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31 August 2020 -  Letter to Zoning Administrator


Re: Notice of Public Hearing
Lettrt In Opposition to Zoning Change and Street Widening at the base of the historic Baxter Stairs of Elysian Heights

                                                            Case # ZA-2019-924-ZAD-ZAA

    Pursuant to Hillside Ordinance No. 168,159 that amends Subdivision 18 of Subsection 1 of
    Section 12.27 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code,
   
          To permit buildings and structures on lots...in a Hillside Area and on a Substandard Hillside
           Limited Street.
          In making a determination pursuant to this subdivision, a Zoning Administrator shall find:
   
            (iii)     that the building or structure will not adversely affect or be in conflict with any element                    
                        of the general plan or any applicable specific plan or with any other plans being prepared by
                      the Department of City Planning;

            (iv)     that the building or structure will not have a materially adverse safety impact on the
                   surrounding neighborhood.

    As current directors of the Harwell Hamilton Harris Fellowship Parkway Conservancy, Inc,
organized as non profit tax exempt entity under the laws of California who represents the
preservation ideals of the local artist Paul Landacre, the Manigualt residence, the Fellowship Park
House, Semi-Tropic Spiritualists tract, and the preservation of the famed modernist architect’s
homes of Harwell Hamilton Harris, in alliance with the Brighouse estate, inclusive of the earliest
Japanese house built by Carl Anderson - dating 10 years before Frank Lloyd Wright.
   
    My partner and I preserve the heritage in the buildings and natural groves in this
community, and aim to share this knowledge base from the organic modernist architects whose
philosophies are embedded in their structures to teach individuals the importance of preserving the
natural landscape. To live within the majestic California environment they once knew so as to not
eradicate it but live with nature harmoniously whilst sheltered from the harsh elements.
We share the common goals of Grace Simmons, Mariam Harlow, Citizens Committee to
Save Elysian Park, Echo Park Historical Society, Friends of Kite Hill, Fellowship Park Neighborhood
Association, and Community Residents’ Association for Parks, Red Car Corralitas Trail, Silverlake
Heritage Society, Friends of the Los Angeles River, and the Santa Monica Conservancy, we aim to
establish Historical Preservation designation on these residences within the vicinity of the Baxter
Stairs, along Park Dr. to Fellowship Park to the Los Angeles River trail by dedicating an HPOZ
overlay of the Elysian View Tract.

    We are dedicated in the acquisition and preservation of open spaces and donated property
surrounding Elysian Park as interconnecting parks and connecting trails and parkland by way of
conservation easement that reconnects the fractured plots of open spaces and backyards leading
into the park, and becoming a safe corridor for wildlife to embark on migration routes throughout
the year.

      We enact The National Trails Systems Act of 1968 purpose: 

        “for providing for the ever-increasing outdoor recreation needs of an expanding
        population and in order to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and
        enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor-areas and historic resources of the
        Nation, trails should be established (i) primarily, near the urban areas of the Nation, and (ii)
        secondarily, within scenic areas and along historic travel routes of the Nation”. 1

    Elysian Park is the first plot of land (then called Stone Quarry Hills) dedicated as a city park in
1886 and subsequent city charters have protected the land for park purposes in perpetuity. The 575
acres of wild park with winding hiking trails and dense vegetation and cliff edges is in the middle of
urban city sprawl. The park is home to thousands of species and fauna and ravines that play a
significant role in the Southern California ecosystem and migratory routes. Mockingbirds, jays, red-
tailed hawks, bush tits, Audubon's warblers, red-shafted flickers, blue jays, house finches, to name a
few, are residents to the park deemed a bird sanctuary in 1947 by the National Audubon Society. In
1893, the Los Angeles Horticultural Society established the Chavez Ravine Arboretum by planting
100 exotic trees from all over the world with most original tree still standing. Unbeknownst to most
neighbors, this is a Historical Monument and is directly accessed by the Baxter Stairs.

    The Baxter Stairs is also under review for historic status designation. Initially used as a means
to access transportation to the Red Electric Railroad Car, specifically the ‘Hill” line in which helped
dub the name “Red Hill” for this notably radical leftist community, this staircase and hillside provides
a source of cultural enrichment as early as the 1920s. People gathering in congregation for picnics
and activities is comparable to the Spanish Steps of Rome or Dolores Park of San Francisco. It is a
place to sit back and appreciate the majestic view of the Los Angeles basin. In awe of its natural
beauty, this staircase revitalizes the spirit, creates community, and promotes the well-being of every
individual that passes through the staircase, making it one of the top staircases in Los Angeles and
the West.

    This park, only recently known as Elysian Park for the last hundred years, was once the Giant
Redwood Forest for thousands of years. With only two redwood trees left, this park is an untamed
wildland full of ecological resources even within our neighborhood streets, yet full of dying trees and
considerably a brush fire hazard. An increasing number of endangered species live in its boundaries;
it is our responsibility, as its residents to look after it, to preserve the rock formations, sandy dunes,
the disturbed terrain that house these endangered wildlife within the park boundaries and streets.

Michael Logrande, Acting Zoning Administrator in 2007 relayed
       
        “Parks and recreational facilities are essential community amenities necessary to promote the
        public welfare and implement the General Plan.”
   

