The Neighborhood Is Changing, and Not for the Better

The main gate that used to lead to the Cat & Fiddle.

The main gate that used to lead to the Cat & Fiddle.

I was with with my brother and my nephew last week when we decided to go to the Cat & Fiddle for dinner. What a shock to find out that they were closing the place down. Apparently the owners are looking for a new location, but at this point they haven’t found anything. When I dropped in a couple days ago, the restaurant was almost cleaned out. I’ve had so many good times at the Cat & Fiddle, hung out there with so many good friends. It was strange to be standing there, surrounded by boxes and furniture. Nobody sitting in the booths. Nobody standing at the bar. No music. No conversation. Just silence.

The silent courtyard.

The silent courtyard.

The empty booths.

The empty booths.

The deserted bar.

The deserted bar.

According to the LA Weekly, the building was purchased by its current owners, an investment group headed by Jesse Shannon, in 2005. When the Cat & Fiddle’s lease was up, apparently Shannon wouldn’t consider renewing it. At this point he has not revealed who the new tenant will be. No doubt one more upscale bar/club/restaurant of the type that’s been spreading like a virus through Hollywood for the past decade. Shannon does say that his group plans to spend millions to renovate the building.

This is good news. I hope he’s serious. The building is a beautiful example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, with some very cool Churrigueresque decoration. I hope the money Shannon spends is matched by a real desire to restore the building, rather than to make it a glitzy magnet for club-hopping kids.

A few links. The first is to the story in the LA Weekly. Next, a link to a Facebook page that was created in the hope that the Cat & Fiddle could stay at its old location. It has some photos that show how full of life the place was. And last, an article on LA Eater in which Shannon talks about the reasons for not renewing the restaurant’s lease.

Farewell to the Cat & Fiddle

Let’s Save the Cat & Fiddle

Why the Cat & Fiddle Had to Go

I look forward to checking out the next incarnation of the Cat & Fiddle whenever it finds a new location, but I’m really sad to see it leave the building on Sunset. Sad because it was such a great place to hang out. And also sad because it’s just the latest casualty of the gentrification craze that’s sweeping through LA. The new tenant may have an amazing menu and a fabulous bar, but I seriously doubt it will have one tenth of the character that the Cat & Fiddle had.

A photo of the Cat & Fiddle from September of this year.

A photo of the Cat & Fiddle from September of this year.

The Next Step

A recent protest at  the corner of Hollywood and Highland.

A recent protest at the corner of Hollywood and Highland.

Nationwide demonstrations against the use of deadly force by police offers have been going on for months. Protests erupted again after grand juries decided not to file indictments in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner shootings. If you haven’t seen them on the streets, you’ve seen them in the news. There’s widespread outrage over the fact that police continue to use deadly force against unarmed men, and that our legal system seems incapable of holding anyone accountable.

It’s not just in Ferguson and New York that unarmed men are dying at the hands of the police. The LAPD has still not offered a concrete reason for stopping Ezell Ford as he was walking down the street near 65th and Broadway. They claim he reached for an officer’s gun before he was fatally shot. In Echo Park, David Martinez went out to buy some tacos for his family, and used his cell phone to call 911 when he heard gunshots. When police arrived on the scene, they shot Martinez himself, and months later he died from his injuries. This article from the Daily News offers details on recent shootings by the LAPD, and the resulting protests by angry citizens.

Shooting of Ezell Ford Protested at LAPD Headquarters

Protests are good for expressing outrage and drawing attention to an issue, but protests will only go so far. At some point you have to start thinking about concrete measures to bring about change. That’s exactly what the South Central Neighborhood Council has done. On December 16, the SCNC voted to pass the following resolution….

