is elevated at this point to the new development through the public space so the developer or the operator of the property has to consider that people will be walking through the area to get to and from the Gold Line. However, the actual space is located above a one floor section of the building that is closest to the station which means that people walking at street level will not be able to find the space easily unless there is appropriate way finding and the developer may not want the average person on the street to find the spot that easily. Final Thoughts: It has taken more than ten years to get this project from the drawing board to the dirt moving stage. The building will provide badly needed affordable housing but could also accelerate the slow death of another Chinatown. As James Kunstler says change is to be expected and we should look forward to the new opportunities that are created by change and that gentrification is a good thing. (Kunstler). We have seen areas revived but we have also lost unique neighborhoods and many people have been displaced some of whom had little control over the changes that took place. In a few years Chinatown in Los Angeles may become another causality of how our cities are changing. Maybe instead of going to near downtown Los Angeles to experience Chinatown in may require a trip to the San Gabriel Valley just like you have to go to SE 82nd here in Portland to visit the new “Chinatown”. References Blossom Plaza. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/places/blossom-plaza Chinatown Los Angeles. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.chinatownla.com/news.php?newsId=14 Vincent, R. (2013, October 13). $100-million complex to replace former Chinatown fixture. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/13/business/la-fi-commre-chinatown-20131013
  34. 34. 0 Picture 25: Image of Blossom Plaza from Urban Strategist Picture 26: Blossom Plaza along Broadway by Z.A.R.
  35. 35. Picture 27: Public Space with Gold Line station at bottom right by watrydesign Picture 28: College Street side of complex by LADowntownNews
  36. 36. Picture 29: Groundbreaking, photo by Gloria Molina’s Political Organization (City Council) Picture 30: The long empty restaurant by LADowntownNews
  37. 37. 0 Vermont (also called Lotus) Los Angeles, California (Koreatown) History: The corner of Vermont and Wilshire are a busy crossroads in Southern California which includes a Red Line/Purple Line subway station and two of the busiest bus routes corridors in the nation. For years this section of Wilshire Blvd was known for its upscale housing and for its departments stores including Bullock’s Wilshire which sat at the corner of Wilshire and Vermont were the Vermont now stands. By the 1950’s this section of the city fell out of favor because it was considered too far away from any of the freeways so the people moved out. In their place a large community of Koreans moved into the area making it their own and eventually the neighborhood became Koreatown. Bullocks eventually became part of Macy’s which decided it no longer needed the store in a declining part of town. Then in 1992 the Los Angeles Riots occurred and one of the rioters targets were the many Korean owned businesses located in Koreatown. Scars of the riots still exist in several spots in the community and it is only now that they are starting to heal. The property has a Portland connection as its owner through much of the 2000’s was Portland developer Gerding Edlen. Another developer proposed buying the property from Gerding Edlen and putting a high rise mall at the site with possible housing but that was proposed in 2008 which meant the proposal did not survive the financial meltdown of that year. While that project did fall through, Los Angeles developer Jerry Snyder did eventually buy the property but the mall idea was never revived. In 2011 Jerry Snyder proposed to build two towers, start construction that year and have them finished by 2011 but those plans were a little too ambitious for the times and the ground breaking was moved back. In May, 2012 it was announced that the project had received a HUD loan for $12.5 million dollars that will allow the retail component of the project to be built along with the parking lots. Snyder also hoped to get a Community Redevelopment Grant but that was put on the back burner when Governor Brown did away with redevelopment agencies. However, the State Supreme Court reallocated the CRA money and the project ended up getting $5 Million of that money. The Development: Ground breaking for the new development finally took place on May 21st , 2012 which was quicker than many other project that have been held up for years because of oppositional lawsuits. The project included two towers one of 22 stories and one of 28 stories. There would be 464 apartments with a percentage of them affordable, 40,000 square feet of retail space fronting busy Wilshire Blvd and Vermont Streets, and 12,000 square feet of open space. The project opened in August, 2014 with rents in the market rate apartments starting at $2365 going up to $3165 and two bedroom apartments starting at $3435 and going up to $4460. They also have what is referred to as Flex apartments that could serve as an extremely small two bedroom with now walls or an office which go from $2755 to $3640. While they may seem
  38. 38. outrageous to those not used to Los Angeles prices, they are actually reasonable especially for new construction. Within the first month of the project being opened both the retail space and the apartments were at about 29% occupancy. Shortly after the buildings opened Snyder sold the property to Capri Capital out of Chicago for $283 million which is almost $83 million more than it cost to build. Criticisms: Critics immediately pounced on the buildings for their huge parking structures that take up 3 floors of the complex just above the retail section. To make matters worse the residential portion of the towers are set back from the parking structure portion making them stand out even more. A giant Lotus art project was put up between the two towers along the parking garage to make it a little more tolerable but because it actually sits set back from the street level its use is somewhat limited. It has also been noted that the Vermont sits directly across the street from the Red Line/Purple Line subway entrance that has its own development on top of it that is comprised of all low income housing with no parking and say that the Vermont should have limited to no parking also. However, the developer and designers have commented that they wanted to reduce the amount of the parking at the site but the parking requirements by the city of Los Angeles are just too high and planners and the city council are not willing to budge from them despite its location. Walkability: Do we have a Transit Oriented Development here or is it another case of a Transit Adjacent Development (TAD)? Once again it appears that we have another TAD development instead of TOD although as mentioned about this may be the fault of planners and the city council and not the developers. While the buildings do have ground floor retail, are located on two busy transit corridors, and across the street from the Red Line/Purple Line subway entrance, the buildings are designed do not encourage its residents to be part of the street life or to walk in the community. However, the towers are largely high density suburbs in the sky much like the Urban Renewal towers built here in Portland and elsewhere during the period from the 1950’s to 1970’s. They do not create the eyes on the street like Jacob’s talks about since there are actually no residences on the first several floors and instead you have parking garages that create their own dead space. Gentrification: While gentrification is often thought of as bad especially for those that live in the area and our displaced, is there times when gentrification is a good thing? While some residents may be displaced in the area, this complex replaces what especially has been a vacant lot for more than 20 years. While there is housing nearby that may be affected if this complex does bring more change, overall the Koreatown Neighborhood has never recovered from the destruction caused by the 1992 riots.
