EUR is proud to announce that the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade (LABC) has been granted an exemption from City of Los Angeles from the CEQA process for the demolition of a historical structure as part of their Recreational Green Space and Garden Center project. This is an unprecedented event as it marks the first the City of LA has granted such an exemption. With the support of the project’s Architect, Richard McCann, EUR provided technical support to the LABC by providing structural engineering expertise and project management services.
The project consists of the demolition of an existing former church building and the development of a new garden space and recreational center, which would serve the surrounding community. The former church building, designated as a historical structure, was home to many programs for the non-profit group, including the distribution of hot meals, clothing, and necessities for the underprivileged. The location also housed community meetings, performances, and art exhibits.
The building suffered heavy damages due to the 1994 earthquake and was rendered unfit for occupancy. The LABC began repairs to the structure but an unethical contractor caused more damage to the building, which resulted in the City declaring it unfit for occupation and unsafe for those around it by red tagging the building.
The LABC is now attempting to once again restore the programmatic functions of the facility. Due to its dangerous state of disrepair, repairing and rehabilitating the building is simply not feasible for a non-profit with limited available funding. Thus, after working closely with the design team, it was decided that the best course of action would be to demolish the building and develop the site into an outdoor space.
Because of the building’s designation as a historical structure, demolition would not be able occur unless the project undergoes the CEQA process (i.e. preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for review by the City and comments from the public) or an exemption is granted. After meeting with the City’s Attorney’s Office, and with the aid of the Office of Councilmember Curren Price, we were able to identify a possible exemption under Title 14 (CEQA) of the California Code of Regulations, Article 19, Statuary Exception Section 15269.
To justify use of the exemption, the City’s Planning Department submit reports from two engineering firms detailing the immediate safety risk the building poses. To this end, professional opinion reports were obtained from two reputable structural engineering firms, which both concluded that the building poses an immediate and significant life safety hazard to the surrounding community.
The Planning Department then requested that we provide additional technical and financial analyses to document perspective alternates. In January of 2016, we submitted a report to the Planning Department’s Office of Historical Resources, which detailed the loss of most of the building’s historical components and provided an analysis of three options: structural rehabilitation, repair of historical components, and development of the recreational green space center. To prepare the rehabilitation option component of the report we used the scope of the original repair project and a previously prepared cost estimate, which provided costs for the repair of building (including the damage caused by the original contractor), then updated and escalated the cost to today’s market conditions. We also used information from the same estimate to prepare the portion of the report for the second option, which would restore the historical components of the structure. This approach not only saved money for the client by not having to develop a new project scope and estimate, but saved time as well. The report concluded that based on the estimated cost of each of the options, the LABC’s budget, the immediate need for corrective action due to the immediately dangerous current condition of the building, and the overall benefit to the community, development of the green space was the best option to mitigate the hazard posed by the building.
After submitting the report, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) asked that Mr. Retamal, in his capacity as a registered Structural Engineer, prepare a letter in support of the Professional Opinion Reports previously prepared and which would support LADBS in accepting our position. The letter was promptly prepared and accepted by LADBS.
In August of 2016, we were informed that the use of the exemption was approved and the Planning Department’s Office of Historical Resources would provide the clearances needed to attain the permits to begin construction. We are currently working with the project’s Architect to finalize the project documents and begin the Contractor selection process.