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Construction set to begin on 21-story tower in county’s big Vermont Corridor project

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

A plan from the county of Los Angeles to replace and rehab a handful of government offices near Vermont and Sixth streets in Koreatown is moving full steam ahead, with work on one of the new towers expected to begin as soon as this summer.

The Board of Supervisors’ on Tuesday certified the project’s final environmental impact report and approved a wave of funding.

The planned development—hailed as a “victory” for Koreatown—will include a new 21-story office tower and the renovation of an existing 12-story building for use as housing, both developed by Trammell Crow. The complex will also include a new low-rise affordable housing complex with a community center from Meta Housing.

When complete, the new Gensler-designed office building will serve as the new headquarters for the county’s department of mental health and for the county’s workforce development, aging, and community services.

Greg Ames, managing director of the Trammell Crow Company, tells Curbed that work is expected to start this August on the new office tower, with estimated completion in late 2021.

A 12-story building already on the site will be upgraded by and reused as 172 apartments with ground-floor retail and a rooftop amenity deck, designed by Steinberg Architects. This building is now occupied by county workers, who will be moving into the office building once it is complete. Renovations here will begin after the office building is finished in late 2021, and are expected to wrap up in early 2023.

Meta Housing’s six-story affordable housing complex will hold 72 units designated for seniors. This structure, designed by Y&M Architects, will also include a 13,000-square-foot community center.

Trammell Crow was “drawn to the opportunity to have a partnership with the county of Los Angeles for a multi-faced, multi-faceted development,” says Ames. The company is looking forward to “participat[ing] in the revitalization of the Vermont Corridor and really help advance transit-oriented development in Koreatown.”

The board of supervisors approved the Vermont Corridor project in 2016.


LA housing prices break another record

By Elijah Chiland for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

It’s been a tough spring for Los Angeles homebuyers. With fewer than usual houses on the market to choose from, prices bested an all-time record in April, according to a new report from real estate tracker CoreLogic.

That makes three months in a row in which the region’s price record has been broken, and homes are now selling for well above prices seen in the buildup to the 2007 mortgage crisis. In April, the median price was $590,000—close to a 1 percent gain over a month ago and 7.3 percent higher than the same time last year.

Price bumps seen across Southern California are likely driven by a lack of supply in the housing market, according to CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage. That’s reflected in the fact that far fewer homes than normal are selling in the area. In LA County, for instance, home sales in April were down more than 8 percent since a year earlier.

LePage says this is an especially tough time for homebuyers because rising prices have been accompanied by a sharp uptick in interest rates on home loans.

“The roughly 7 percent gain in Southern California’s median sale price over the past year understates the hit that homebuyers have taken,” says LePage, pointing out that monthly payments for buyers are up almost 13 percent over the same time period.

Within LA County, prices vary dramatically from city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. Selma Hepp, chief economist for Pacific Union, says more affordable parts of the county bring down the median price significantly. For example, the median price in South LA is $375,000, while in Beverly Hills, it’s more than $2.5 million.

Hepp found that the median price for homes in the broad region encompassing the Los Angeles Basin, the San Gabriel Valley, and the southern San Fernando Valley is quickly approaching the $1 million mark. In this area, prices have grown an astonishing 14 percent in the last year, and the median now sits at $939,500.


Elon Musk says his LA tunnel will open to the public ‘in a few months’

By Matt Tinoco for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

Elon Musk posted a short video to Instagram on Thursday night showing off an “almost” completed tunnel constructed by his Boring Company.

In the caption, Musk makes a bold prediction. He claims the tunnel for transit, which he has described as an antidote for LA’s gridlocked streets, will be open to the public soon.

“Pending final regulatory approvals, we will be offering free rides to the public in a few months,” he writes.

Musk has plans for a large “urban loop” system with thousands of stations underneath Los Angeles. He says the tunnels will ferry pods carrying cars, bikes, and pedestrians, at speeds up to 124 mph.