  39. 39. In addition Wilshire Blvd west of Vermont is home to high density office and residential but has seemed to have very little impact on areas along 3rd Avenue, 6th , Avenue, 7th Avenue, and 9 the Avenue which are some of the streets that parallel Wilshire Blvd in this corridor so the changes of this development having a major impact that those streets appears to be minimal. Public Space: Once again we have a developer that provides a spot of public space which is sorely needed in the Koreatown area but once again the question has to be asked, is it truly public or because it sits on private property who will be permitted to be in this area and not? The most likely response to that question is that private security guards would most likely be patrolling the buildings and the open space ensuring that anyone that they consider to not be worthy of being in the area would be moved to another location. Final Thoughts: In my opinion the parking structure the way it is design in this building is just plain ugly and make the whole complex just repulsive. I find it highly unlikely that a building such as this would be able to pass design review here in Portland. The developer and designer were also asked why some treatment could not be done to make the parking structure stand out and it was stated that the price would have been too high. This project could have been much better and there is plenty of blame to go around. In the end we have a building that stands out like a sore thumb and while it does create new life to an area that desperately needs it, you have to ask what might have been? References (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-highrise-apartment-sold- 20140725-story.html The Vermont. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/the-vermont The Vermont. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.thevermont.net/
  40. 40. 0 Picture 31: The Vermont and its parking structures at the corner of Vermont and Wilshire. Photo by Rent Lingo Picture 32: Rendering of the resident lounge space from the developer
  41. 41. Picture 33: Poolside at the Vermont from Yelp Picture 34: The Lotus Artwork being installed, photo by LA Curbed
  42. 42. Picture 35: View from the back from RentLingo Picture 36: Looking across the street to the Red Line station and the affordable apartments built above the station by Mcfarland
  43. 43. 0 Millennium Los Angeles, California (Hollywood) History: One of the iconic icons in Hollywood (and one of the favorite’s for disaster film’s to destroy) is the Capitol Records building that sits on Vine Street just a block from the Hollywood/Vine red line station. The building is 13 stories, completed in 1956 and is best known by its round shape. On its roof stands a radio tower whose red airplane warning light flashes the word Hollywood in Morris code. The building also has a direct sightline to another famous Hollywood Landmark that disaster film makers love to destroy, the iconic Hollywood sign. For years the property surrounding the building have been underutilized but after the opening of the Hollywood/Vine Red Line station in 1999, interest in the area started to increase. Over the last few years there have been several new projects underway bringing increased density near the transit station. In 2006 the property that the Capital Records building sits on along with the building were sold by current owner EMI to New York based developer Argent Ventures. It was then no surprise then in 2011 that the developer announced that it intended to redevelop the site while keeping the iconic building. The Project: The project itself would turn what are now mostly parking lots into one million square feet of new uses residential, hotel, office, restaurants, health and fitness club, retail establishments and more than 2000 parking spaces. Among the specifics include: two towers one 35 stories and the other 39 stories, 492 residential units, 200 luxury hotel units, 215,000 square feet of Class A office space, 34,000 square feet of restaurant space, 35,000 square feet of fitness space, and 15,000 square feet of office space on the 4.47 acres of land. The Battle Lines Drawn: It took more than a year and a half but the planners in the city planning department made the decision to approve the project. This immediately led to the filing of a slew of appeals trying to stop the project. Among the groups trying to stop the complex from being built were residents of the Hollywood Hills who do not want their views ruined by tall buildings, preservations worried because the new towers would dwarf the Capital Records building, and the American Music and Dramatic Academy whose campus is nearby were opposed to the project. In addition this section of Hollywood which is right across the Hollywood Freeway from the Hollywood Hills section of city is one of the most anti-development areas of the city and fight development at all cost. In addition the Academy is against construction not specifically of the buildings themselves but instead because construction activity would disrupt their classes. After the city council started to take up the case of the new towers Caltrans the California Department of Transportation voiced their opinion that the towers would be disruptive to traffic along the Hollywood Freeway. They suggested the the traffic studies for the complex were