South Central Neighborhood Council resolves to request the Los Angeles City Council District nine, Councilmember Curren Price, to introduce the following resolution before the Los Angeles City Council chamber:

Whereas, accountability for the Los Angeles Police Department has not been achieved through the establishment of the Police Commmission, an appointed review board with no authority to discipline police officers;

And whereas, accountability for the Los Angeles Police Department has not been achieved through the establishment of the Federal Consent Decree;

And whereas, abuses of power by the Los Angeles Police Department continue to violate the Human and Civil Rights of the residents of Los Angeles;

And whereas, democracy and community control is the only way to ensure accountability for public institutions and to promote the general welfare;

Be it therefore resolved that the South Central Neighborhood Council calls upon Councilman Curren Price to introduce a resolution to the Los Angeles City Council to place on the ballot an amendment to the Los Angeles City Charter establishing democratic, community control over the Los Angeles Police Department through an all-elected, all-civilian, police control board with full authority over the department in all aspects at all levels.

They’re absolutely right. The LA Police Commisson has not been effective. They can hold hearings and talk about solutions, but they have no real power to change anything. We need an elected body that has the authority to effect change within the LAPD. This isn’t just a matter of prosecuting officers involved in shootings. We need to change the culture within the Department. We need elected representatives who will insist on accountability.

The SCNC deserves credit for taking this action. I hope Councilmember Price, and the entire City Council, take this up in the near future. And if they don’t, there are other ways to push this forward. I don’t think we’d have any trouble getting enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Another One Bites the Dust

Oswald Bartlett House, Los Feliz

Oswald Bartlett House, Los Feliz

Got this in my e-mail this morning. More bad new for those who care about LA’s history.

Press Advisory, Immediate Release


Reprieve Denied: Historic Oswald Bartlett House Goes Down Today

WHAT: Demolition of the 100-year-old Oswald Bartlett House is set to begin today and members of the community are expected to be present to document and bear witness to the house’s undeserved and sad destruction in the middle of the season when Jews and Christians celebrate – instead of destroy – their history and traditions.

WHEN: Demolition work is set to begin at 7 am, today, Thursday, December 18, 2014.

WHERE: 1829 N. Kenmore Ave., Los Angeles – the Los Feliz neighborhood

BACKGROUND: The Oswald Bartlett House has been recognized by preservationists as a pristine and rare example of architect A.C. Martin’s work. Martin, one of Los Angeles’ leading architects in the first half of the 20th century, designed LA City Hall and a half-dozen other notable structures now designated as landmarks. The Bartlett House was designed by Martin for a friend and is a rare example of Martin’s youthful work in domestic design; his more lasting reputation was founded on his design of major public and religious buildings. Despite the recognition by experts of the cultural and historic significance of the Bartlett House, City Hall turned a deaf ear to the experts (including the LA Conservancy) and community’s appeals to spare the house from demolition to make way for a six-unit townhome project whose building entitlements were gained through misrepresentations about the historic nature of the Bartlett House. Last Wednesday the City Council gave the developer, a business ally of one of Mayor Garcetti’s top campaign fundraisers, the green-light to proceed with demolition. Today the sledgehammers and bobcats will start taking the house down.

For Additional Information Contact:
John Schwada, MediaFix Associates
310 709-0056
310 597-9345 w

So one more historic building bites the dust. Garcetti seems determined to let developers have their way, no matter the cost to the city’s cultural heritage. Some of you may remember that the Mole-Richardson building on La Brea was recently demolished, in spite of the fact that it was a classic art deco building by Morgan, Walls and Clements. If you missed that story, here’s a link to a piece on Curbed.

Art Deco Buidling Destroyed

Other historic structures currently being threatened are the Warner Pacific Theatre, the Mosaic Church, and the Chase Bank building at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights. But who cares about history, when you can have a shiny, new mixed-use skyscraper?

The photo of the Oswald Bartlett House was taken by Michael Locke, who has spent a fair amount of time documenting the Los Feliz area. To see more of his work, click on the link below.

