It was last fall that controversy erupted over the Museum of Tolerance's expansion plans, a project that would add, among other things, a cultural center and cafe, and allow for extended operating hours. Neighbors complained the expansion of museum, located at 9786 West Pico Blvd, "would lower the neighborhood's quality of life through growing traffic, noise, crowds and parking problems," according to the Jewish Journal, while politicians jumped in to defend the project. Fast forward to today and the proposed expansion is going through the EIR (environmental impact report) stage. But according to museum officials, this EIR is being done out of good faith. Here's what is posted on their web site: "Although the Museum was not required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report by the City, we have opted to ask the City to undertake a full EIR to assess and mitigate any potential impacts on the neighborhood." Hmm. What the planning documents say: "The proposed project would involve the addition of approximately 20,809 square feet of floor area to the existing 69,477-square-foot Museum of Tolerance. The proposed project would also involve the extension of Museum operating hours." Additionally, project Yazdani Studio is showing off its renderings of the expansion to city officials; their images kick off the gallery.
1. Why does the Museum need to grow?
The Museum of Tolerance plays a critical role in the community in fostering positive youth development and leadership initiatives. Its services are needed now more than ever to confront the gang violence ravaging our schools and communities. With 1,000 students passing through its halls every weekday and a waiting list for its youth development programs, demand has far outstripped capacity, and the need simply cannot be met with the physical constraints of current facilities. The only obstacle – the lack of space – would be removed with the added capacity of the Cultural Center.
In addition, professional organizations, corporate groups, non-profit entities, international associations, academic institutions and business consortia avidly seek out the Museum of Tolerance as a venue for their own important events. In fact, the Museum already hosts major community events throughout the year and has become a popular venue for film premiers, plays, concerts and public and private forums. This is because the Museum offers much more than space for a large gathering: it provides a powerful, immersive learning environment that significantly enhances the value of such professional events. The new space will enable the Museum to continue providing a venue for such events, which are an important mechanism for outreach to the community and the general public.
2. What are the key elements of the proposed project?
The new space, a total of 20,000 square feet, will serve as a multi-purpose educational and cultural resource center and will include:
* A multipurpose cultural resource center
* Additional exhibit space
* An updated Western façade
* Landscaping along Pico Boulevard and Roxbury Avenue
3. What public benefits will the project provide?
The MOT is a high-tech, hands-on experiential Museum that focuses on the dynamics of anti-semitism, racism and prejudice through unique interactive exhibits. The Museum, whose membership and visitor base is as diverse as Los Angeles itself, serves hundreds of thousands of individuals of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, cultures and creeds each year.
The mission of the Museum, and the tremendous benefits it delivers to the community, will not change with the project; the expansion will simply allow the Museum to reach a wider audience.
4. Is the City preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
Yes. Although the Museum was not required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report by the City, we have opted to ask the City to undertake a full EIR to assess and mitigate any potential impacts on the neighborhood.
5. Who is the architect for the project?
Award-winning designer Mehrdad Yazdani of the Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design is the lead architect on the project.
6. Will you study any potential traffic and parking impacts?
Yes. The EIR includes comprehensive traffic and parking studies.
7. And what about air quality and noise?
Yes. The EIR also includes comprehensive studies on air quality and noise impacts.
8. What steps is the MOT taking to ensure that Museum-bound buses comply with City regulations and the Conditional Use Permit to refrain from driving through residential streets?
We take this issue very seriously and continue to do everything we can to educate bus drivers about the defined driving routes. Our staff continues to provide visitors arriving by bus with instructions regarding the prohibition of buses on adjacent neighborhood streets and security staff has been instructed to report violations. In fact, as a result of the Museum’s conversations with Los Angeles Unified School District staff, the school district has amended its “School Journey” trip protocol to include explicit instructions to bus drivers about acceptable driving routes.
We have also contacted the Los Angeles Police Department to solicit its assistance with enforcement, and the Department has dispatched officers to monitor vehicle circulation around the museum on a number of occasions.