Perhaps because his tunnel plans have been criticized in the past for giving priority to private cars, Musk said on Instagram that “the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians & cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket.”

Musk’s latest Instagram post also says the tunnel is “under LA,” but he hasn’t said precisely where it’s located.

It’s most likely somewhere near SpaceX’s headquarters, in Hawthorne, where Musk received permission last year to drill a 2-mile test-tunnel beneath Crenshaw Boulevard and 120th street.

The tunnel in the video probably is not the “proof-of-concept” tunnel Musk proposed earlier this year for beneath Sepulveda Boulevard, from Washington Boulevard, in Culver City, to Pico Boulevard in the city of Los Angeles.

In April, the Los Angeles City Council’s public works committee unanimously endorsed a motion that proposed exempting that tunnel from rigorous environmental analysis required by state law. That motion has not yet been approved by the full City Council.

When the City Council committee signed off on the motion, it did so with the understanding that the tunnel would not be used to transport passengers.

“The only way we can approve the CEQA exemption is if we accept the premise that... that it is a proof of concept, basically excavation tunnel, and it is not, to be very clear about this, a public transit system,” councilmember Bob Blumenfield said at the time.

Metro CEO Phil Washington has also emphasized that a CEQA exemption would require approval from his agency.

In late April, Washington reportedly met with Boring Company employees to discuss the project. In a Tweet, Metro said the Boring Company “will coordinate with us as they move ahead.”

Precisely how Metro and Boring Company staff are going to work together remains to be seen.

Few details have been made available about what happened during that meeting. Metro is planning its own transportation project for the Sepulveda corridor, which will one day link the Valley, the Westside, and LAX.


Commission backs major redevelopment of Panorama City’s old Montgomery Ward

By Jenna Chandler for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The proposed redevelopment of Panorama City’s long-dormant Montgomery Ward is charging forward with the backing of the Los Angeles city planning commission.

On Thursday, commissioners heaped favorable reviews on the project, dubbed ICON at Panorama, voting unanimously to endorse plans for 623 apartments, 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, and a landscaped plaza at the old Montgomery Ward site.

“I’m really pleased to see some dollars going back into the neighborhood,” said commissioner Renee Dake Wilson.

It’s a prime spot just west of the Panorama Mall and Roscoe and Van Nuys boulevards, a busy intersection that will be a future stop on Metro’s East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor.

“I like the mixed housing, the setbacks, its really giving it this nice pedestrian feel. Overall, I’m just happy to see the project,” said commissioner Veronica Padilla Campos. She said it has made her sad to see this site—and others in Panorama City—sit vacant for years.

One of the developer’s principals described it on Thursday as “blighted,” “under-utilized,” and “unsafe.” Residents who spoke at the commission meeting didn’t disagree.

Danilo Guerra, who says he’s lived in Panorama City for 10 years, called it a “very dangerous place, because it’s empty” with “no lights.”

“We desperately need the old Montgomery site renovated,” said Gregory Wilkinson, who chairs the Panorama City Neighborhood Council. “We’re not talking about a giant Walmart or Best Buy; they’ve set aside small retail space in the plan to allow mom and pops to flourish. They’ve made it [an] attractive ... open air facility.”

Architect Jay Blatter said his goal is to make the project a “real hub for the entire community.”

The developer is Beverly Hills-based Icon Company. In a 2016 interview with the Los Angeles Times, one of the firm’s principals, Billy Ruvelson, estimated the project would cost $150 million. At that time, plans called for about 270 fewer apartments and nearly more than four times the amount of commercial space.

The project stills need to be approved by the Los Angeles City Council before it can be built. In the meantime, scroll down for a new suite of renderings.


Big Arts District live/work development could start construction next year

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

AvalonBay Communities is taking a big step forward on its plans to build a 475-unit mixed-use development with a grocery store and commercial and space.