  44. 44. flawed and the city was trying to push approval too hard. The developers responded saying that they would increase the number of park n’ ride spaces in the 2000 car garage from 10 to 50 and would kick in $50,000 in free transit passes a year for all the residents in the complex. Another controversy for the project occurred when the Los Angeles Times published an editorial supporting the project which was word from word from the website of the developer. Then the day before the city council was supposed to take its final vote on the project the city’s Department of Building and Safety asks for more tests on the buildings capability of surviving an earthquake which is an unusual step for that department. It was also further revealed that the developers had made substantial political contributions to the members of the city council including the new representative from the area. Despite all this or in spite of all these revelations, the city council approved the project on July 24, 2013 two years after the buildings were first announced. Once the development was approved two lawsuits were filed against the project. The first was by the W Hollywood Hotel environmental impact report was factually deficient. The second lawsuit was filed by Hollywood Hills residents and development staller Robert Silverstein. Silverstein has been accused of profiting from stalling developments although usually settling matters out of court for large sums but only after they have been dragged through the courts for several years. Geology Intervenes: Lawsuits have caused major delays in building the project, but geology may have provide the final nail in the coffin although it is not for certain yet. A study commissioned by the city of Los Angeles has found that Hollywood earthquake fault may lie directly under the proposed towers or along the south side of the property. That would mean that the towers could not be built and the developer would be very limited on what can be built on the site. Final Thoughts: While geology may be the final straw that broke the camels back in the case of the Millennium project, it is a perfect example of how difficult it can be to build a development especially in the city of Los Angeles. It took two years from the time that the buildings were first announced until approval was gained from the city council and that appears to be somewhat tainted if the allegations made at the time are true. Then after approval was finally given, groups stepped in who were opposed to the development and in fact the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Association that covers this area and the Hollywood Hills has been extremely anti-development over the years. Even without the revelation of the earthquake fault, it was estimated that it would take several more years before the developer would have finally been able to break ground on the project. While it is hard to judge a book that has not been printed yet, if finished according to the plans summited how well would have this development been when it comes to the standards of New Urbanism and Transit Oriented Development?
  45. 45. First of all, there is excellent transit access to the area both in the form of the METRO Red Line subway and multiple frequent service bus lines in the area. However, with a 2000 car parking garage with only 50 spaces put aside for park n’ ride you have to truly question whether this development was designed for the transit rider although if the developers did follow through on providing transit passes for the residents that could encourage more of them to ride the subway although the question has to asked how many people renting very expensive luxury apartments or buying million dollar condominiums would be caught dead riding the subway. The problem with evaluation the eventual walkability of the complex is that there was no specific plans submitted on what kind of retail was planned and how it would be sited. One of the criticisms of the city council approval was the fact that the developer had never submitted clear plans on how the project would be developed but was approved anyway. The next issue that comes up is gentrification which is a battle that was lost several years ago in this area. The opening of the Red Line subway caused an immediate change in the character of the neighborhood and has only accelerated with new developments that finally get built after years of delay. Finally the issue of affordability comes up. It is clear from the statements of the developer that no affordable housing was included in the project and the city did not make any requirements for it to be included in the project. With the large amount of displacements caused by the gentrification in the area, it would only make sense for the city council to make some requirements on the developer to set aside a some of the units for inclusionary housing but once again we have to go back to the allegations of the developer investing heavily in the city council members to encourage their votes. Overall, despite its billing as a Transit Oriented Development it appears from what can be gleaned from the information available these towers would have been nothing but high density suburbs for the wealthy. Personally while I always liked the Capital Records tower the truth is the area is growing and change is going to happen. In this case the developers were going to include the iconic structure as part of their redevelopment. Now the future of all development in the area is in question making the residents of the Hollywood Hills happy but otherwise creating some major headaches. References Millennium Hollywood. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://millenniumhollywood.net/ Millennium Hollywood. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/millennium-hollywood Millennium Hollywood Towers Are Postponed. (2013, November 5). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.laweekly.com/news/millennium-hollywood-towers-are-postponed-4176744 Stop the Millennium Hollywood Project. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from
  46. 46. http://www.stopthemillenniumhollywood.org/
  47. 47. 0 Picture 37: One of the many shots of the building being destroyed, photo by complex.com Picture 38: Photo by Millennium Partners the proposed developer of the two new towers and how they will compliment (their words) the Capital Records building.