Michael Locke at Flickr

Too Much Liquor, Not Enough Parking

Hotel at the Corner of Wilcox and Selma being renovated by Mama Shelter

Hotel at the Corner of Wilcox and Selma being renovated by Mama Shelter

Last week I went down to City Hall to attend a hearing. An old hotel at Wilcox and Selma that hasn’t been occupied for years is being renovated with the intention of turning it into a new boutique hotel run by the Mama Shelter chain. I have no problem with them renovating the hotel, and Mama Shelter seems like it might be a good addition to the neighborhood, but one of the variances they were asking for concerned me. Here’s the text from the hearing notice.

Pursuant to LA Municipal Code Section 12.24-W,1, a Conditional Use to permit the sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption in conjunction with a proposed ground floor restaurant and a rooftop restaurant, with live entertainment.

Before I go any further, let me give you a little background. I like a having a drink as much as the next guy, and maybe even a little more than the next guy. I certainly don’t want to see Hollywood go dry. But for those of you who don’t live in the area, I can tell you that you couldn’t throw a rock down the street without hitting a bar or a club. The place is crawling with them. Some of you may be familiar with the Cahuenga club scene, which has become a major attraction for people who want to party.

This has caused some problems. In fact, the problems are so serious, that the LAPD recently sent a letter to the Chief Zoning Administrator which complained of the “oversaturation of ABC [Alcohol Beverage Control] locations in the area”. Among the problems caused by this high concentration of bars and clubs are “traffic collisons involving pedestrians, driving under the influence, assault with a deadly weapon, robberies, thefts, fights with serious injuries, shootings and rapes”.

You can see the problems are pretty serious. And while Mama Shelter’s reps at the meeting said that their focus is on serving food, not alcohol, the fact that they want a full liquor license, they want to have live entertainment, and they want to stay open til 2:00 am, seems to indicate that they’ll be drawing the party crowd.

There are other issues. A couple of senior citizens attended the meeting. They live in a building near the proposed hotel, and they both said that they’re already having trouble sleeping because of bars and clubs in the area that have live music. Live entertainment on the rooftop is only going to make it even harder for neighborhood residents to get a good night’s sleep. The noise issue was also brought up by a couple other people who attended, one of whom works for a hostel right across the street.

Then there’s the parking. Here’s another item from the hearing notice.

Pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 12.27, a zone variance to permit the five (5) required parking spaces to be provided off-site within 750 feet by lease in lieu of covenant as required pursuant to Section 12.26-E.5.

This makes it sound as though the hotel has almost enough on-site parking, and they’re only asking to have five additional spaces located off-site. But during the hearing there was an exchange between the zoning administrator and the project rep, and it sounded like the hotel has no parking at all right now. The rep said they were still looking to sign a deal, but that parking is difficult to come by in Hollywood. Yep. Sure is. And if Mama Shelter opens their hotel without adequate parking for guests and visitors, that’s going to make it way harder for those who live in the neighborhood to park their cars.

It seemed unbelievable that Mama Shelter could be as close to opening as they are and still not have the parking nailed down. So earlier this week I e-mailed the zoning administrator to ask if I’d understood the situation correctly. I still haven’t heard back from him.

One of the project reps said the renovations are almost completed. Apparently they hope to open early next year. You might ask why anybody who had invested so much money in a project would wait until they were almost ready to open before having this hearing. They’re looking for permits to allow them to sell alcohol and have live entertainment, which apparently is a key part of their business model. And whatever the situation is with the parking, right now they don’t have enough to satisfy the City’s requirements.

So why would they go this far down the road without having resolved these key issues? Why would they spend millions of dollars on renovations before they’d even secured the necessary permits? Unless maybe somebody at City Hall told them not to worry about it. That it would all be taken care of.

The comment period has been extended to Wednesday, December 17. If you live in the area and you’re concerned about any of the issues this project raises, you might want to contact May Sirinopwongsagon at the Department of City Planning. Here’s her e-mail.