Today, the city planning department published the Arts District project’s final environmental report, a significant hurdle on the path to getting the project built.

Located at 668 South Alameda and designed by R&A Architecture, the development would rise up to seven stories and hold 475 live/work units, including 24 for very low income tenants. The project would include art production and gallery space and restaurants.

Previously described as “a creative base camp” for a “wide spectrum of creators and artists,” the development would take the form of a collection of buildings spread across a nearly 4-acre site near Industrial and Alameda streets.

The property is occupied by four cold-storage buildings, which would be razed to make room for the new project.

AvalonBay expects its plans will be approved by the city by the end of the year, with construction starting by the end of 2019. Early reports on the project anticipated construction to take about four years.

668 Alameda would be a few blocks from another major Arts District project, 6AM, which proposed a huge multi-use development with two 58-story towers for Sixth and Alameda streets.


LA’s new soccer stadium is now open

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The much-awaited soccer stadium in Exposition Park opens today near USC.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the first time the stadium gates have opened to the public. Today is also the first time that the stadium’s home team—the Major League Soccer franchise the Los Angeles Football Club—trained in the space. The team will play its first game in the stadium later this month.

In addition to a soccer field, the $350 million venue holds shops, a dazzling array of food options, and conference space.

The 22,000-seat, Gensler-designed stadium has been under construction since 2016. The site was previously occupied by the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

The stadium isn’t the only major project in Exposition park right now. The planned George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art broke ground in March. That $1 billion museum will bring a spacey new building and 12 acres of open space to a spot now occupied by parking lots.

Exposition Park’s flurry of construction fits in with a recently revealed master plan for the area that would prepare it to be a centerpiece of the city’s 2028 Olympics festivities.


Millennium Hollywood project returns with new name and affordable senior housing

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The beleaguered Millennium Hollywood project has returned.

Developer MP Los Angeles announced today that it has filed new plans with the city for the project, now dubbed Hollywood Center. It would feature 1,005 apartments and condos, including 133 units set aside for low-income seniors.

The housing would be spread across two towers—one with 35 stories and the other with 46—and two 11-story structures on lots next to and across from the Capitol Records building at Yucca and Vine streets.

The Handel Architects-designed development will also include two plazas and pedestrian paths that would cut through the Capitol Records block, between Vine and Argyle Avenue, and the block between Vine and Ivar. High Line designer James Corner Field Operations is overseeing the public areas of the project, which total 1 acre.

Mario Palumbo, managing partner of MP Los Angeles, says the firm is also submitting an application for an alternate version of the project that would involve swapping out some of the apartments for 200 hotel rooms.

The land set to become the Hollywood Center is now the site of parking lots.

The proposed project would comply with Measure JJJ, a ballot initiative passed by votes in 2016 to require developers to provide affordable housing in their projects and hire local workers to build them.

The project was proposed in 2013, but was fervently protested by locals. Opponents said said the towers were too tall and would generate too much traffic; plus there was a big debate about whether an activeearthquake fault runs under the property.

In the end, it was traffic that sidelined the project. In 2015, a judge ruled that the city had failed to adequately address the development’s impacts on traffic on the 101 Freeway. Construction was halted and the developer, then named Millennium Partners, was sent back to the drawing board to begin the environmental review process again.

Palumbo says he’s aiming to secure city approval by the end of 2019, and that construction can begin in 2021.


Angelenos might have an earthquake early warning app by the end of 2018

By Alissa Walker for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

There’s a 93 percent chance that, in the next 30 years, an earthquake as big—or bigger—as the deadly Northridge quake will strike Los Angeles again.

Those odds pushed the city of Los Angeles to pioneer the development of an earthquake early warning system that would give Angelenos up to a minute’s warning before a quake.

Beta-testers of the app have been able to experience how well the technology works over the last few months. Today, when the app issued an alert about a 5.3 earthquake epicentered near the Channel Islands, people near Downtown LA were given a push notification about 30 seconds notice before shaking started.

