MSMU On The List to Build

Mount Saint Mary’s University, the campus sitting atop Chalon Road via Bundy Drive, is adding their name to the list of school’s desiring to add to their campus facilities. Archer School for Girls and Brentwood School have already signed covenants to expand their campus structures and now MSMU sees a new “Wellness Facility” in their future.

Some nearby homeowners are complaining MSMU alreadyscreen-shot-2016-09-18-at-7-58-51-am generates more than enough traffic on the narrow streets of Bundy Drive and Norman Place, and a new modern facility will only draw more students from MSMU’s other campus, further drowning the canyon streets buses and cars.


Residents will be unlikely to stop the project as the City is inclined to approve most institutional requests with only minor concessions. The University is set to do an Environmental Impact report which will present more information about the effects the project will have on the surrounding community and traffic. The report should be released in January.

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House Passes Lieu Bill on VA

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 5936, the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016.  The legislation incorporates the full text of H.R. 3484, a prior bill introduced by Congressman Lieu to authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to use enhanced-use leases at the West LA VA campus. The legislation allows the VA to implement the campus’ Master Plan with enhanced-use leases.

Leiu said, “I am pleased the House of Representatives passed the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016, which authorizes the VA to implement the Master Plan for the West L.A. VA campus.  Today represents a giant leap forward in restoring the property to the Old Soldiers’ Home it was always intended to be.  If enacted, this legislation will enable the VA to construct 1,200 units of housing for homeless veterans at the West L.A. VA and offer new robust services on the campus such as vocational training, recreation and spiritual support.  The legislation also ensures that all leases on the campus principally benefit Veterans and strengthen the partnership between the VA and leaseholders.”

The legislation is a path for certain land leases that will allow UCLA and Brentwood School to continue to use a small portion of the 350 acre property by providing beneficial services to Veterans. For now, Barrington Park will also be available for public use, but the dog park use may soon be in limbo.

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Bonin Approves MegaCity

The City Council and westside Councilman Mike Bonin approved by a vote of 12-0 a mega-City at Bundy and Olympic called Martin Expo Town Center. Forget that the intersection is already a choke point for traffic, and forget that this development will add 7,000 car trips PER DAY to the area — our City government and agencies are pushing it through fast and furious. The developer made some very minor concessions, including a paltry donation to homelessness, $200,000, for a project that will cost well north of $250 million. In addition, the Martin family, heirs to the Martin Cadillac legacy, will add some “affordable housing units,” which realistically are a small give for a mega-project that includes

  • Over 500 residential units
  • Near 100,000 square feet of retail
  • 200,000 square feet of office space
  • Ten story building heights

Some residential groups wanted them to eliminate the full scale supermarket, since this draws outside traffic, in exchange for a smaller one that just serves the development, but the Martin family said no, even though there are two full-size Ralphs markets and a Trader Joes within walking distance.

Somehow, Councilman Bonin can’t see what the entire City of Santa Monica saw when they sent the Hines Company packing with their proposal for Bergamont Transit Village. That huge development, also near an Expo Line transit stop, was seen as too big and creating too much traffic for the adjacent streets and intersections to bear.

The approval of this project is courtesy of the same people who thought a ground-level train, which blocks traffic paths while it shepherds commuters was a more reasonable alternative than an elevated system which could have all the benefits and none of the drawbacks.

Welcome to LA! Now stay home.


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The Future of San Vicente

Two meetings will be held about the future of San Vicente. The first is a town hall sponsored by the Brentwood Community Council about the San Vicente Scenic Corridor Specific Plan, on July 26 (for more info, click here). The Specific Plan is a set of guidelines which governs various facets of the boulevard. The other meeting is at the Design Review Board on July 28 (details here), which will hear a proposal about a replacement of the Peet’s Coffee building. Both meetings are open to the public. (Previous Article).

The owner of the Peet’s Coffee building, which includes Pizzicotto, Gaucho Grill, Subway, First Republic Bank, and the parking lot to the west, intends to move forward with a plan to build a five-story mixed use complex with ground floor retail and four stories of residential above. The residential will be 3,000 square foot apartments or condominiums. The developer needs approval of several variances, including exceeding the height limitation for new construction.


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Plans For Peet’s

GPI Companies, a real estate investment group, has bought the property across the street from their offices in hopes of developing a five-story mixed-use building to house retail and living spaces.

