Huffington Post has called it “the coolest street in Los Angeles.” But lately that hip section Fairfax Avenue just south of West Hollywood has been generating some heat.
There was that protest by merchants on the 400 block of Fairfax, between Rosewood and Oakwood avenues, about the long lines of hipsters waiting on the sidewalk overnight for the latest “drop” of cool clothing at Supreme. (Now resolved). And now there’s push back against L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz’s agreement to close part of the east side of the 300 block between Oakwood and Beverly Boulevard for up to two years for construction of a new headquarters and service center for Jewish Family Services.
That building will replace the existing Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center, which at 330 N. Fairfax since the 1950s. Programs at the building now are housed at 310 S. San Vicente Blvd. until construction is finished.
The 28,000-square-foot building will be known as the Lois and Richard Gunther Center. It will be three stories high with two levels of underground parking. There will be 60 parking spaces.
It will house a variety of services and resources, including JFS’s senior center, the Hirsh Family Kosher Café, mental health services, support services for Holocaust survivors, counseling for victims of intimate partner violence, an expansion of the Health and Wellness Center for seniors and the JFS headquarters.
That side of the block is home to a variety of businesses that reflect the evolution of Fairfax over the years. They include the Kosher News, an outdoor newsstand, and M&M Key Service. Newer businesses include Golf Wang, owned by the rapper Tyler, which sells clothing designed by Tyler; Seventh Letter Flagship and Gallery, a retail showroom for sweatshirts, T-shirts and hoodies with graffiti-style designs, and the Solid Gallery One tattoo parlor and art gallery. On the south side of the construction lot is a Chase bank building. WEHOville unsuccessfully reached out to owners of several of those businesses. However an employee of Diamond Bakery, the area’s oldest Kosher bakery, which is across the street, said they were very concerned that closing part of the sidewalk would hurt their business.
The Fairfax Business Association has reached out to Koretz to express its disapproval of the sidewalk closing and of plans by the developer to remove palm trees on the block.
“On behalf of the Fairfax Business Association, we are on record in firm opposition,” says a letter from FBA chair Jacqueline Canter and vice chair Ruth Williams. “This will have a negative impact for access to the businesses, physically impaired residents and pedestrian accessibility.
“A project of this scope that will create a negative impact on a high pedestrian area and a majority of affected neighboring businesses and residents should be brought before the community as a whole, with proper noticing before any decisions of this magnitude are finalized.
“You have always been a committed environmentalist and the removal of the healthy palm trees makes no sense. All the businesses on Fairfax have signage and will this now open the way to remove all the palm trees to ensure the signs are seen?”
Canter, along with members of her family, manages the well-known Canter’s Deli, which is at 419 N. Fairfax Ave.
Eli Veitzer, the president and CEO of Jewish Family Service, said that closing the part of the sidewalk in front of the construction site is the safest way to ensure that pedestrians aren’t harmed by construction vehicles coming in and out of the site.
“Like all other construction projects, and with the in-and-out of construction vehicles from the work site, there will be interruptions to the flow of the surrounding area,” Veitzer said. However, he said, JFS intends to finish the project as quickly as possible. “The end result is we’re going to have a service center that is going to be able to provide extended services to the neighborhood. This isn’t a condo, it’s a service site.”
Veitzer said he believes the impact of the closing of the sidewalk will be lessened by the fact that there is a crosswalk with a traffic light at the north end of the site, making it easy for pedestrians to cross to the west side of Fairfax. He noted that the only business south of the construction site is a Chase bank building which sits on the corner of Fairfax and Beverly Boulevard. JFS also has agreed to supply a crossing guard for pedestrian safety.
Alison Simard, communications director for Koretz, responded to an email from WEHOville, saying that Jewish Family Service had reached out to the council member’s office “to help connect them with Bureau of Street Services to find a compromise to allow the construction vehicles to stage in front of the property in a safe manner. The outcome will be flagmen to provide safety and a six-month review to look at best practices. Finally, JFS will do regular community outreach to businesses and neighbors.”
Nickolas Solish, a member of the Mid City West Community Council, said the situation is difficult. “I’m torn because I’m glad there is more development in the area – a new building bringing new life to the area. But I also think that area is a pedestrian corridor …”
“They are obviously an integral part of the community themselves,” Solish said of JFS. “But I am concerned as to how we can do this without a negative impact on businesses.”
Solish said the Mid City West Council formed an ad hoc committee a few months ago that will focus on issues on Fairfax such as traffic and trash. Solish said that committee would be discussing the sidewalk closure.