If you drive around Los Angeles, and all of us who live here spend plenty of time doing that, you will see that the landscape is dotted with empty lots and abandoned buildings waiting for the wrecking ball. It is a blight on the city, an embarrassment that needs to go away with the establishment of new rules about construction projects in the city.
One of the most notorious sites is the huge empty plot on the corner of Wilshire and La Brea. Developer BRE fought for years to build a massive apartment and retail development there, battling conservationalists who wanted to save the old Columbia Savings Bank building, here in all of its glory in the 1960s.
In late 2009 BRE cleared its final hurdle to tear down the building, and literally within hours demolition began. Once the building was down (along with a couple of strip malls), the developers conveniently announced they wouldn’t start construction on the project until the fall of 2011 (indeed, work just began).
So for nearly two years people in the community had to look at an ugly vacant lot instead of a nice mid century building and strip malls, that while ugly, were filled with useful stores.
Over on Vine, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences wanted to build a museum so it bought the large lot that was home to a Big Lots store. The store was shut down, but after a while the Oscar folks decided to house its museum on the old May department store at Wilshire and Fairfax. So instead of a Big Lots store that people can actually use, we get this:
I know it’s West Hollywood, but the same thing is going on at the old Movie Town shopping center on Santa Monica. All of the stores (except for Trader Joe’s) have been cleared out, and now the project to replace it has been delayed. Just go ahead and call it Ghost Town, as stores that served the community are gone:
There is a reasonably simple way to rectify this situation, with laws that require developers to build in a timely fashion. For example, developers would have 30 days to begin demolition after emptying out stores or buildings. Then after demolition is over, they have 30 days to begin construction. Violating the timeline would result in huge daily fines.
Another problem the city has is that construction often begins and then is interrupted for long periods of time. Under the new rules daily fines would kick in if work stops for more than a week.
These rules would require that developers have the money for their projects all lined up before breaking ground. Developers would likely balk at such regulations, but something must be done. It is just not fair for the rest of us to put up with poor decision-making that leaves us staring at these eyesores.