The building circa 1960

The building circa 1960

The property and building along San Vicente at Gorham stretches from Peet’s to the parking and includes Gaucho Grill, Subway and First Republic Bank.  It was purchase last year for $25 million, too much to reap a reasonable return with its current use. GPI plans to raze the structure and build a much larger one with subterranean parking, but first they will need City approval for some variances.

They are bound to cause some dissension in the community as the structure has been there for more than half a century and no doubt is held dear to those who frequent San Vicente a honor the last remnants of nostalgia.  The company made a presentation to the land use committee of the Brentwood Community Council, but so far, no public submissions to the City have been made.  Stay tuned for “developments.”

The existing building is a triangle at Gorham and San Vicente across from Whole Foods

The existing building is a triangle at Gorham and San Vicente across from Whole Foods

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Bonin On Bundy

Mike Bonin, Brentwood’s City Council represenative, released the following statement regarding the proposed development at Bundy and Olympic…

Last month, the City Planning Department hosted the first public hearing on a proposed mixed-use development project at the Martin Cadillac site on the corner of Olympic and Bundy in West LA. This project is proposing to build residential units, office space, and retail stores near the soon to be opened Expo station at Olympic and Bundy. This is a significant project for Westside communities, and it could have a major impact on the future of our neighborhoods. 

I feel strongly that transparency and public input are crucial components of the planning process – especially for a project of this size, so I have insisted that the Planning Department host additional public hearings to allow you to offer input on the project. Another hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 4:00 pm at the West Los Angeles Municipal Building’s Second Floor Hearing Room (1645 Corinth Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025).

An auto showroom is not the best use of a property adjacent to the only Expo Line stop in Council District 11, and a genuine transit-oriented project makes a lot of sense, but I am insisting it be the best transit-oriented project in the City. I need your help to shape this kind of project. Will you attend the March 2 hearing to offer your input on how to change and improve the current proposal? You can find out more about the meeting by clicking here.

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Leiu VA Bill Passes House

WASHINGTON Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs unanimously passed two bills authored by Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles): H.R. 3484, the “Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act of 2016” and H.R. 4334, the “Fiscal Year 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs Seismic Safety and Construction Authorization Act.”

H.R. 3484 grants the Secretary of Veterans Affairs leasing authority to construct permanent supportive housing on the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center campus and H.R. 4334 provides $35 million for critical seismic retrofits for buildings on the campus.

On the favorable Committee markup of these important bills, Congressman Lieu issued the following statement:

“I thank Chairman Jeff Miller, Ranking Member Corrine Brown, and the members of the House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs for unanimously supporting these important pieces of legislation today.  They each address urgent needs for our local Veterans.  Los Angeles County has the highest number of homeless Veterans in the nation.  One immediate need is to build a proportionate number of permanent housing units for our homeless Veterans. H.R. 3484 will grant the VA the authority to begin implementing this key component of the West LA VA Master Plan.”

“H.R. 4334 would authorize an additional $35 million for seismic retrofits for buildings on the West LA VA campus.  This comes on top of the $35 million that Senator Dianne Feinstein and I helped to secure last year for the same purpose.”

“I want to acknowledge the leadership of VA Secretary McDonald and the tireless work of his team this past year in developing the Draft Master Plan which calls for 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing at the West LA VA.  The VA’s plan—which needs this legislation—is our down payment in restoring this property to its intended use as an Old Soldiers’ Home.”

“I also want to thank the leadership of Senator Feinstein, who has authored companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.  My expectation is that the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will take up our legislation soon.”

“And finally I want to recognize the contributions from vital local stakeholders, including Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations, the plaintiff partners, providers, and the community for their collaborative effort and unprecedented support this past year.  Without it, the Draft Master Plan and progress on legislation would not have been possible.”

“I am so pleased these bills have passed favorably. They will put us on the course of repaying the debt we owe our nation’s Veterans.”

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BHA Annual Meeting Monday

The Brentwood Homeowners Association, celebrating its 70th year as one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind in California, will hold its annual meeting on Feb 29.  Over 400 of the BHA’s 3,300 membership gather to discuss topical issues relating to their territory and greater Brentwood.

President Emeritus Robert Rene gives the 45-minute presentation in front of a usually packed house at University Synagogue.  This year, he will be discussing three schools that are proposing expansion of their facilities, all wanting to break ground in 2017.  In addition, there is a new proposal for a massive development at Bundy and Olympic, right in Brentwood’s path to the 10 Freeway.  Also on the slate is a proposal to raze the Peet’s Coffee building and develop a five story retail and housing structure.

