A Rose by any other name would smell like a Lemon

The outrageously photogenic Millennium Biltmore Hotel set the stage for the 34th Annual Roses and Lemon Awards presented by the Downtown Breakfast Club.

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One of my favorite things about attending these tony affairs is running into some of LA’s movers and shakers such as Wade Killefer, design principal of Killefer Flammang Architects, who was one of the presenters, and the principals of SRK Architects, Inc.

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For the uninitiated, the fun-filled and sometimes snarky Roses and Lemon Awards have been presented by the Downtown Breakfast Club (DTBC) since 1981 to acknowledge projects that have contributed to the improvement of downtown’s working, living and social environment. A Lemon Award is bestowed on any project, individual or organization which members feel has created a “sour” impact on the quality of life in downtown.

The DTBC told the audience of some 400 real estate influentials that there was no mystery about the positive new ideas and trends emerging to enhance living and working downtown. Winning a Rose was the Grand Park New Years Eve Celebration, which was hailed as a remarkable example of Los Angeles coming together, drawing over 25,000 attendees.

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Merry trumpeters ready to toot triumphantly as Roses winners are announced. The sole Lemon receives a sour wail.

Receiving Roses in the Downtown Rose Garden category were two schools: Ninth Street Elementary School and the new Metro Charter Elementary School, a parent-founded school serving 138 K through second grade students designed for a highly diverse student body. The audience also enthusiastically applauded the Rose presentation to Spring Street Parklets, stylish mini-parks fashioned with planters, benches and exercise bikes between 6th and 7th streets.

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Home Sweet Home Presenters: Left: Melani Smith, President and Principal, Planning and Urban Design at Melendrez; Right: Wade Killefer, Design Principal at Killfer Flammang Architects.

In the Home Sweet Home category, 1111 Wilshire garnered a Rose in the market rate class while Star Apartments took top honors in the affordable sector. Developed by the Holland Partner Group, the 1111 project, designed by Nadel Architects, includes a seven-story building and a wide array of on-site dining and recreational amenities. It is virtually a village unto itself. Inside its modern exterior, the building offers 210 apartments with traditional walls rather than open-space loft interiors. The Star Apartments won their Rose for the unusual utilization of 102 pre-fabricated modular units mounted on a cantilevered podium structure. In addition, the entire15, 000 square-foot second floor is a repurposed automobile parking deck, which serves as a recreational and wellness center for the residents.

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Kathy Faulk and Shirley Spinelli present the Eat, Drink, Repeat category.

Winning a Rose in the Urban Essentials category was Urban Radish, a 8,200 square-foot grocery store with farm, ranch and artisan-supplied foods. The store includes an outdoor patio with picnic tables where visitors can enjoy the deli-prepared specialties. The restaurant category, dubbed Eat, Drink, Repeat, was divided into Destination and Neighborhood designations with Roses, respectively, going to Terroni and The Must.

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The Lemon was awarded to Trader Joe’s for turning down the opportunity for a DTLA location. Presenters: Left: Jim White, Paramount Pictures Right: Hal Bastian, Downtown Center Business Improvement District.

Although The Downtown Breakfast Club was overwhelmingly delighted with the course of new development trends downtown, as usual, it also found something to justify its notorious Lemon Award: the refusal of Trader Joe’s to open a store downtown. “It’s rather baffling,” the Club said, noting “Ralph’s is here, Smart & Final is here, Wal-Mart is here, the Grand Central Market is here–but not TJ’s.

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The Downtown Breakfast Club is an organization of professionals whose main purpose is to recognize, foster and encourage the orderly and planned growth of Downtown Los Angeles. 

According to the event’s co-chairs, public art consultant Michelle Isenberg and technology design consultant June Bardwil, the Awards drew the biggest audience in its 34-year history.

All photos by Kyrian Corona.

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Why Density is a Good Thing for LA

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Surprise! LA is the nation’s most dense city.

Say what? Ask people what is the most dense city in the United States, and a majority would say New York or Chicago. But if you define density as population per square mile, metropolitan Los Angeles heads the list. L.A. has about 7,000 residents per square mile, with San Francisco/Oakland at 6,266, and New York trailing at a mere, 5,319.

And this is a good thing?

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Density was the topic for a recent Downtown Breakfast Club symposium held at the eminent California Club in Downtown Los Angeles. Dick Lewis, CEO of Lewis & Associates, was the mastermind behind the provocative panel, which included such luminaries as (from left) architect Wade Killefer, Killefer Flammang Architects; planner Simon Pastucha; Carolyn Ramsay, chief of staff for Councilman Tom La Bonge; developer Wayne Ratkovich; and Bill Roschen, past president of Los Angeles Planning Commission.

“Key to L.A.’s leadership is that it has denser suburbs than any other city, not because our downtown has more people,” architect Wade Killefer explained.

LA has denser suburbs. Interesting. This revelation about LA’s density surfaced in a government press release issued in early 2012, citing figures from the 2010 US Census. The topic received quite a bit of media coverage and raised questions about where LA is heading.

It turns out that LA has high density, just the wrong kind. What LA needs is strategically-planned density to support a vibrant urban infrastructure. And because LA historically has been a decentralized region with no defined center, the vision of Los Angeles as a collection of flourishing “urban villages” connected by public transportation, bike lanes, and green spaces could very well become a reality.  So we’re not talking suffocating density like London or Tokyo.

The panel concluded that even greater density is needed, but confined to where density is desired and where it works, with quality of life being the major goal. Apparently the city has already planned for increased population by shaping new development with urban design, such as activating under-utilized buildings, addressing the need for more hotels and expanding the Convention Center. A key component is public transportation and linkages between development and train stations so that people can live where they work.

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Courtyard of Musée de Montmartre. Paris is the quintessential walking city.

No need to convince me this is a good thing! I’m already living the life. I have a home office in leafy Studio City, just blocks from bustling Ventura Blvd. and the Metro Red Line. I recently turned in my leased Audi and bought a Fiat 500, the perfect vehicle for a lifestyle that is more urban hopper than autobahn commuter. Oh, and I also live part time in Paris, where we don’t even have a car. Voilà!