Hlwd Bars 1 Rd St

I want to go on record here. I like to drink. I’ve spent a fair amount of time hanging out in bars. But even I’m getting scared of how accessible booze is in Hollywood. The neighborhood is packed with bars and clubs, and it seems like every new restaurant that opens gets a full liquor license. If it was just a matter of dealing with crowded sidewalks and noisy drunks, I might be able to handle that. But the problems we’re seeing are actually much worse.

In fact, it’s getting so bad that last October LAPD Chief Charlie Beck wrote a letter to Linn Wyatt, the City’s Chief Zoning Administrator. In he talks about the “oversaturation of ABC [Alcohol Beverage Control] locations”. He mentions how these establishments “have generated numerous crime reports” which are straining police resources. And the crimes he lists include collisions involving pedestrians, DUIs, assault with a deadly weapon, robberies, thefts, fights, shootings and rapes. But don’t take my word for it. Click on the link to read the letter yourself.

Letter from Chief Beck

It doesn’t seem like anybody at the Department of City Planning read Chief Beck’s letter, because they keep on handing out liquor licenses like they were candy. I get the impression that public safety is something they don’t worry about much at the DCP.

Hlwd Bars 2 Vogue

But we’ve gotta draw the line somewhere. Recently I received a notice from the Department of City Planning regarding a project at the corner of Hollywood and Hudson. Hollywood Dreams, LLC plans to remodel an existing building to house a bar and four restaurants. They’re asking for five — yes, five — full liquor licenses. I was stunned. With all the problems we’re already seeing in the area, they want five more places selling liquor on the boulevard?!

I wasn’t the only one taken aback. Gilbert Mora and Robin Yoo of Behavioral Health Services were so concerned they made a list of existing ABC locations in the same census tract, roughly a half square mile. For this area, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control says that no more than two on-site liquor permits should be authorized. By my count, there are already 15 on the list. (If you include stores and caterers that have off-site liquor permits, the number rises to 21.) So the City of LA has already allowed over 7 times what the state allows. And now this developer is asking for five more permits for a single location. Remember, too, that this is just one tract. There are dozens of other bars, clubs and restaurants that serve alcohol in Hollywood.

But let’s take a look at the actual statistics for crime in the neighborhood around this project. I went to CrimeMapping.Com and entered the address. Click on the link to see what’s happened within a one mile radius over the past two weeks.

6529 Hollywood Blvd.

As you can see, this neighborhood gets a lot of action. The crimes include assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, and vehicle theft. A total of 79 crimes. Still, we need to check out some other location for comparison. So let’s go down the road about a mile and see what it’s like on a stretch of Melrose where there are far fewer bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. I wonder what kind of crime they have down there.

6500 Melrose Ave.

So just a mile down the road, there have been only 38 crimes in the past two weeks. Less than half. Does anybody think that just maybe there’s a link between the amount of alcohol being consumed in Hollywood and the amount of crime that’s occurring there?

Hlwd Bars 3 Fox

And it’s only going to get worse. There are many other developers that want to get permits in the area. Ten more hotels are planned for Hollywood, including three that are under construction right now on Selma Ave., which is just a block south of Hollywood Blvd.. The DCP has already given full liquor licenses to all three.

This is ridiculous. Enough is enough. There’s a hearing on Tuesday, March 10 at 9:30 am, and I’m going to be there. I want to ask the zoning administrator why they keep handing out these permits when there’s a clear threat to public safety. If you feeling like joining me, the more the merrier. Here’s the address.

Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring Street, Room 1020
(Enter from Main Street)

And if you can’t make it to City Hall, you can still send an e-mail to the DCP. Here’s the info. It’s a good idea to include the case number in the subject line.

Staff Contact:
Matthew Quan
Case No: ZA 2014-2008(MCUP)

If you do send an e-mail to the DCP, please copy me on it. I’m wondering how many other people out there are as ticked off as I am. Here’s my address.

I’m fine with people coming to Hollywood to have a good time, but this has gotten way out of hand. We need to stop handing out liquor permits to anyone who asks for one.

Hlwd Bars 4 Loaded

Mama Shelter Update

Work continues the building at the corner of Wilcox and Selma.

Work continues the building at the corner of Wilcox and Selma.

Just wanted to follow up on the piece I wrote about the Mama Shelter hotel at the corner of Wilcox and Selma.

I went to a hearing last year to express my concerns over some variances that were being considered for the project. The three issues that worried me were the request to allow live entertainment on the roof, liquor permits for the two restaurants, and the amount of parking required. I got the zoning administrator’s determination a while ago, and these are the results.

They’re not going to allow live entertainment or amplified music on the premises. Very happy about this. While the hotel isn’t close enough to my apartment for the noise to bother me, this is becoming a big concern for residents in the Hollywood area. A few people who attended the meeting complained that they’re already having trouble sleeping because of existing venues that play music far into the night. So I was very glad that the City nixed this.

They did decide to grant a full liquor license for the two restaurants. I was not happy about this. It’s not so much that I’m worried about the hotel itself, as the fact that these days the City is giving out liquor licenses like candy. With so many places in Hollywood for people to get hammered, there’s been a significant increase in crime. In fact, the problems are so serious that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck wrote a letter to the Department of City Planning last year in which he expressed his concern about the number of liquor licenses that are being issued. The City really needs to slow down on this. There are already plenty of places to get a drink in Hollywood.

The last issue was the parking, and this was tricky. The administrator’s decision said that Mama Shelter would be allowed to lease five spaces off-site. Apparently these were for patrons of the restaurant, but it didn’t sound like nearly enough. I also wondered where the hotel guests would be parking. I knew the lot adjacent to the building wasn’t available. I ended up writing to Gary Benjamin at the Council District 13 office and Jared Sopko of Archeon Group, a company that’s working with Mama Shelter on the project. Both of them responded to me quickly, explaining that the hotel has contracted with a valet parking service that has access to 300 off-street spaces in the area. That was good to hear, because parking on the street around Selma and Wilcox can be really challenging. I was afraid local residents would be fighting with valets for spaces, a scenario that’s not uncommon in Hollywood.

All in all, I’m cool with the outcome. I wish they hadn’t granted the liquor permit, but I’m happy with the resolution on the other issues. I’m glad that Mama Shelter is refurbishing a building that’s been vacant for years. That’s definitely a plus. And of all the new hotels that are flooding into Hollywood, Mama Shelter seems like the best fit with the neighborhood.

So I can live with this.

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.