Food and drink will be served at 6:00pm from Coral Tree Cafe.  The meeting is closed to the public and available only to BHA members.

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Wright House In Brentwood

A Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Brentwood is on the auction blocks.  The home, called The Sturges Residence after its original owner, is located at 449 Skyewiay Rd and is aimed to fetch north of $2.5 million.  Already designated as a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument, this is just over 1,100 square feet was owned most recently by Jack Larson, TV’s Jimmy Olsen on the first incarnation of Superman.  Larson died in 2015.

The home is similar in design theme to Wright’s “Fallingwater” in Pennsylvania.  It will go up for auction in late February.

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What Is A BMO? And How Does It Affect Your Home Value?

The City of Los Angeles is about to take another stab at limiting the size and scale of new homes. In 2008, after widespread complaints about “McMansions,” homes that were seemingly out of scale for their lot and street, the City passed the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) and the Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO).

The Ordinances prescribed additional rules to the existing building codes that would serve to limit the size of new home construction and remodels.  The rules dictated maximum square footage for a home based on lot size.  There were exemptions for things like garages, basements and covered patios, and bonuses for creating a home with certain design elements like a pitched roof or an asymmetrical front elevation.  The latter was a thinly veiled attempt to encourage box-like homes that lacked the design elements familiar to southern California homes.

Since 2008, particularly in Brentwood, the BMO has resulted in the construction of more traditional-style homes, as those designs allow the builder to take advantage of the 20% bonus in square footage, thus creating a high potential resale value.  Homes in Brentwood currently sell for about $900 per square foot of livable space.

Unfortunately, the BMO did not completely prevent large-scale homes from being built, at least not to the expectation of the original groups that inspired it.   Councilman from several neighborhoods were urged to amend the existing BMO and close a lot of the loopholes which allowed developers to build homes larger than the ordinance may have intended.

In the meantime, and because the amendments may take months or years, the City Council has passed an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) which is a set of several basic moratoriums assigned to respective neighborhoods.  These govern building until the final amendments are passed by the City Council and become part of the new BMO (and BHO).

The City is holding several town halls to hear from the public and requesting input from various homeowner associations and neighborhood councils.  It is unclear of the division between those wanting strict limits versus those who want to maintain maximum home value.  Limitations on what can be built will likely result in lower sale prices for homes considered to be lot value or “tear downs.”  Likely, the City will attempt to strike a balance and weigh the concerns of the most passionate groups.

The Brentwood Homeowners Association, Brentwood Community Council and the Brentwood Park Homeowners Association, among others, are reviewing the amendments and polling their constituencies in order to respond before the end of the year.

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Opinion: The VA Master Plan Politics and Rhetoric Doesn't Help Veterans

Support Our Troops!  Make that battle cry and anyone with the slightest opposition to foreign invasions or policing is sent scurrying to the nearest crevice to hide.

The same hypocrisy is being perpetrated on our heroes at home.  Washington allowed the West LA Veterans campus to lay virtually dormant for decades, without proper funding, administration or an effective plan.  Now, after a veteran-inspired lawsuit by the ACLU, politicians and new VA Secretary Robert McDonald are pushing for a virtual utopia with housing and services for thousands.

The problem is, the government moves slowly, and while the plan is honorable, and housing and services are desperately needed, it does no one any good to expel income producing institutions before you are ready to put the land to good use.

The reality is that institutions and “veteran-centric” use of the land are not mutually exclusive. The campus area is over 350 acres and it will be decades before the majority of that land is put to good use for veterans, even with major dedication and funding.  Fencing off the land just as a show of commitment will not help anyone, especially veterans.  It will just emphasize the lack of activity and punish the neighborhood.  The collateral damage will be felt by UCLA, Brentwood School, Brentwood Village, Brentwood residents, and AYSO.

Be bold, initiate a realistic plan and work with veterans, the community and local government to make it happen.


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Brentwood Village Parking In Jeopardy VA Plan Would Take Back Lot

Add Brentwood Village to the potential collateral damage of the new West LA Veterans Administration Master Plan.  A lawsuit last year by the ACLU on behalf of a veterans group and the appointment of new Secretary Robert McDonald in Washington, DC, led to the rapid development of a new plan for the use of the West LA campus.

