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The Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously approved the Environmental Impact Report for the Academy Museum in May, and Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] president Jim O’Sullivan thinks the project will pass through the city council in similar fashion despite some community opposition. But that didn’t stop him from filing a formal appeal of the planning commission’s decision.
Citing concerns about the 1,000-seat special events center, an inadequate parking plan and the creation of digital signage, O’Sullivan filed the appeal on June 8 and hopes to gain enough support before the plan goes to the Los Angeles Planning, Land Use and Management Committee (PLUM) for a vote on June 23.
Even though in-person support outnumbered opposition by approximately 40-1 before the planning commission vote in May, the museum’s managing director Bill Kramer said he is working with O’Sullivan on a settlement agreement.
“We feel like we addressed a lot of concerns,” Kramer said. “We feel like we’re headed towards a place where both parties can be happy with the end result.”
The new museum and events venue will transform the former May Company building at the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. The museum will be dedicated to films and filmmaking, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It will include permanent and changing exhibition spaces and three theatres with seating capacity of up to 1,350 people.
Plans also include a banquet and conference space with a maximum occupancy of 1,200. An approximately 4,000-square-foot café with seating for 150 people and a 5,000-square foot store are also planned.
Plans for a state-of-the-art theatre housed in a spherical structure with seating up to 1,000 people have taken the brunt of complaints from members of MMRA, the Carthay Circle Homeowners Association and Beverly Wilshire Homes.
Kramer said the plans actually include keeping the historical parts of the existing May Company building and that the sphere is part of a plan to fill a need in the community for a large screening room that will often serve as a venue for educational film screenings as well. But O’Sullivan still believes they shouldn’t demolish the back end of a 1946 addition of the May company building.
The concern about parking availability came from proponents’ predictions that the new museum will attract a million or more visitors per year.
“We’re as concerned about parking as anyone,” Kramer said.
To address the concerns, the museum plans include 804 parking spaces more than the required code for the project. Kramer also said the museum will start “timed ticketing” to create even flow throughout the day and evening. The museum will make accommodations for special events if they are expected to cause parking problems.
But that’s not good enough for O’Sullivan, who still doesn’t believe they will have enough parking for any special events that would be held during the day. There are other venues in the area, and if they were to hold an event the same day as the museum, he doesn’t believe there are enough parking spaces. He’s concerned that parking could overflow and cause neighborhood intrusion.
“We are proposing ways to monitor parking to make sure the museum has what it needs,” O’Sullivan said. “As of right now, I have not seen any agreement that could work with parking when there are other venues in the area that could be operating at the same time as the Academy.”
Emphasizing that discussions are ongoing, O’Sullivan said he is open to suggestions. “I’m open to anything that can give the community certainty,” he said. “I want [the museum] to have certainty, and I want the community to have certainty that people will not be flying through neighborhoods, taking up other street parking spaces.”
Plans have also since been scaled back to reduce digital signage at the museum by 90 percent, Kramer said. The museum will only have two small windows that may include moving images, to comply with the guidelines of the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay District.
That still isn’t good enough for O’Sullivan, he said.
“If they scale it back, I don’t care,” he said. “If they put up a sign then it becomes an exemption, anyone who can get three acres can argue to do the same. It just opens up Pandora’s box. If [the museum gets] to put those signs up, then any commercial property on Wilshire between Fairfax and La Brea could come together to create their own sign district. And a judge would have to say, ‘yes, you can have that too,’ because the museum did.”
O’Sullivan said compromises are still possible and that negotiations are still open.
“We are working to figure something out,” he said. “We have always found a way to come to a compromise.”
If the PLUM committee approves, the plans will be sent to the full city council for its approval, and then to Mayor Garcetti for his signature.
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