  48. 48. Picture 39: Night image of the proposed development, picture by the developer Picture 40: Proposed Public Space photo by ArchDaily
  49. 49. Picture 41: Street Level View by the developers Picture 42: Current View along Vine Street. Photo by Wallpapers
  50. 50. 0 Access Culver City/The Platform Culver City, California History: Even before the Expo light rail line opened to Culver City in early 2012, the city was looking to change its character from a place that was referred to as drive thru whether than meant as a place you drove through to get from point A to point B neither of which were in the city or that fact that it was home to so many auto oriented business on streets that were very hostile to pedestrians. Access Culver City and The Platform are two projects being developed next to the Culver City station of the Expo line that is the current terminus station although the line will be extended to Santa Monica in 2016 if enough of their new light rail cars arrive by then. Access is a mixed use development that includes 115 apartments along with 31,000 feet of commercial space which will located near The Platform which will be all retail and is being developed by the 20-something founder of Runyon Group Joseph Miller. The Access is already being criticized for having an excessive amount of parking for a development that is supposed to be a Transit Oriented Development. In fact its developer Greystar Real Estate Partners have been very tight lipped on exactly what the development will have beyond the announced retail, apartments and an “open space”. Walkability: While both projects are indicating that they will be very walkable, the problem is not so much the development themselves but the neighborhoods they will be surrounded by. While Culver City has attempted to change its streets and sidewalks to make them more pedestrian friendly, the area around the Culver City Expo Line station is still made up of mostly auto oriented business such as car dealerships and fast food restaurants and industrial which do not make for a very pedestrian friendly environment. When it comes to the Jane Jacobs factors you have to question whether this a small island of 115 apartments can truly be a pedestrian friendly oasis that the developers have promised. It should be noted that once you get a two or three blocks of the main streets of Washington and Venice Boulevards you do run into areas of single family homes. In the long range changes could be made to make tie these new developments into those residential areas about it would take extensive changes of the urban fabric. Gentrification: Once again you have to ask will 115 apartments truly change the area around this development or will it barely be a blimp on the radar? You also have to take into consideration that most of the area surrounding these new developments are largely auto oriented businesses on busy streets, there appears to not be enough force to truly remake this area. In fact when you look at the forces of gentrification they generally are not going to look at an area that does not have
  51. 51. the services that they are looking for such as cool restaurants and night clubs and I do not thing that Del Taco or Wendy’s would be classified as the type of restaurant that would attract the forces of gentrification. It appears that the current residents of the single family homes that live beyond the largely auto oriented businesses near the Expo Line have little to worry about at least for the next few years or so. Public Space: Here we have another developer that is creating an open space in their development but once again we have to ask how public will the public space be? Final Thoughts: The new Expo line appears to be creating new developments but in places where they will have little effect on the existing residents of the area. While these developments may be a good start it appears it will take many years before enough changes occur in this area to make this a true New Urbanist/Transit Oriented Development that could be look to as a shining example of what is done right. Many changes will need to occur in the existing fabric of the community to make it more welcoming to those seeking true TOD developments. Of course you have to start somewhere and this may lead to more changes. References Access Culver City. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/access-culver-city Clark Builders Group - Project. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.clarkbuildersgroup.com/project.asp?pid=200003034 Construction Has Begun on Culver City's Retail-Happy Platform. (2014, June 6). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.racked.com/2014/6/6/7594439/construction-has-begun-on-culver-citys-retail-happy-platform Creative ExperiencesCollaborative Partnerships. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://runyongroup.com/ The Platform. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/the-platform
  52. 52. 0 Picture 43: Site plan of The Platform from the developer Picture 44: Image of The Platform from Curb LA
  53. 53. Picture 45: What the area where The Platform is being built at looked like before construction started by Curb LA. Picture 46: Rendering of Access from the Architect
  54. 54. Picture 47: Another rendering of Access with its public space by the architect Picture 48: Map of the Expo Line from trolleyview
  55. 55. 0 Bergamot Transit Village Santa Monica, California If there is one project that shows everything that can go wrong with a project before it ever breaks ground, truly shows what a developer has to go through to develop in some places, shows why development does not happen how we envision it, see where developers may not be forthcoming with information that some consider necessary, Bergamot Transit Village is the shining example. Bergamot station is located near the intersection of Olympic Avenue and 26th near the future Expo light rail station. The property that the development is being proposed at served as a factory for Papermate pens from 1957 until 2005. However, the facility was leased by the company and they had access capacity in Goodyear, AZ which is a factory owned by the company so they made the decision to close. The site has been vacant since the closing of the factor 10 years ago. The property was up for sale at the time of the closure and was finally bought by Texas based developer Hines. At first Hines proposed 300,000 square feet of office space to be built in two to four story buildings be built at the sight. In 2009 Hines held their first community meeting about the project which now included a building that would be 71 feet tall with retail on the bottom level. This caused some in the Santa Monica community to start worrying about traffic problems. Santa Monica is known as being one of the most anti-development cities in the nation with a strong NIMBY force that fights nearly every project that comes down the pipeline. Despite the fact that this development would be next to a station on the Expo Light rail line when it opened, residents feared that no one would actually ride the light rail line and everyone heading to development would choose to drive. By December 2010 the project had grew to 80 feet in height with more than 2000 parking spots further reinforcing to the opposition that the development would greatly increase traffic congestion in the already auto chocked area. By March the development was now at 969,000 square feet and the opposition was accusing city council members of taking bribes from the developer to ensure that the development got approved. In June the project got the blessing of HUD that included $652,000 to build the project. In August 2011 Hines returns to announce that it had revamped the development decreasing its size to 767,000 square feet, plus adding pocket parks, public space, and now five buildings with retail space being cut nearly in half to 47,123 square feet. The in the next few months the city council of Los Angeles and the West Los Angeles commission announced they are against the project due to the amount of traffic that would affect their respective cities. In May 2012 the planning commission in Santa Monica moved a hearing for the proposal all the way into 2013. In addition the development released its Environmental Impact Report which was 8700 pages long and cost more than $1 million to complete. In 2013 Hines presented another new plan which included adding housing including live/work units and creative office space to the mix.