The more than 350 acre area was donated to the government in the late 1800s for the specific use by war veterans.  Since then, the VA has leased out parcels to institutions and companies for private use.  Now, they want it back, which means Brentwood School and UCLA are scrambling to establish real veteran-centric uses for the land, hoping to maintain their control and use for their purposes as well.

Showing they are serious, while somewhat unorganized, the VA recently shuttered the dog park on the east side of Barrington, until Councilman Mike Bonin, and Senator Diane Feinstein, petitioned to have it reopened pending some definitive development actions.

Grouped into the confusion is the Brentwood Village parking lot, on the east side of Barrington Place, just north of the post office.  The parking lot, run by private company Westside Services, serves as vital parking for Village employees and customers.  If the VA takes the parking lot out of service, Brentwood Village store owners and customers could be absent a practical solution for parking and their business could suffer or shutter.

Brentwood Village will now join the Brentwood School and UCLA in petitioning the VA for permission to continuing using the properties, subject to an approved plan integrating programs and policies that are veteran-centric.  If you would like to lend a comment to this endeavor and support the Brentwood School and Village, you can follow this link and make your voice heard.  Look for blue, Comment Here, button.



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DWP Upgrades Brentwood New Cabling Will Offer Better Reliability

New home construction and aging power lines have combined forces to encourage the Department of Water and Power toward swift action in local infrastructure improvements. According to DWP spokesperson Andy Sparks, the utility will use the cooler weather and lower power demands to quickly upgrade some underground cabling at Sunset Blvd near Kenter Ave.

The DWP has scheduled the cable replacement and load transfer between November 12, 2015 to November 21, 2015. This work is needed to relieve load from Distribution Station 66. The work will include the replacement of one span of cable from the substructure located in the west bound left hand turn lane on Sunset Blvd to southbound Kenter Ave.  In order for their crews to perform this work safely, they will need to reduce the east and west bound lanes to one lane each direction. They will do the majority of work at night to limit the traffic impact. The scheduling of splicing and cable replacement will be scheduled as follows:

  •  Thursday, November 12, 2015, between 12:00am to 6:00am, start cable splicing at manhole 12192 Sunset Blvd.
  • Saturday, November 14, 2015, between 8:00am to 3:30pm, remove and install cable at manhole 12192 Sunset Blvd to pole 377195M located east side of Kenter Ave north of Sunset Blvd
  • Tuesday, November 17, 2015, between 12:00am to 6:00am continue cable splicing at manhole 12192 Sunset Blvd
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2015, between 12:00am to 6:00am complete cable splicing in manhole 12192 Sunset Blvd.
  • Thursday, November 19, 2015, between 9:00am to 3:00pm complete splicing on pole located on Kenter Ave east of Sunset Blvd.

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Homes As Hotels City Seeks To Gain Income From Rentals

The battle over short-term rentals is turning into a war between homeowners and the City. Intent on getting control and collecting revenue from residents who rent out their homes, condos and apartments, the City will soon approve a new ordinance with specific rules and regulations for rentals.

Renting out your dwelling has become more prevalent as web and phone-based services like AirBnB and VRBO make it easier to find a place to stay when traveling around the country. Both business and pleasure travelers use the services in an effort to save money or stay in more unique accommodations.  Owners are seeking to supplement their income instead of letting their guest houses, spare rooms and empty condos go unused.

Homeowners in residential neighborhoods are concerned their neighbors will take advantage of the high daily and weekly rates to rent out their homes on a short-term basis, creating  a hotel-like environment in areas zoned for residential purposes only.  It is currently illegal to rent out a home for less than thirty days.

The City is looking to clamp down on scofflaws who ignore the short-term rental restrictions and accommodate those who want to gain the extra income lawfully.  Homeowners groups representing “R1” neighborhoods, like the Pacific Palisades Community Council, have risen up against the new ordinance, while providing a specific set of stipulations should the City grant the rights anyway.

A preliminary motion was instigated by Brentwood councilman Mike Bonin, in an effort to get the ball rolling on a final ordinance.  The Brentwood Homeowners Association is against daily and weekly rentals in their territory.

The Brentwood Community Council has yet to act at the time of this article.

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School Expansion Still A Concern Archer School Faces A New Fight

Things are still not settled at Sunset and Barrington.  The Archer School For Girls faces a new group opposing its plan to expand its facilities and operations.

The Sunset Coalition, formed by school neighbor David Wright, has filed a lawsuit meant to impede the construction of new buildings on the existing campus and two adjacent properties, until more environmental impact information is provided.

