PRICES OF L.A. HOUSES RISING TOO FAST

LAObserved story

by Mark Lecter

The latest Case-Shiller numbers show a 19.2 per-
cent jump in May compared with a year earlier –
not quite the pace of SF (24.5 percent) or Las
Vegas (23.3 percent), but probably too fast to
last much longer. At least that’s how Zillow
economist Svenja Gudell sees it. “It’s increas-
ingly critical that the average American home-
owner not read numbers like today’s Case-Shiller
results and assume their homes must also have
appreciated at these levels over the past year,
or will continue to appreciate at these levels
going forward,” writes Gudell (via Business In-
sider), calling the recent gains “not normal,
not sustainable and, frankly, not very believ-
able.”

A big reason for L.A.’s price gains is the lim-
ited number of homes on the market (as well as
the large numbers of buyers paying all cash).
Potential sellers are holding off because they
don’t want to be stuck over-paying for a home
– assuming they could even outbid deep-pocket-
ed buyers. All of which speaks to a volatile,
uneven housing market. Best case scenario over
the next few months is cooling demand and in-
creasing inventory.

AMAZON PLANNING PRODUCTION OFFICES IN SANTA MONICA

LAObserved story

The online retailer turned Hollywood studio is
lining up at least 75,000 square feet at the
Water Garden (Colorado Avenue and 26th Street),
the Los Angeles Business Journal is reporting.
That’s a sizable amount of space for that part
of town (YouTube’s new facility in Playa Vista
has 41,000 square feet). Terms are still being
worked out with landlord JP Morgan Chase, ac-
cording to the paper. Amazon Studios has been
operating out of small offices at the Sherman
Oaks Galleria, so this would be making a sig-
nificant statement about its Hollywood plans.

It also would be the latest in a string of
deals that have been cut by online giants want-
ing to integrate content into their operations.
Microsoft, Netflix Inc. and YouTube LLC have
all opened Westside offices as they aggress-
ively pursue the production of original content.
Netflix’s quarterly revenue eclipsed $1 billion
for the first time in the period ended March 31,
a milestone attributed at least in part to
success of its original online drama “House of
Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey. The critically
acclaimed series has been credited with bring-
ing more subscribers to the service. Earlier
this year, Amazon Studios Inc., the entertain-
ment unit of the online retailer run by former
Walt Disney Co. executive Roy Price, began
streaming 14 original comedy and children’s pi-
lots through its website. It is turning five of
those programs into series starring familiar
actors such as John Goodman and Ed Begley Jr.
Several of the shows, including comedy “Betas,”
were filmed locally.

SMFD CONTAINS FIRE AT PROMENADE RESTAURANT TODAY

At 5 AM this morning, the Santa Monica Fire De-
partment responded to a structural fire in the
kitchen and roof of Yankee Doodles sports bar
and grill on the Third Street Promenade.

SMFD Units fought the fire under the command of
Battalion Chief Carl Bjerke and contained the
fire to the restaurant. No other businesses
were damaged.

Fire units from both the Los Angeles and Cul-
ver City were called to assist. No injuries
were reported. The cause of the fire is under
investigation, according to Jose M. Torres,
SMFD Division Chief. .

The restaurant is located at 1410 Third Street.

GROUP SHOW OPENS AT LORA SCHLESINGER GALLERY

On Saturday, Lora Schlesinger Gallery opened its
Summer Group Show featuring paintings and draw-
ings by seventeen distinguished artists from
across the nation.

The show features a combination of abstract and
figurative art works by Miya Ando, Michael Beck,
Richard Bruland, Gershom, Robert Ginder, Iva
Hladis, Jung Han Kim, Carlo Marcucci, Stephanie
Mercado, Kimberly Merrill, Beth Parker, Ron Rizk,
Carrie Seid, Raymond Saunders, Jon Swihart,and
Eowyn-Wilcox-McComb.

The gallery is located in the Bergamot Station
Art Center, 2525 Michigan Avenue, T3, Santa
Monica. For additional information please call
(310) 828-1133, view our website at www.lora-
schlesinger.com or e-mail gallery@loraschle-
singer.com.

SOMETHING LIKE CHAOS

Santa Monica was founded in 1875. For its first
hundred years, residents added what they need-
ed and wanted – residential and commercial, and,
from time to time, removed those things that
they no longer wanted or needed. It all took
place in very slow motion — this perpetual pro-
cess of addition and subtraction. The Santa
Monica I knew as a child, and the town I re-
turned to years later, in 1979, were both cohe-
rent, low key versions of this perfectly swell
beach town.

