Facing unhappy Hollywood neighbors and frustrated city officials, developer CIM Group says that next week it will tear down three derelict properties on Western Avenue, including the empty Bon Air Motel at 1727 Western Ave. Neighbors say they've long been lobbying CIM, which owns a L-shaped section of property along Western Ave and Hollywood Blvd, to take down the buildings, which locals say are attracting drug dealers, prostitutes and gangs. Visiting the Bon Air site yesterday at 7 pm, we met a young man peddling drugs so can sign off on the dealing claim. No, thank you, sir. No weed needed. "This is a public safety issue," says Doug Mensman, planning deputy for City Councilman Tom LaBonge's office. "The city attorney, the LAPD, the neighbors, all want to the motel to come down because it's a drain on resources." CIM Principal John Given tells us the three buildings will be demolished next Thursday.
Local resident Ziggy Kruse, a member of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council, says activity at the Bon Air Motel has been causing disturbances for about a year. But in the last week, neighborhood efforts to lobby CIM to tear down the building and the other structures stepped up.
Emails with photos of the abandoned structures--which are located at 1727, 1729, and 1737 Western--were forward to news outlets. (For better or for worse, the CIM-owned Thai Hot Dog Stand is not on the list of structures to be torn down). And earlier this week, a Hollywood-based local news site came out and filmed the area, according to Cindy DuHaime, Block Captain for the Garfield Neighborhood Watch.
What proved to be a big catalyst for Kruse and DuHaime? Last week's approval of a $30 million loan to CIM for the Kodak Theater. Both women brought up the issue of the $30 million loan last night. "Here's a million, billion dollar company getting a $30 million loan from the city, while on the other hand, neglecting a property that’s a danger and a nuisance to the neighborhood,” says Kruse.
Separately, the city has continued to push CIM. City Planner Craig Weber sent out an email to CIM executives on Monday, politely but firmly asking when the developer planned to take down the structures. Pointing out neighbors' frustration that demolition hadn't taken place despite the fact that clearance for demolition of the site was issued on July 22nd, Weber noted in the email (which was obtained by Curbed) that "there were urgent life and safety issues at the site and that the site needed to be cleared without delay."
CIM's Given, who has long been in contact with neighbors about the state of the site, explained the delay in an email to Curbed: "The properties are of no economic value and a liability as the neighbors have noted. For over six months we have sought a permit to demolish but a technicality in the SNAP ordinance limits demolition without an approved development plan. (The SNAP is a transit land use overlay adopted for the Vermont and Western Metro stations). The City Planning, CRA and CD4 have all been supportive of our efforts.
About two months ago we solved the problem and after processing the Planning approval I expected to pull a permit [to] demolish the properties this week. For unrelated reasons the work was delayed which is what probably led to this coming to your attention. The AQMD notice period allows work to mobilize next week on Tuesday and commence on Thursday."
Neighbors will likely cheer when the structures come down. "You hear the moaning at 2 and 3 in the morning," says DuHaime, who believes prostitution is going on at the Bon Air.
"We hear screaming all night, people fighting, yelling," says resident Tim Finley, describing the noises coming from the hotel. Finley lives with roommate Tommy Barker, the pair paying $1,500 a month for a two-bedroom apartment off Garfield, directly overlooking the motel.
Two weeks ago, Finley said he witnessed a knife fight that turned into a “boxing fight,” between two women in the parking lot behind the hotel. (Meanwhile, no story can top the tale of the murder in 2007 at Western Ferndale Board & Care, located up the street, an incident in which a resident dismembered his roommate, scattering the man’s body all the way to a trash bin at the Pink Elephant up the street.)
Meanwhile, CIM is looking to sell all these properties. Who would want to invest in this area? It's not clear. But despite the scruffiness, there's something charming about some of these old structures, including the Gershwin property on Hollywood (also empty). There's also a good amount of neighborhood pride. Walking around the area with DuHaime last night, she stopped and chatted with numerous neighbors, and pointed out the Armenian deli on Garfield, a local favorite. "It smells like the world!" she said of the deli.
* All photos were taken by Curbed on Thursday night