In August, the Los Angeles City Council, with encouragement from area councilman Mike Bonin, approved the School’s revised plan for expansion of its Brentwood campus.  The Brentwood Homeowners Association (BHA) spent several years trying to get the School to substantially reduce the plan, but ultimately had to settle for a restrictive covenant when the City seemed intent on approval of the larger project.

The Archer School came to Brentwood in 1998 and has since operated under a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) granted by the City.  The CUP provides institutions and businesses permission to operate on a site, under a specific set of rules and guidelines.  The School ultimately felt the restrictions were limiting its capacity to accommodate its students and compete with other schools, in a more modern and progressive educational environment.

Councilman Bonin believes the restrictions reached in the covenant with the BHA will potentially improve peak hour traffic flow.  The BHA feels they reached the best settlement possible, considering any City-issued CUP would have been much more lenient, and was likely to be granted regardless of neighbor opposition.

Brentwood School has been hit with a bit of collateral damage from this three year fray.  The School had been discussing since 2008 a long-term plan with its neighbors on Woodburn and the BHA.  The neighbors came to an agreement with the Brentwood School in 2013, and the BHA tacked on some additional traffic restrictions on top of that.  It all came together in a covenant between Brentwood School, the neighbors and the BHA this past summer.  The Brentwood School was formed in 1972 and had been operating on a 20-year covenant which had expired.  The new agreement lasts for 30-years and covers construction and operations.

It remains to be seen how all of this will play out, but sign up for our email alerts for information as it develops.

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West LA VA Master Plan Comprehensive Analysis Of Campus Released

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has released a preliminary analysis of the West Los Angeles VA campus which sits on over 300 acres just east of Brentwood.  After years of decay and minimal operations, newly appointed Secretary Robert McDonald mandated a better plan for housing and helping America’s veterans at the government site.

The 889-page plan will act as a baseline for discussions as both federal and state officials strive to move forward on better utilizing the space.  The status of both Brentwood School and the local Barrington parks, both of which sit on the VA land, is in question.  The School has submitted an interactive plan to have veterans utilize the sports facilities and interact with students on a mutually production level.

To read the complete document, please click here.

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Brentwood School Has Plans K-12 Unveils 30-Year Look To The Future

Brentwood School has unveiled a summary view of their expansion and renovation plans ahead of the official Draft Environmental Impact Report from City Planning.  The extensive proposal calls for construction of new buildings and renovations of existing buildings on both the lower campus at Bundy and Sunset, and the upper campus on Barrington Place.

Sure to impact the plans is the soon due Master Plan for the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus.  Part of Brentwood’s upper campus sits on land leased from the VA.

The Brentwood School was established in 1972 on the former site of what was originally a military academy.


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Master Plan For VA Report Is Due In October

After several public listening sessions and a lot of private input from Federal and State officials, the Master Plan will be presented to the public.  The mission, from newly appointed secretary Robert McDonald and from a court settlement between the VA and the ACLU, is to make the West LA campus “veteran-centric,” meaning all land must be available for use by the veteran community.

In 1888, even before the establishment of the Veterans Administration, the formerly private land was donated to the federal government for the specific use by war veterans.  With a deteriorated focus and commitment to veterans, a group sued the VA with the help of the ACLU and a judge ordered a reexamination and/or evacuation of all leaseholders.

The land is now used by several entities under lease from the VA.  They include

  • Parks used by the neighborhood under the management of LA Parks and Recreation;
  • Brentwood School football and baseball fields;
  • UCLA baseball stadium
  • The Brentwood Village public parking lot.

Those uses are all in jeopardy until the Master Plan is established and it can be determined if those uses can benefit veterans.  Brentwood School has programs in place for veterans to use the athletic facilities, and is looking to expand their relationship.

A small group of veterans objects to any government input into the Plan and wants total control over the space, to be run by veteran’s groups.

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Brentwood School and Veterans School Hosts Veterans At Sports Facilities

The Brentwood School upper campus on Barrington Place is continuing their long association with the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration with a new program which encourages vets to use the campus sports facilities.

Obesity is prevalent across the nation, leading to many health issues including diabetes, and veterans are not immune. The Brentwood School is hoping to play a part in combating those concerns by getting some vets active on the track, basketball court and tennis courts.  Supplying equipment and supervisory personnel, the School is hoping a growing number of vets housed at the West LA VA campus will take advantage of the program and improve their physical fitness.

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