I thought I would deviate from my general real estate topics and write about a real estate matter that is close to home: saving NOHO Arts Park in the NOHO (North Hollywood) Arts District. Years ago my father and mother owned and operated a successful women’s fashion store in North Hollywood. They opened the retail store together back in the early 1950’s. As the business matured so did their tastes and the store’s offerings, the business flourished and became a fashion forward retail store carrying a range of top brand designers from around the world. Early on it was suggested to my father that he try to purchase the building where his business was located and, with the guidance of a relative, he successfully purchased the building.
There was a time prior to the Northridge earthquake where the City of Los Angeles designated the North Hollywood area an urban renewal zone. A new large building was built on the corner across the street and Landmark Productions moved in. The CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) intervened and declared eminent domain on some of the buildings in the area. Targeted was the building on the corner next door to my father’s building. The City needed to widen the street and so they purchased the corner building, an Army Navy surplus store. Using LANI (Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative) funds, the City developed the NOHO Arts Park on the corner lot. My father’s building was next to the park and it became a perfect venue for a restaurant. Along came Paul Hibler of Pitfire Pizza. Paul was ready to move from the catering business to opening his first restaurant. He designed a beautiful restaurant that was to open up to the park next door and he subsequently negotiated a lease and congenial terms for his build out with the City of Los Angeles and the CRA (which technically held the site). The NOHO Arts Park remained and the restaurant provided outdoor seating, a fire pit, and an outdoor activity area for locals and patrons alike. The restaurant paid for the entire build-out, paid monthly rent to the CRA, and managed the maintenance of the site.
All was harmonious, that is until the CRA was dissolved and mandated by the State of California to sell all of their holdings. A number of sites were earmarked by the State and CRA to be sold. Included in that sale was the NOHO Arts Park next door to Pitfire Pizza. What does this all mean? The open space next door to our building, the highly used and beautiful island of green park, is scheduled to be sold at blind auction to the highest bidder. It is likely to be built-over and the lot re-purposed for the development of another structure. A large portion of the Pitfire Pizza seating occupies the built out portion of the park grounds. Their business has large glass doors that are oriented to the outdoor space. All of this can be lost.
Neither the CRA, the State of California, nor the City of Los Angeles notified either Pitfire Pizza nor any of our family members of the pending matter, even though we were the only constituents that would be negatively impacted. That is because the legislation that directed them to sell the properties specifically stated that they were not to notify either the City or the neighboring property owners as had been the custom. I have reached out to City Councilman Paul Krekorian and his deputy Karo Torossian. My brother Alan and I visited with the councilman at a lunch his office was promoting.
The Councilman listened as I discussed the possibility of the City taking back this parcel and preserving it as the NOHO Arts Park as it was originally conceived and is presently used. Another option might be for my family and Pitfire to step up and purchase the property in order to preserve the integrity and well-being of the restaurant where it could be maintained as a park. Mary Garcia, the Mid-North Hollywood Neighborhood Council President, wants the park preserved and she and her deputy, Ernesto Hidalgo, are doing all that they can to assist us and the community in retaining it.
If the NOHO Arts Park, that is right smack dab in the middle of the NOHO Arts District, were to come down, what would go up in its place? Another Starbucks? Another retail store? I think many times we are sacrificing our quality of life at the altar of more shopping, more tax revenue, and more stuff. At some point we have to strive to preserve the beautiful places and things in life that give us deeper pleasure. In a City boasting some of the best weather on the planet, why don’t we have more outdoor restaurants and outdoor neighborhood venues where we can relax and relate to a more natural lifestyle? Yes the City has been transforming itself over the years toward more of these types of important lifestyle venues. Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative is a current example. Let’s get as many people as we can on board and let people know we want to keep the NOHO Arts Park.