I want to emphasize the statement made by renowned architect and local neighbor, Martin Roy Mervel that this
   
    “specific plot of land sits as a unique confluence, topographically at the base of a historic stair parkland glen,
    definite a community embraced edge that is used by many individuals daily for recreation and exercise who visit
    this visually stunning and sensitively sculpted scenic nugget of geology and biology”


is exact and paramount to this matter. Every detail about this rock formation is appreciated by all those who visit this
site daily, weekly, every so often, as it is a notabl characteristic of this neighborhood.
It would be damaging to the “aesthetic” of the neighborhood to destroy it.

    Neighborhoods should be designed to protect natural features. Natural areas can enhance a
neighborhood while protecting the environment. Developments that alter or destroy natural
features should be avoided and in turn identify, protect and preserve historic sites and structures for
the enrichment of future generations.

    This area will suffer irreparable harm from which there is no adequate remedy at law in that
the character of the neighborhood will be significantly and permanently altered and disturbed on a
potentially infinite basis, without an environmental review as required by CEQA. It is not exempt
from en environmental review.


    Furthermore, let it be noted that:

      " The Plan identifies the area generally bounded by Douglas St., Elysian Park, the 5 Freeway,        
        the Glendale Freeway, Glendale Blvd., Berkeley Ave., Benton Way and Temple St. as a
        future HPOZ . . . aimed at preserving the area's distinct architecture and neighborhood
        character”.  2

    In a conversation I had with Lambert, Head of the City’s Historical Resources
Department, he confirmed this in support of preservation when he recently walked this area.
Development that excavates the habitat of a fragile ecosystem can be preventable through
the education of organic architecture and application of such philosophies so described by Frank
Lloyd Wright, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Gregory Ain, Gordon Drake, Richard Neutra, and the
modernist movement known as organic architecture that cultivated and promoted the wisdom of
ancient Japanese traditions, respectful of all habitants and life.

    Then there is the problem of the rats that will be released when this hill is carved into. As of
one month ago, this neighborhood is experiencing a sudden infestation of rats in our yards, trees,
basements, walls, homes, restaurants, shops, parks - they are everywhere, like Maximum Overload.   
At the beginning of August, the neighborhood cafe, Ladybyrd, was recently shut down by the Public
Health Dept due to the presence of rats. A week prior to this, illegal construction crew started
excavating on a vacant building down the block at 1968 Avon St where well-established rodent
burroughs housed thousands of rat. Rats establish colonies underground in undisturbed terrain near
the sewer lines. Since the excavation and flooding of the lot, rats were unleashed into neighboring
property by the hundreds. Rats get into walls, and into beehives.

    In the surrounding 100 yards are 5 distinct bee colonies long established in these homes.
Rodents are the most common and troublesome pest of honeybee colonies because the beehives
provide them with food (pollen, honey, and bees) and protection from the cold. They destroy the
combs by chewing them to provide room to build their nest. I have personally witnessed the bees
defend their hive when Rats attempt to access these hives for its honey on several occasions over
the course of 5 years. By stinging a rat to its death, subsequently the rat dies and infects the hive
with any diseases or mites they carry such as Tropilaelaps. First identified on rats living near beehive
colonies, these parasites are poised to start another pandemic of the bees. The bees swarm looking
for a new hive but inevitably are infected. Thus contributing to the disease of the bees known as
colony collapse disorder.

    Excavation destabilizes the hillsides drastically consider you have many homes above the
proposed worksite. Not only does excavation threaten a fragile ecosystem of a riparian hillside,
excavation on a steep grade endangers the foundation of neighboring homes that closely built and
creates to the public health risk of diseases carried by vermin and respirable crystalline silica dust,
both exacerbated by construction on overbuilding a hillside.
   
    OSHA reports “ Exposure to respirable crystalline silica can occur during common construction tasks,
such as using masonry saws, grinders, drills, jackhammers and handheld powered chipping tools; operating
vehicle mounted drilling rigs; milling; operating crushing machines; using heavy equipment for
demolition or certain other tasks; and during abrasive blasting and tunneling operations.” 

    This is a popular path enjoyed by almost every resident in this area. It is part of their daily
jog, daily walk, walking their dogs, evening stroll. The debris and dust known as crystalline silica dust
created from the construction would be harmful for the community that enjoys this path to exercise
and recreate.

    Should this project be approved, I would hope it would be LEED certified to meet the
requisite standards for health and preservation as maintained by the community.


Sincerely,

Harwell Hamilton Harris Fellowship Parkway Conservancy, Inc.
(415) 685 - 3299

1  The National Trails Systems Act of 1968
2  Excerpt highlighting historic and natural resources within “the Plan” by the City of Los Angeles pursuant to the General Plan of the State of California. The Silver Lake-Echo Park-Elysian Valley CommunityPlan 

Elysian Experimental Japanese
Bonsai
Gardens 


"You see, art is practiced here along with various other concerns -
pruning trees, repairing the roof, watching and feeding wildlife and so
on. Of course, other artists live on wooded hillsides, too, and so do
other people, and it must be conceded that to some of us this kind of
environment is not only valuable, but absolutely necessary - a degree of
seclusion, the life of growing things, awareness that we are a part of
nature."



Index Art Book Fair @ kurimanzutto - Mexico city - January 2020 - 23 24 25 26

"You see, art is practiced here along with various other concerns -
pruning trees, repairing the roof, watching and feeding wildlife and so
on. Of course, other artists live on wooded hillsides, too, and so do
other people, and it must be conceded that to some of us this kind of
environment is not only valuable, but absolutely necessary - a degree of
seclusion, the life of growing things, awareness that we are a part of
nature."