  56. 56. In February 2014 the city council approved the development with 427 apartments, 30,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 1926 parking spaces, 1284 bike spaces, and 375,000 square feet of office space. A group called Santa Monica Coalition for Livable City (SMCLC) filed a lawsuit hiring a anti-development attorney that has fought several cases including the Millennium project and started collecting signatures for a referendum. The city council gets cold feet and reverses its decision to approve the development. At this point the development is still stalled and now Hines is saying that it will reoccupy the existing space that will not require city approval which may actually lead to more traffic problems than the proposed development. While the SMCLC call it a bluff they have also threatened to sue Hines if they attempt to occupy the property. Hines has also given indications that they are ready to throw up their hands and walk away from the project altogether. Who is right? The first question that most people will ask is who is right in this case and the answer to that question here appears to be both sides. It is clear that the development will cause traffic problems and as someone who has been caught in some horrible traffic messes in West Los Angeles I can tell you additional traffic will not help matters. However, the development is next to Expo Line light rail station which should alleviate some of those traffic problems. However, the developer also is in the right and wrong in this case. The developer has done everything the city has asked of them and more but continues to face more obstacles. However, the developer could also create a project that is truly a Transit Oriented Development that would be focused on the new light rail station and may be able to convince some of the opposition that they are truly trying to create a development that would work for the community and the new transit line. Then there is the city council which has made its own problems. First it approved the project and when faced with opposition they reversed their decision. Fortunately for the city the developer did not choose to file a lawsuit for causing their business harm by reversing a decision they made three months earlier. Now to look at some of the issues that have been tackled in previous case studies. While it is hard to judge exactly what the final product would look like, some educated guesses can be made from the existing proposals. Walkability: Clearly in the first proposal from the developer a walkable community was not under consideration. While subsequent proposals have included housing and open space, it appears that the development would be design primarily for retail and office space and not for the residential element of the project. In addition this section of Santa Monica especially along Olympic is not currently a walkable environment especially by the standards set up by Jacobs.
  57. 57. Gentrification: When it comes to Santa Monica and gentrification the horse left the barn many years ago. The city has become an enclave of the well to do with very few “old timers” left that owned property before it escalated in price. While there is pockets that gentrification has not affected they are too small for much to be done with at this late date. Public Space: In recent proposals the developer has included some open space but it cannot be classified at public space as it is manly small pocket parks that are not designed to be public gathering spots. In addition like many of the other cases the public space would be on private land and would not truly be “public”. Final Thoughts: There was a recent newspaper article stating that Santa Monica is starting to lose the so called creative class that started moving to the area due to the beach because of its anti- development forces that are keeping the type of housing that the creative class are looking for from being built and moving other nearby cities. As is typical in many of the NIMBY fights, they have it and they want no one else to have it. On the other hand the developer can also create a true TOD project that will truly build on Expo line. References Bergamot Transit Village. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/places/bergamot-transit- village Hines gets the go-ahead on Bergamot. (2014, February 5). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://smdp.com/hines- gets-the-go-ahead-on-bergamot/131836
  58. 58. 0 Picture 49: Site plan from Friends of Expo Picture 50: Rendering of development from Santa Monica Next
  59. 59. Picture 51: Another rendering by Samolive Picture 52: From Curb LA
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  61. 61. 0 Union Station/Gateway Los Angeles, California Los Angeles Union Station opened in 1939 after several years of construction (including the dislocation of Chinese population of the city which I mentioned earlier) and was referred to as the “Last of the Great Train Stations”. It served the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad’s passenger trains although after World War II the amount of travel by train took a major decline with more use of the automobile and more advance planes starting to take to the skies. On May 1st , 1971 the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) took over passenger train operations by which time Union Station saw only a fraction of the number of trains that it did in its heyday. If you would tell people back in 1971 that by 2015 Union Station would not only be busier than it was in 1971 but actually be served by substantially more trains (although the same amount of long distance trains as 1971) most people either would have laughed at you or thought you should be committed. However, today not only does it continue to see Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, and Sunset Limited it is also home to frequent train service to San Diego with many of those trains running to Santa Barbara and a couple of them running all the way to San Luis Obispo. In addition it is also served by a large number of buses that connect to various Amtrak trains, Metrolink commuter rail trains that run across Southern California and is served by both light rail and subway lines of the Metro transit system. The Taj Mahal. In the early 1990’s the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) started construction of a new office tower to replace its existing headquarters that were located on Main Street which as referred to as Skid Row and not a place that many people wanted to visit. The SCRTD never saw the completion of the building as it was merged into the regional transportation planning organization for the region, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission which formed METRO, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority which oversaw bus service, rail service, and highway construction in the county. After the merger the new agency decided to continue construction of the new headquarters that the SCRTD had started but made major changes which increased the height of the building to 27 stories and designing it so that it would resemble the nearby and iconic Los Angeles City Hall. The building also included a bus plaza in front of it in addition to a station for the newly opened Red Line Subway. The new building was located just behind Union Station through the tunnels that connected the main station to the passenger platforms. As it turned out it turned out to be very fortuitous as Metrolink was started up with voter approval after 1992 then saw greatly increased service after the 1994 earthquake. The headquarters building is often called the Taj Mahal and has been criticized for being overbuilt even for the combined agency in addition to some of the extravagant spending on materials such as expensive marble that adorns the exteriors and interiors of the building. Today the transit center is heavily used seeing another major increased in usage after METRO opened the Gold Line from Union Station to Pasadena.