The pace picked up in the 1980s. The City’s
planning staff grew, more and more consultants
were rung in, and though Santa Monica was the
most densely populated town in Southern Cali-
fornia, and there was a shortage of open space,
the planners and consultants oversaw the con-
struction of 9 million square feet of new
commercial space, too much of it out of scale…
some of it out of whack. The planners and con-
sultants rumble on endlessly about the necessity
of imposing “urban form” on Santa Monica, but
we’ve yet to see a good definition of it, much
less the rationale for imposing it on this
gloriously idiosyncratic beach town.

Though the City employs an ever-enlarging crew
of planners and consultants, the revised Land
Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) have been
in the works for nine years, and remain unfin-
ished, even as the City and the Expo Light Rail
crews prepare for the arrival of the light
rail in 2016. We don’t have a revised zoning
code yet, much less a downtown specific plan.
We haven’t even settled the downtown height
and density questions. And the City Council is
operating at half or quarter speed, and delay-
ng significant decisions, while the Planning
Commission’s work load has virtually exploded.
Each of its last three meetings ran about seven
hours – because they’re residents and asking
the questions City officials — including the
planners — have not asked and can’t answer.

Now, in the midst of what looks more and more
like chaos, the four City Council members who
stopped by City Hall earlier this week voted
to hire John Kaliski Architects to develop a
master plan for the area around the site of
the planned light rail station at 17th and Col-
orado, and “set standards for future development.”
The area is fully developed, of course, with
a mix of housing, business and industry. Ac-
cording to the staff report, the new plan will
include housing and shared parking, general
improvements, “placemaking,” as well as existing
entities, such as Memorial Park, two hospitals,
Santa Monica College and Santa Monica-Malibu
Unified School District HQ.

Like the Bergamot Area Plan and the non-exis-
tent Downtown Specific Plan, “The policies and
guidelines established by the Memorial Park
Neighborhood Plan will guide the coordination
of infrastructure investment in the area and
establish the criteria by which future proj-
ects are evaluated,” according to the staff
report.

Kaliski, which did the Ocean Park Green Street,
for “an amount not to exceed $596,000 (will)
provide project management, urban design, land
use planning, transportation planning, shared
parking strategies, economic analysis, phasing
and implementation services related to the Mem-
orial Park Neighborhood Plan,” according to
the staff report. “The Plan would define the
land-use, circulation, parking, open space and
building form criteria for the area through a
community process involving key stakeholders
such as neighborhood groups, local businesses,
and property owners.”

Some of the key sub-consultants supplementing
Kaliski’s in-house team include Fehr and Peers
Transportation Consultants, Community Design
and Architecture, Economic and Planning Systems,
Inc. and Buro Happold….

“The public outreach program of community
workshops, meetings, and stakeholder interviews
would include outreach to nearby residents and
businesses, and including area hospitals,
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District,
Santa Monica College, Colorado Avenue business-
es and the Pico Neighborhood and Mid-City resi
dents. A project website will be established
to provide updated information and to serve s
a repository for all public materials. Addit-
ionally, PCD’s Facebook account would be used
to engage users of social media and to provide
information on any events associated with the
Plan.”

Thus, another very expensive mini-bureaucracy
comprised of alleged experts has been assembled
to remake another neighborhood, but, as with
the Bergamot area plan and other portions
of the city, the real experts, the residents,
the people who live and work in the neighbor-
hood, will be treated to occasional bulletins
at various “outreach” sessions — and in their
very own website and facebook page, but will
not be heard.

Having already suffered a major City blunder
and lived next door, across the street, down
the block from the corpse of Fisher Lumber
for some years, the neighborhood residents
are leery of another City incursion. The City
bought the lumber yard, and announced the
land would become part of Memorial Park, vir-
tually doubling its size –- good news for
everyone. But it never happened. A business
many residents relied on was lost, the park
didn’t get the much needed addition, and the
once lively, useful lumber yard continues
to loom like a sort of mega-corpse in an
otherwise lively area.

For Santa Monica’s first hundred years, resi-
dents took the lead in making and remaking
Santa Monica. They brought in consultants from
time to time – as with the disastrous 1957 mas-
ter plan, but they made the final calls. In the
last two decades, planners and consultants have
had the upper hand, in concert with the devel-
opers and their friends on the Council.

According to the staff report, “Altogether,the
selected design team has the appropriate mix of
skills and experience to deliver the Memorial
Park Neighborhood Plan on schedule and at the
high level of quality that the community expects.”
Clearly, based on recent meetings, residents
exoect more — and less than what they’re get-
ting,

There are plenty of people in City Hall with
“skills and experience.” What’s lacking is a
profound understanding of what Santa Monica
is and what it needs.