The past year proved to be very eventful, with new leaders emerging, new projects starting or coming to fruition and some familiar faces stepping down after decades of service.
What has remained constant over the past year is that West Hollywood, Hollywood, the Miracle Mile, Melrose/Fairfax, Hancock Park, Windsor Square and the surrounding areas continue to be a vibrant hub at the center of the Los Angeles region. If 2014 was any indication, the community will continue to flourish in 2015.
The past year included many notable transitions, including the departure of two venerable local leaders — Congressman Henry Waxman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District — who announced their retirements in 2014 after decades of service. Yaroslavsky has been succeeded by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, a longtime proponent of LGBT rights and sustainable environmental practices, while Waxman will be replaced by Ted Leiu, a California state senator from Torrance who previously represented communities from the South Bay to West Hollywood.
Other notable transitions included the departure of longtime West Hollywood City Councilman Jeffrey Prang, who was elected in November as Los Angeles County Assessor. Additionally, one of Prang’s colleagues on the city council — Abbe Land — has announced that she will not seek reelection in 2015.
Last year also began with some other big changes in local government — one linked to allegations of mismanagement, and the other stemming the loss of a venerable educator, Marguerite LaMotte, who passed away on Dec. 5, 2013, while representing the Los Angeles Unified School District’s 1st District. LaMotte’s position also remained vacant for months until longtime educator George McKenna was elected in August.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced at the beginning of 2014 that he would be stepping down after receiving significant criticism of his handling of a scandal involving deputies at the Men’s Central Jail. News of his departure sparked campaigns by multiple longtime members of the sheriff’s department who sought to fill the position. A successor was chosen in the November election when a department outsider — former LAPD assistant chief and Long Beach Police Department chief Jim McDonnell — was elected as sheriff.
A beloved public official said goodbye in October when Capt. Eric Davis, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Wilshire Division for six years, retired after 33 years with the department. Davis was known for an affable personal style that helped him build bridges with many community members and organizations. He was replaced at the Wilshire Division by Capt. Howard Leslie, who is carrying on the tradition of community policing and partnerships.
Controversy surfaced early in 2014 in West Hollywood, when City Councilman John Duran led an effort in January to stop flying the city’s official flag with a rainbow symbol on government buildings and facilities. The move caused concern among residents, who said the flag is a source of pride and symbolism for the LGBT community. The city council later resolved the issue by replacing the flag, which was light blue, with a white flag with a rainbow insignia that was formerly only used on a limited basis.
Plummer Park proponents also had an eventful year, as the city council postponed plans to demolish Great Hall/Long Hall and make major changes at the park until new city council members are sworn in. The city lost redevelopment funding for a renovation project that would have overhauled the park, and any decision on the future of the site has been tabled until at least April.
The former Tower Records property at 8801 Sunset Blvd. was also in the news last year, when it was announced that Gibson Brands would be moving into the Tower building that was once an icon on the Sunset Strip. Many residents were hoping that a usage could be found that continues the property’s musical heritage, and they rejoiced at the news that the musical instrument manufacturer would be relocating to the site.
The city also celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014, with local leaders looking back on the advocacy and origins that inspired West Hollywood’s founding in 1984 as a bastion of the LGBT community and a place where affordable housing was preserved for seniors and the Russian immigrant community.
Last February marked a somber period of time when a mother was struck and killed by a truck while walking her 9-year-old daughter to the Citizens of the World Middle School, which is located on the campus of Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood. The death sparked calls for more safety measures around schools, and later in the year, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, and City Attorney Mike Feuer spearheaded separate efforts to make school crossing safer throughout the city. The programs brought in new parent volunteers to escort children to and from campuses, as well as more crossing guards, crosswalks, signals and safety devices.
Safety and health was also on the minds of local leaders, when the Los Angeles City Council approved measures to ban e-cigarette sales to minors in February, as well as banning their usage in all public places where smoking is prohibited.
Tragedy struck the LAPD in March, when LAPD Officer Nicholas Lee, of the Hollywood Division, was struck and killed in his patrol car by a truck that lost control on Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills. Lee was a 16-year department veteran who was later memorialized with a special star and plaque in front of the police station. Authorities in Beverly Hills later closed the steep street to truck traffic after another LAPD officer, Det. Ernest Allen, of the Southwest Division, was struck by a truck and killed while driving in April.