  62. 62. Union Station For many years the property surrounding Union Station was owned by a corporation that was formed to take over all the real estate assets of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroad when their merger proposal failed in the mid-1980’s. Despite the increase in passenger usage over the years and many proposals by the real estate company to develop the property including selling the air rights over the tracks, nothing happened for more than 30 years. The restaurant and bar at the station had been closed in the 1960’s, Amtrak ticket offices were moved to a corner of the building while the main ticket lobby has been closed off for many years only to be used for the filming of movies. Photographers have been detained and harassed for even attempting to get pictures of this part of the station despite the fact that it is visually open to passengers in the station with only a rope keeping people out of the area. However, the outside of the station did see some major changes over the years. In the early 2000’s two new office buildings were built on the south side of the property while a new apartment project was built on the north side of the property both of which replaced the vast parking lots that were part of the original station construction. Another new apartment complex is being built between the Moziac which is the first complex and the station tracks which are on the east side of the property. Just last year METRO was finally able to buy the station from the private owners and is planning major changes to the property. Walkability: One of the problems the station has always faced is that it is an island until itself. It is separated from downtown Los Angeles and most of the hotels in the area by a freeway. Until the opening of the bus plaza in the back the tracks always provided a barrier and still do along Macy Street that runs to the north of the property. Further the Los Angeles city jail and the businesses that associate with that kind of atmosphere. While Olvera Street located directly across Alameda from Union Station which is the birthplace of Los Angeles and home to a large number of independent shops and tourist attractions, Alameda is a major barrier to walking as it is a wide street with fast moving traffic. In addition the new apartments have not increased the amount of foot traffic in the area. One of the problems is that despite being the location of a major transit hub many people still use and need a car to get their basic needs such as going to the grocery store. Chinatown is located just to the northwest of the Union Station property but is not considered a safe walking environment with the high speed traffic on wide roads. One improvement that is planned as part of the Union Station reconstruction is capping sections of the freeway to the south but even with the capping people would still have to cross Alameda in order to reach the caps. Gentrification Worries: With gentrification staring in Chinatown there is renewed worries by some that increased densities and new buildings at the Union Station site will have a detrimental effect and cause even more gentrification pressures on the area. However, the fears for gentrification in this area may be generally overblown. Olvera Street is a historic district and protected from any
  63. 63. development although there could be worries that increased property values could cause rents to go up in the square and cause some or all of those locally owned businesses to move on. Beyond that there is just not much to worry about. On the north side of Macy Street is the former main post office distribution facility with industrial and former rail yards to the north. To the east you have the transit buildings then the Los Angeles Police facility and jail which are proposed to be moved with mostly abandoned industrial beyond. To the south and southwest you have the freeway with more industrial beyond and if gentrification is going to happen it will be in response to the Regional Connector that will finally connect all of Los Angeles’ light rail lines together in 2021. As stated Chinatown is to the northwest but far enough that it most likely will not be affected by the changes to Union Station before its own gamification problems come to a head. Because of the lack of existing residents in the immediately vicinity of the Union Station there has not been the wide spread opposition to new development that has been occurring elsewhere. Public Spaces: One of the questions that have been asked throughout my case studies has been the inclusion of public space and exactly how public is it. While Union Station was privately owned the public space was not very public as Amtrak police and private security were very aggressive in removing anyone who did not appear to belong in the area. The question is, now that the station is owned by Metro and it is looking to add some major public spaces to the complex especially on the north side, how will those spaces be patrolled and will they be public spaces or only limited use spaces? Final Thoughts: I have seen Union Station go from lonely train station that has seen its better days to being a major focal point of transportation for the region. While the changes to the station look promising it will be interesting to see what the final product turns out to be. Will there be true open space? Will any apartments, condominiums, or office space built be affordable in Los Angeles’ very expensive housing market? Will the changes have positive or negative effects on Olvera Street or Chinatown? How many changes will occur with the opening of the regional connector or California’s High Speed Rail system? The area is full of possibilities but as we have seen elsewhere, politics and financing can completely change what is built. References Union Station Master Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.metro.net/projects/LA-union-station/ Union Station Master Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://la.curbed.com/tags/union-station-master- plan
  64. 64. 0 Picture 53: Ariel photograph by Metro showing Union Station in the foreground, the tower in the back is the METRO office building, the transit plaza is the semi round building, the office buildings are to the right next to the freeway and busway with the Condo's in the left bottom photo and new apartments under construction. Picture 54: Proposal by Metro to revamp Union Station, notice that the Moziac apartments at the northwest corner (lower left in photo) are gone replaced by a plaza.