That app could finally be ready for LA smartphones before the end of the year, say Josh Bashioum and Chase Rief, who are working on the app at Early Warning Labs, a Santa Monica-based technology firm partnered with the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Early warning systems are already widely adopted in countries such as Japan and Mexico, where Mexico City residents got up to 60 seconds’ notice before an 8.1 in September.

“Why do Mexico and Japan have this? They developed it after they had huge losses,” says Rief. “We want to implement it before we do.”

An early warning system has been in developmentfor more than a decade in the U.S., with some local agencies, including Metro and the mayor’s office in Los Angeles, already using the real-time alert data. But USGS had lacked the funds to build out the sensor network and create an app the public can use.

Last year, cuts to the federal budget threatened to zero out the $10 million annually that’s needed to develop the app for the public, but local reps fought to keep the funds in place. Governor Jerry Brown also kicked in some money from the state.

In his state of the city address in April, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the rollout of the early warning system will go hand-in-hand with the city’s sweeping seismic retrofit program.

“By the end of 2018, we will deploy an earthquake early warning system to every corner of this city, in schools, at businesses, even on your smartphone,” he said. “It will give you a head start when an earthquake is coming—precious seconds that save lives.”

Some government agencies in California have been getting alerts for years. San Francisco region’s transit agency, BART, was the first transit agency in the U.S. to use early warning data to stop or slow trains when a tremor is reported. Now LA’s Metro is using the early warning data as well.

Using the data, Metro and USGS have organized multiple drills where all local trains have been stopped simultaneously. USGS has also partnered with Los Angeles Unified School District, which will eventually have warning systems installed at each school, and it’s looking for more businesses and corporations, like current partner NBC Universal, to help test early warnings in office buildings and public spaces.

While the larger industrial applications for the early warning system, like de-energizing high-power electrical lines or depressurizing gas mains, are helpful to prevent secondary catastrophes, much of what makes earthquakes losses so costly are simple, preventable injuries, says Rief.

In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, more than 50 percent of injuries were due to non-structural hazards, like windows or masonry falling down, according to a UC Berkeley study.

Giving people a few seconds to get away from a glass window and under a table, for example, could greatly reduce or eliminate a majority of those injuries, freeing up first responders to address other crises.

Another simple yet critical benefit that an early warning system can provide is giving firefighters time to open the doors of their fire stations. This is directly correlated to LA’s experience after the Northridge quake, Rief says.

“The fire trucks in the immediate area couldn’t get out, and trucks were driving from station to station to cut other trucks out and not responding to calls.”

After a warning of an impending missile strike was erroneously issued to Hawaii residents last weekend, and alerts about wildfires and mudslides came too late to save Californians’ lives—or in some cases, were too geographically widespread to be useful—the conversation about how to reach people before disasters has changed.

Officials in Northern California, for example, chose not to send emergency messages in the middle of the night, because they were worried it might incite mass panic. Last week in Santa Barbara, messages were sent warning people about dangerous flooding, but those messages didn’t reach all phones.

In Hawaii, it was purely human error—an employee’s mistake triggered the message that was disseminated through the emergency alert system. Although officials quickly confirmed the false alarm via Twitter, it was 40 minutes before the next official message came through to phones.

The app being developed by Early Warning Labs is more effective than those alerts—and less fallible to human error, according to its creators.

For one, the warning is a push notification that users can swipe for more information immediately, not a wireless text-only message that must be written, approved, and broadcast over the federal emergency alert system. From detection to alert delivery, the human element has been essentially eliminated. And, instead of blanketing an entire county with a generic message, the warning is customized with a countdown and shaking intensity for each user.

“We do the math on a square-mile basis,” says Rief. “If you are in LA and there’s a 4.0 [earthquake], the people who are closer to it will be getting a push alert, not getting it in Orange County.”

The app being developed for LA will also work as an educational tool before and after the quake to help disseminate instructions about what to do when the alert is activated.

