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Mourning a Neighborhood Tree

Monday, April 25th, 2011

The Windsor Square community is actively involved in preservation.  The charms of our vintage neighborhood – including its stately trees—are one of the major reasons we live here.  In a city that has lost so much of its historic architecture, the efforts of the Windsor Square and Hancock Park communities are reflected in our quality of life and the esteem with which our neighborhoods are held.

Occasionally, despite all our efforts, things go awry.  We are currently mourning the loss of a large parkway tree – a ficus benjamina – due to the efforts of a developer intent on “flipping” the house at 207 N. Arden.   The tree in question, which was large enough to shade both sides of the parkway, was cut down on March 12th, despite the request for a 10-day stay by Councilman Tom LaBonge, which was subsequently granted by Cynthia Ruiz, LA’s Commissioner of Public Works.  Unfortunately, the stay was not enforced by Assistant Chief City Forester Ron Lorenzen, and the tree was cut down anyway.   The WSA Board has yet to receive an answer from Ms. Ruiz’ and Mr. Lorenzen’s offices regarding why the stay was not enforced.

Ficus trees are known to have robust root systems, and the trees on Larchmont Boulevard wreaked havoc with the sidewalks a number of years ago.  However, instead of removing the trees, their roots were pruned, and the sidewalks restored.    The lesson for all Windsor Square residents is this:  we must remain involved, and vigilant, and cannot assume that the neighborhood’s best interests will be honored, even when we have the support of City officials.   Our city’s urban forest is constantly under assault, as is our desire to retain the local flavor in our neighborhoods.

We’d like to thank former WSA Board member Sean Elliott for his quick action on this issue, and encourage all Windsor Square residents to follow his example.   As always, contact information for any issue is available on the WSA website, www.windsorsquare.org.

Metro Westside Subway Extension

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Study Shows Limited Ridership Loss if No Crenshaw Station

Metro staff reports that they and their experts have concluded that there would be limited ridership loss to the Metro system if no subway station is built on Wilshire Boulevard between Bronson Avenue and Lorraine Boulevard, immediately adjoining the communities of Windsor Square, Wilshire Park, and Windsor Village. The news about ridership was presented during the April series of five public meetings held to update communities along the route of the proposed Purple Line Subway Extension from Western Avenue to Westwood and beyond.  In a slide shown at the meetings and available online here, Metro presented seven bullet points that reemphasized conclusions first revealed in a March 2010 community meeting held at Wilshire Methodist Church:

  • Public divided on need for station
  • Station spacing issue
  • Limited density around station
  • Crenshaw LRT not planned to extend north of Expo LRT
  • Even without station, construction staging to occur on Metro owned property
  • Limited ridership loss without the station

At the March 17 community meeting–and again in April–Metro predicted that, 25 years from now (in 2035), there would be 1300 fewer riders on the entire Metro Rail system if an additional station is NOT built at Crenshaw. Metro said that the cost to add a station to serve these 1300 people would be approximately $153,000,000.

The Windsor Square Association board of directors has regularly reviewed the idea of adding such a subway station ever since politicians (not transit planners) initiated the surprise concept in 1983. Our Association’s repeated conclusion—that adding such an extra station in a NON-Center so close to Western Avenue is inappropriate—has been substantiated by the passage of time. In recent years, it has become generally accepted that any future light rail extension of the Crenshaw Line now planned with a northern terminus at Crenshaw and Exposition should be further west, and NOT come to Wilshire and Crenshaw.

The WSA recognizes that, even with Measure R taxes for which we County residents have voted, funds to improve public transit are scarce. Those scarce funds are best utilized to keep extending the Purple Line as far west as possible. It would be a waste of money to build an extra, unneeded station at Crenshaw and Wilshire.

Larchmont Chronicle Article – December 2008

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

The following is the Windsor Square Association monthly column published in the Larchmont Chronicle, written by WSA Board Member Chris Sieroty.

Update on law suit, new police boundaries

Windsor Square residents heard about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting uses at the Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge and Auditorium and the passage of Measure R at the annual Windsor Square Association annual town hall meeting in November at the Ebell Club.

More than 100 residents heard from Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department and members of the association’s board of directors.

Elected to the 2009 board of directors were: Katie Badami, Michael Barton, June Bilgore, John Carpenter, Bill Cutler, Sean Elliot, Michael Genewick, Scott Goldstein, Larry Guzin, Regina Chung, Fred Rheinstein, Presilla Wright, Debbie Hassan, Wendy Savage and John Welborne.

Windsor Square Association president Mike Genewick updated residents on the ongoing upkeep of the Larchmont Boulevard median, between First and Third streets.

“We are still maintaining the median at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000 a year,” Genewick said.

Councilman Tom LaBonge assured residents the city was moving closer to “curb to curb” repaving of Wilshire Boulevard.

“With 4,000 buses a day traveling Wilshire, their weight has torn up the curb lanes. The money is being set aside to pay for the project.”

He also explained that the rezoning of Larchmont Boulevard was on its way to the City Council. According to the proposal, maximum building height will be 35 feet for new developments, and 50-foot width of storefronts.

John Welborne, WSA vice president for Planning and Land Use of the Windsor Square Association, updated residents on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting the uses at Scottish Rite Center Masonic Lodge and Auditorium. He said the matter of leasing the site for for-profit events has been solved.

“Now the building is for sale for $19.5 million,” Welborne said.

Capt. Eric Davis, commander of the LAPD’s Wilshire Division assured residents that crime was down in the area and that detectives had several leads involving a recent home invasion robbery in Larchmont Village.

Davis t introduced Capt. Matt Blake, the commander of the new Olympic Station that will open Jan. 4.

“There has been a lot of fear about having two police stations,” Blake said. “Windsor Square is the jewel of the Olympic station. If we are doing everything right, you won’t see any changes.”

He explained the new station would cover 6.2-square miles, which is an incredibly small area for the LAPD to patrol. “The smaller the area, the quicker we can get to your calls,” he said. “We will have an extra 80 police officers to work this area.”

Blake said the division between Wilshire and Olympic stations will be Plymouth Boulevard.

“I’ve heard your concerns, but I really believe you will be happy with this,” he told a cautious audience.

Blake invited residents to attend an open house for the new station on Jan. 17.