  65. 65. Picture 55: Another picture of the proposed changes to Union Station from Metro Picture 56: Looking along Alameda in front of Union Station with the Moziac at the northwest corner of the property. Photo by Metro
  66. 66. Picture 57: Alameda Main Entrance to Union Station and its welcome sign, the original ticket counters to the left and roped off. Photo by LA Streetsblog Picture 58: The Harvey House restaurant that currently sits unused except for the occasional film shoot or special event. Photo by Metro
  67. 67. The Uses of Sidewalks Jane Jacobs 1960 Jane Jacobs is one of the more recognizable writers in urban planning, despite the fact that she was not schooled as a planner. In her article on sidewalks she first mentions about how it is important to have trust in the neighborhood, the absence of trust in the neighborhood is a disaster to the city street but its cultivation cannot be institutionalized. One aspect that was important to Jane Jacobs was the inclusion of private space in the urban environment. A good city street neighborhood will keep a good balance between the need of people to have a sense of privacy and the need to have contact with the greater neighborhood. She further talks about how important it is to have casual acquaintances in the neighborhood. These are people you may see every day of the week but you may not even know or want to know their names but they are people you see and have familiarity with. Among these public characters might be the local shop keeper or a person who keeps track of the goings on in the community and who is known by the residents in the area. By knowing the regular “characters” of the area you are also more aware of people who may not necessarily belong in the neighborhood. These are the people the neighbors would watch for any type of suspicious activity. Jane Jacobs saw what was happening to her community and the rest of New York and was not happy about it. Instead of sitting back and complaining she did something about it in order to preserve what she felt was a good way of life. It was not easy but she was willing to go head to head against the political machine that was Robert Moses because she believed in the cause and the cause was bigger than the person. When looking at my three case study projects, the lessons we learn from Jane Jacobs directly apply to whether we consider these projects successful or not. One of the most important aspects of what Jane Jacobs discusses is the “eyes on the street” where people are there paying attention to what is happening in their neighborhoods. In this case we have to say that all three of my case studies failed in this category. While both the Pasadena and South Pasadena examples have retail on the ground floor, not of the apartments have balconies that look over the sidewalks. In addition, the retail in both locations is generally high end boutique stores not the type of stores that residents in the TOD developments will shop at frequently. In addition, the ones in Pasadena are generally chain stores so you don’t have the local owner who actually cares about the neighborhood. There is no aspect of these projects that build trust with the people who live there as Jane Jacobs talks about. Jacobs, J. (1961). The Uses of Sidewalks. In J. Gieseking (Ed.), The people, place, and space reader (pp. 237-240).
  68. 68. The City Image and the Elements Kevin Lynch 1960 How do we see the city? Kevin Lynch’s article and book talks about three separate cities (Boston, Jersey City, and Los Angeles) and talks about how we see and interpret the city. Using maps Lynch had citizens draw how they perceived certain elements of the city and how our perception of what the city is draw from those maps. Several elements came out of those maps on how people see the city, including paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. According to Lynch, paths became the predominant city element depending on the person’s knowledge of the city. Landmarks are another important element that allows people to have a sense of where they are. Lynch uses the example of the Los Angeles City Hall that is a prominent feature in the downtown area while more modern landmarks that are very prominent are the Willis (formally Sears) Tower in Chicago or the Space Needle in Seattle. Landmarks do not necessarily have to be tall buildings but just a major feature that people subconsciously associate with the area. According to Lynch, Districts are large city areas that the observer can recognize formally or informally as having some special character. Boston was noted of having a confusing array of paths but was known for having many distinct districts. New York was cited unanimously for having the most distinct districts of any city while the city of Los Angeles did not have any outside area around the civic center. Another important element is Nodes, which Lynch calls strategic foci, into which the observer can enter typically at the junction of paths or concentration of some characters. As part of a node you have a junction of transportation lines that has compelling importance to the city observer. Nodes further give a sense of coming to a location within the city, a feeling of having “arrived”. The final piece of the puzzle are Edges, which Lynch says are linear elements not considered paths, they are usually boundaries between two types of areas. Edges seem strongest when they are not only visually prominent but also continuous in the form and impenetrable to cross movement. There are many kinds of edges, both natural and those built by humans. Edges can be freeways, rivers, and hills. Anything that creates a boundary from one area to another is considered an edge. Lynch’s work is important to my case studies because both Del Mar Station and Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park are defined by their edges; one caused by a network of freeways the other by a six lane highway. The Del Mar Station can also be defined in the fact that it is an edge between Old Pasadena and the industrial district to the south. Further, the city of Pasadena and Metro has tried to make the Del Mar Station a major node and entryway to Old Pasadena. Del Mar Station because of its design could also be considered a landmark as it has become an important element that people notice when driving or riding the Gold Line into Pasadena. South Pasadena on the other hand, defies many of Lynch’s elements; the only one coming close is being a transportation node but a very minor one at that. Beyond that it is not an edge, not a landmark that stand outs, is not a path in itself, and is not part of any nearby district, it just exists. Lynch, K. (2014). The City Image and its Elements. In J. Gieseking (Ed.), The people, place, and space reader (pp. 50-55). New York: Routledge.
