Monday, April 6, 2009

Menlo Property: The Pattern of Neglect

Photo: Maryann Kuk, April 25, 2000. Menlo Property on Riverside Drive adjacent to the River Glen Apartments: sidewalk closed for more than 12 years. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The Menlo Property was the ultimate "broken window" in the Silver Lake Community for over decade. In 1991, Building & Safety and the LA Times reported conditions of the abandoned site as unsafe and unsecured; a half finished retaining wall looming over the sidewalk with steel rebar poking out of the hillside; eroding black plastic covering piles of earth. Building & Safety reports dated from 1996 to 2001, state conditions remained unchanged since 1990.

Sam Menlo purchased the property and the River Glen Apartments in 1992. He allowed the site to remain in it's abandoned and deteriorating condition for a decade.

The sidewalk was closed to the public in a half-assed manner (see above photo). Homeless took up residence behind the barricades. Dumping was routine. Graffiti vandals constantly tagged the concrete and plywood barriers as well as the degrading black plastic. Plastic freeway barricades became festering cesspools of mosquito larvae.
Photo: Maryann Kuk, April 25, 2000. Freeway-type barricades allowed to fill with rainwater and became mosquito breeding grounds. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Silver Lake Residents' Association (SLRA) as well as residents of Waverly (directly above the property) held a meeting in September 1993 to review Menlo's development plans. They did not vary from the earlier proposed 900-foot long by 30-foot high retaining wall, topped with a 35-foot high stucco box of apartments.

Menlo ignored SLRA's and neighbors' pleas to at least clean up the site until he was ready to build. In 1996, Menlo submitted another soils report and nothing seems to have come of it. In 1998, Building & Safety's Grading Division notified Menlo that his grading permits had expired, issued an Order to Comply to restore the slope to its original condition.
Photo; Maryann Kuk, April 25, 2000. Homeless encampment using the steel rebar for support next to the giant retaining wall. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The Building & Safety file reads like a broken record. Orders to Comply and deadlines set by Building & Safety were ignored by Menlo; letters from neighbors and SLRA asking Building & Safety and the City Attorney to take action. Menlo appealed Orders to Comply but then never followed up with new grading plans as required by Building & Safety.

After years of dedicated phone calls from SLRA boardmembers getting nowhere with Building & Safety, City Councilmember Jackie Goldberg asked the City Attorney to take action. One SLRA boardmember threw her hands up in disgust with the bureaucracy and walked away after logging 40 hours of phone calls to the powers-that-be on the Menlo Property.
Photo: Maryann Kuk, April 25, 2000. Plastic covered slopes were a magnet for graffiti vandals. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

After two more years of phone calls, meetings and hearings and the threat of criminal prosecution by the City Attorney, September 13, 2000, the Building & Safety Commission denied Menlo's last appeal "with prejudice," and ordered him to restore the slope. Judging by letters in the SLRA file, Menlo appears to have finally begun work on the slope restoration in 2001.

Tues April 7, 2009: Menlo's Representatives will present plans for 120 condo units on the Menlo Property to Silver Lake Neighborhood Council.

See also: Legacy of Failed Development.

Coming Tomorrow: "Menlo Property: Political No-Man's Land."