As a board member of the Mid Town North Hollywood Neighborhood Council, I feel as I have been entrusted with a deep responsibility to our community as a whole, not just one part of town or demographic. I have the opportunity to help make our neighborhood a better place, and make sure each and every member of our community has all the information they need to make informed decisions when it comes to charting the future and long term viability of our community. That commitment to my community, the one in which I was born and raised, has led me to write this article.
For more than a century, our neighborhood has continued to re-invent itself. If anything is consistent in NoHo, it's change. Starting from our days as a way station for those on the way to the San Fernando Mission, our time as wheat fields and cow pastures (ever wonder why Lankershim is diagonal? The road was based on the way the cows wandered), North Hollywood's reign as the "Home of the Peach," to the film business, television, aerospace and now once again re-branding as an arts and theatre zone. Even our name has constantly been a work in progress from Kawenga to Toluca to Lankershim to North Hollywood to NoHo. Once again, we're morphing into something new. Just take a look around at all the exciting things that are happening. There is new development,new restaurants, stores and nightspots, even the new Laemmle Theatres are coming soon and will complement our thriving arts district. But even with these projects, our community is not immune to the economic struggles facing the nation, our state and Los Angeles County, and many of our neighbors are fighting each day to keep their heads above water.
With that in mind, we need to focus on investment in industries that make our community vibrant and strong -- such as the entertainment industry. We have to search for wise investments with the potential to create new jobs at nearby studios and at local entertainment support companies. We need investments to bring in architectural and software firms, IT companies, public relations firms, law offices and other businesses that pay well enough so that we don’t have to work in Santa Monica in order to afford to live in NoHo. In our neighborhood, we need high-paying jobs close to where we live.
So how does that happen? Smart development needs to be objectively considered in and near NoHo, including development such as NBC Universal’s Vision Plan, which is now called the NBC Universal Evolution Plan.
NBC Universal has proposed a 25-year plan for their 391-acre Universal City property. It’s my understanding that their plan includes new studio facilities, some new retail and other improvements at CityWalk, and, new housing opportunities.
I don’t have all of the details myself, as the City’s Draft Environmental Impact Report or EIR, has not yet been released for public review. But what I do know is that NBC Universal’s plan will create thousands and thousands of new full and part-time jobs, and that our City and County will benefit from tens of millions of dollars in new annual tax revenues. And just as important, the project includes major upgrades to local roads, streets and freeways, all with the goal of improving traffic and circulation in the area.
We all know that Universal City is a major job center for the entertainment industry. So it seems to make sense that locating housing next to or near jobs can help people limit the use of their cars and instead use Metro, take shuttles or walk to where they work, live or shop.
With our economy in shambles, this project could mean the world to the Valley and to greater Los Angeles. But at this moment, we are still missing some important pieces of the puzzle such as the Draft EIR on the project, which once released, will provide answers to many important questions. We have also not had a chance to meet with NBC Universal representatives to hear a presentation on the project -- and with so many pieces of the puzzle missing it would be premature for us to take a position on the project at this time.
Yet there are those who think otherwise. People outside of NoHo have approached the Neighborhood Council and have requested that we take a position opposing this development.
I, for one, would like to refrain from taking a position on any issue brought to this Council until I hear from all parties concerned just as I wouldn’t vote for an important leader without hearing from all the candidates. For me this is about the importance of information and the right and duty we have to make an informed decision.
I, personally, have quite a few questions for NBC Universal and other questions that simply can’t be answered by either side until we have access to the Draft Environmental Impact Report. I’d like to be able to ask those questions and absorb the answers before I vote to support or reject anything. As a board member, I believe that is my responsibility to each and every one of you.
The Neighborhood Council is here as the voice of our local community and I promise to continue to serve to the best of my ability. Please join us and get involved! Come to one of our meetings which are held on the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30 PM at East Valley High School, 5525 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
Our next meeting is Wednesday, June 10th and 6:30 p.m. at East Valley High School, 5525 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601. I hope to see you there.