  69. 69. Class Struggle on Avenue B Neil Smith 1996 In Neil Smith’s 1996 article he discusses the Lower East Side of New York City and how gentrification happened in the area. Smith opens his article discussing the riots that erupted in Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side on August 6th , 1988. The riot was started in response to the enforcement of a curfew at the park, which was to clear out the large and growing number of homeless people that were living there that upset residents in the area. The story of the riot is actually part of a deeper story about the park as Smith says that became a symbol of new urbanism being etched on the urban “frontier”. Smith talks about how real estate interest will christen an area with a new name to create an image of new. In addition the industry of culture finds that area as art dealers and patrons turn what was once considered dilapidated into new urban chic. The artists originally come because of the lower prices, but they bring in new patrons to the area that eventually makes the area more hip. Developers then buy land on the edge of the frontier, an area that may be considered edgy because the real estate is cheap and develop it and build on the new wave that is moving into the area. However, the developers do not only use the artist as a way to create this new frontier of profits for them. The city, through various policies, also contributes to the gentrification through housing policy, drug crackdowns, parks strategy, subsidizing opportunities for real estate development. They also may have contributed previously by not providing enough city services to the area before it started gentrifying and thus lowering the value of the land in the area. In addition, there is a global element to the gentrification as international capital will flow into these areas but also international migration provides a workforce that needs a place to live. Often these people come from areas of the world where they were dislocated because of US Capital flowing in and disrupting local economies, extracting resources, and removing people from their land. This article is important to my case studies as gentrification can often play a role in Transit Oriented Developments and New Urbanism. They will bring new capital into the area and existing populations may be forced to move out. Each project is different and the extent that these affect a neighborhood will depend on the existing conditions. What is most useful is the element that city government plays in encouraging it to happen. Smith, N. (2014). Class Struggle on Avenue B: The Lower East Side as the Wild Wild West. In J. Gieseking (Ed.), The people, place, and space reader (pp. 314-320). New York: Routledge.
  70. 70. To Go Again to Hyde Park Don Mitchell 2003 Don Mitchell opens his article by discussing the issue that occurred in Hyde Park back in 1866 in which rioting broke out in Hyde Park in New York and what the meaning behind the rioting truly was. The question Mitchell asks is what rights to we have to occupy space such as public space in a park or other setting. He calls property the embodiment of alienation because property rights are necessarily exclusive. He also states that rights provide a set of instructions about the use of power but they also become institutionalized by becoming practices that are back up by force. In addition while occupying some space is necessary to life it is not guaranteed as a right. We live in a world that is defined by private property which means having public space takes on even more importance. He goes on to state that representing one’s group to a large public creates a space for representation. Representative demands and creates space. Don Mitchell is a geographer who has taught at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University for many years. He worked with Neil Smith which produced another one of the articles that will be in this review who talks about what happens to a community when it gets gentrified. Mitchell is known as being a radical and having worked with Smith understands how important the instituation of rights are and how easily they can be taken away. Mitchell’s article is important to my case studies because he discusses the importance of public space and the differences between our concepts of rights and how they truly work. We have seen were our public spaces are not truly public and because of the alienation caused by private property you may not always have the freedom to be where you want to be.
  71. 71. Ecological Urbanism Jon Christensen Joe Christen starts his article by discussing the proposed Salt Works site in Redwood City California which is a New Urbanist development by Peter Calthrope. He sees that there is a problem when Calthrope wants to develop the Salt Works with new housing and not want to restore that section of San Francisco bay to a condition before it was built. He goes on to discuss that while the development would create a large amount of space that is returned to nature, that any building on the site is setting us back words. He then talks about the glaring contradiction between a planned unit development claiming green values in a spot that should not have been developed on in the first place and should be returned to his natural state. He then goes on to discuss the problems he sees with urban triumphalism were urban form should take precedence over the importance of nature. He goes on to criticize the notion that if we increase densities and build more we can solve our housing problems in such cities as San Francisco. He uses the example of development in the San Jose area and if all the land was developed it would not lead to the number of housing units that people claim they would and we would lose our open and natural areas in return. He concludes with saying that conservationists and policy makers need a better understanding of the historic desires for recreation and fitness and to valuing our open space for its health aspects. Christensen has been a writer on environmental and science writer for 30 years. He is also an environmentalist that deeply cares about our eco system and the natural environments. Because of his experience writing about the environment he is deeply concerned about some of the contradictions he sees in many aspects of development and planning and feels that we need to be more conscience of how our decisions affect the environment around us. Christensen’s work is important to my case studies as I have one that parallels what he talks about with the development in Redwood City. The Playa Vista development is on land that was largely marshes before it was filled in and used for several uses ultimately ending up in the hands of Howard Hughes were he built the Spruce Goose. Here was have another opportunity to restore the natural habit and have those natural areas that we need to survive into the future.

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