In Mexico, where lax building codes mean earthquakes can kill thousands of people in collapsing structures, people run outside when they receive the warning. This is absolutely not what people should do in LA, where your chances of survival are better if you follow USGS’s protocol. (Which is: drop, cover, hold on.)

“The unique challenge with earthquake early warning is we have to teach people to fight their natural instinct to run outside or run away,” says Bashioum, who previously worked as a first responder and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) manager.

“In the U.S. we really do have a strong and robust building code, especially on the West Coast,” he says. “A building is designed to prevent a collapse so people can survive inside.”

In the hours or days after the quake, the app can continue to send vital information about rescue efforts, emergency shelters, or evacuation routes. It can also help to keep preparedness top of mind since LA hasn’t had a big quake in recent years.

“It’s human nature to be in denial or not to think about large hazards,” says Bashioum. “Even if we know the possibility of something bad happening, we don’t prepare because it’s uncomfortable to think about it.”

But once the app is installed on people’s phones, he says, reporting the frequency of smaller quakes, it might help to put Angelenos in a different mindset—and end up saving lives.

Those who want to be the first to download the app once it’s made public can sign up here.


First look at the OMA addition to Wilshire Boulevard Temple

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The Wilshire Boulevard Temple announced today that it submitted plans to the city for a new building to complement its historic 1929 temple.

The new event space—designed by Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA—“will offer an irresistible invitation to gather, celebrate, learn, and reach out to others ... in the city’s most diverse neighborhood,” says rabbi Steve Leder.

First announced in 2015, the new building will sit just east of the existing temple in Koreatown and will offer a ballroom, meeting rooms, and rooftop garden that are available for rent to temple members and the public.

The temple says in a statement that it has raised $55 million of the estimated $75 million it needs to complete the project, named the Audrey Irmas Pavilion after the donor who contributed $30 million to the campaign.

Construction on the new pavilion could break ground as soon as later this year and open in 2020.


Renderings show the dramatic makeover that could be in store for the lower LA River

By Elijah Chiland for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

A wide array of projects big and small are now moving forward alongside all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River, and some of the most comprehensive planning is taking place along the river’s southern portion, from Vernon to Long Beach.

Last year the Lower Los Angeles River Working Group released a draft plan for the revitalization of the river’s final 19-mile stretch. New renderings, released last week by architecture firm Perkins + Will, offer a glimpse at what the plan could bring to the river, if executed as written.

“The signature projects are probably some of the largest open space opportunities that LA will ever see,” says Martin Leitner, the firm’s Los Angeles urban design leader.

Though the draft plan includes proposals for projects of varying size at hundreds of locations along the river, the most ambitious would transform segments of its concrete channel into public spaces with new parkland, trails, bridges, landscaping, and paths for walkers and cyclists.

The working group—a collection of community organizations, elected officials, and business coalitions—was convened by the state in 2016 to plan for the future of the lower river.

Key elements of the plan put together by the group are detailed in the renderings, including a project near Cudahy Park that will allow residents and visitors to access the concrete river bed, with terraced seating along the walls of the channel.

Another project at the Rio Hondo confluence in the city of South Gate would include a trio of new bridges, equestrian trails, and lush landscaping alongside the river.

In Long Beach, the stretch of river around Willow Street is shown in renderings with meadow-like landscaping and a boardwalk crossing over the river close to the nearby levee.

According to Leitner, Perkins + Will worked with engineering firm Tetra Tech, along with county officials and the working group itself, to create designs that prioritize communities around the river.

“Los Angeles is not about megaprojects, it is a city of diverse communities, cultures and moments,” Leitner says.

The working group released the draft plan in December and collected feedback from residents until January 11, which it will now use in finalizing those concepts. Eventually, the plan will be encompassed into the broader master plan for the entire river, now being worked on by Gehry Partners and other high-profile architecture and engineering firms.

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