Another high-profile incident involving the LAPD occurred in April, when a gunman walked into the lobby of the West Traffic Division on Venice Boulevard on April 7 and opened fire at officers sitting at the front desk. One of the officers was struck seven times and survived the incident, while a second officer sustained minor injuries. The officers returned fire, and the suspect, Daniel Yealu, was critically injured. He died a few weeks later in the hospital.
The Millennium Project in Hollywood remained in the news throughout 2014, and that will likely continue in the new year. Millennium Partners is planning to build a 35-story and 39-story tower on a site next to Capitol Records on Vine Street. Trenching began at the site in May to determine if an earthquake fault runs underneath the project, as well as nearby developments that are planned or were recently completed. The California Geological Survey has released a final earthquake fault map, indicating the Hollywood Fault zone overlaps portions of the Millennium project. The city of Los Angeles is awaiting an individual study by the developer of precisely where the fault lies before considering whether the project will be allowed to move forward.
The Target store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue is also in limbo after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge halted construction in August. The developer completed a significant portion of work on the building while legal challenges from the La Mirada Neighborhood Association were resolved. The judge halted construction to allow the legal proceedings to continue. The exterior of the store remains unfinished, and it is unclear when a decision will be made on the fate of the store.
Another high profile project was unveiled in June when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced that it plans to build a campus that would extend across Wilshire Boulevard via a large bridge. The plan is currently in the conceptual stages, but is part of the museum’s multi-year expansion that will dramatically change the landscape along the Miracle Mile.
Metro continued with the Purple Line project last year in preparation for additional utility relocation in 2015. Plans call for a tunneling machine to be placed in the ground at the site of the future subway station at Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Metro is currently conducting preliminary work on and around Wilshire Boulevard in anticipation of tunneling and station construction.
One issue that remains unresolved is the removal of approximately 100 trees from the Miracle Mile medians and sidewalks. Metro officials have stated that the trees would be replaced on a two-to-one ratio, but representatives of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition are hoping to strike a deal that will keep at least some of the trees in place.
Other controversies surfaced in 2014, including a situation involving the Beverly Hills Hotel. The hotel is part of the Dorchester Collection, which has ties to the country of Brunei. Demonstrators have sporadically protested outside the hotel since April in opposition to Brunei’s hard-line opposition against LGBT individuals, and celebrities such as Jay Leno have continued to join LGBT groups in calling for a boycott.
Another controversy surfaced in July when California Highway Patrol officer Daniel Andrew was videotaped striking a female pedestrian who had walked onto the Santa Monica (10) Freeway near La Brea Avenue. It was later determined that the pedestrian — Marlene Pinnock — was a homeless woman who suffered from mental health issues and frequented an encampment near the freeway. The videotape sparked widespread condemnation, and the CHP later agreed to a $1.5 million settlement with Pinnock’s family. It is still unresolved whether Andrew will face criminal charged for the incident.
A civil suit has also been filed in an incident in West Hollywood when sheriff’s deputies responded to an assault with a deadly weapon call at an apartment on Palm Avenue. The deputies shot and killed a victim who was fleeing from the suspect, and shot and wounded another man.
An attorney for the deceased victim, John Winkler, recently filed a lawsuit against the department claiming negligence and a violation of his civil rights. A jury will decide what damages will be awarded, but the family had previously sought $25 million in a claim filed after the shooting. The sheriff’s department has admitted that the shooting was an accident, and the suspect in the case is currently in custody facing charges.
The community said goodbye to some beloved well-known public figures in 2014, including comedian Robin Williams, whose death by suicide in August renewed calls for more comprehensive mental health services. Thousands of fans flocked to Williams’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame following his death in a public tribute not seen on the boulevard since the passing of Michael Jackson.
Many development projects are getting underway or are in the midst of construction, and will help shape the community in 2015. New faces will also become more familiar in the coming year, with a March 3 primary vote to determine a successor to Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, who will leave office due to term limits. Three seats are also open on the West Hollywood City Council, and numerous candidates have signed up to run in the election on March 3.
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